In the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft, the Cincinnati Bengals took running back Jeremy Hill out of LSU. I was shocked by this move, as I saw the need for a safety was more glaring than upgrading the running back position. So when Cincinnati selected Hill, it made the running back position a little crowded on the Bengals’ depth chart.
Last season, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and rookie running back Giovani Bernard split almost evenly the carries out of the backfield for the Bengals. Bernard was the more explosive back, and showed he also has the ability to catch passes out of the backfield to create plays, much like the old Ray Rice. Green-Ellis was the guy to get the call on short yardage downs when the Bengals needed a guy to fight for the tough yards. The drafting of Hill looks to add to this two-headed monster and make it an unstoppable three-headed monster, but I would not be surprised if 2014 turns into the Bernard-Hill show.
When Hue Jackson took over as offensive coordinator for the Bengals after old offensive coordinator Jay Gruden departed to take over as head coach of the Washington Redskins, he emphasized that the running game was going to take a new effect in Cincinnati. He wants to get back to a punishing running game, a style that the AFC North has been known for for years. Many were surprised when the Bengals picked Jeremy Hill in the second round over Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde, but Hill is a great compliment to Bernard, and can also be a threat as a receiver along with Bernard. If the Bengals have two running backs with the ability to run or receiver whenever they are on the field, that will make it harder on defenses to figure out which personnel they need on the field to cover the Bengals’ offense.
So where does Green-Ellis fit in this picture? Most are thinking he doesn’t. And really, it makes since that the Bengals cut BenJarvus before the season begins. If they cut him, they will save $2.5 million in cap space. With that extra money, the Bengals could be able to get contract extensions done with quarterback Andy Dalton and linebacker Vontaze Burfict.
With the way the Bengals offense is shaping up, it looks as if Cincinnati wants their running backs to not only be a rushing threat but a receiving threat as well. Bernard and Hill provide a great balance of being able to pick up rushing yards as well as receiving yards, and Green-Ellis looks to be on the outs of this dual threat. He’s getting older and the Bengals keep pulling in new, young, talented backs and there isn’t a place in Cincinnati for Green-Ellis anymore.