Dec 29, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard (25) runs the ball against the Baltimore Ravens in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports
Heading into camp, the official Bengals depth chart lists BenJarvus Green-Ellis as the top running back on the roster, but that’s a ruse based on salary and name-recognition more than any type of reality. Second-year back Giovani Bernard is the featured back in Cincinnati in 2014, and he could be on the verge of a breakout season with new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson in the fold. Jackson leans toward possession football, which could mean less of Dalton’s passes and more of Bernard’s legs.
No, the battle here will be for backup and goal-line carries, and Green-Ellis faces stiff competition even in those areas. Rookie Jeremy Hill is big and strong, and well-suited to short yardage situations. Rex Burkhead is young, scrappy … and young. The second-year back could make the most of any opportunity he gets in Jackson’s run-heavy scheme. Holdover Cedric Peerman will make the team as a special-teamer and might pick up a few carries along the way.
The Law Firm? Well, he’s getting old for an RB (29), his performance slipped last season (3.4 ypc), and he makes more than the rookies and second-year guys. Smells like a potential roster cut to me, so he’ll have to compete hard in training camp.
This should be an interesting group to watch, and I expect it to shake out as a lineup of Bernard, Hill, Burkhead, and Peerman or one of the other 200 backs on the current roster. Green-Ellis may well be gone.
Note: Orson Charles is an interesting case who stands to make some hay in Jackson’s run-heavy system. A tight end in college, Charles was converted to a fullback last season and might figure in to the Bengals’ plans as an H-back. His April arrest doesn’t help anything, but Jackson’s success with fullback Marcel Reece in Oakland does. Given his versatility and potential, there is a good chance Charles gets another shot.