Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden may be the happiest person in Cincinnati right now. In early March he summarized his offense as the team prepared for the 2013 NFL draft. When asked about a specific position that he'd like to address, Gruden wanted something flashy.
"It's hard to put your finger on one thing," said Gruden. "I think we need another playmaker. We need somebody who can take the ball 80 yards on a swing pass or a handoff or what have you - a little bit of speed."
The Bengals may have accomplished exactly that.
Despite a productive run during Cincinnati's winning streak midway through the 2012 season, the Bengals offense finished with an average 332.7 yards per game, ranked No. 22 in the NFL and third in the AFC North. Clearly shifting into a defensive identity, Cincinnati opened the 2013 NFL draft using their first two selections with the idea of rebuilding the offense.
On Thursday, Cincinnati added a weapon for Andy Dalton with Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert, who figures to play multiple roles from tight end to slot, even splitting out wide. Combined with A.J. Green and Mohamed Sanu, who scored four touchdowns during a three-game stretch, significantly adding a much needed red-zone threat, Cincinnati's aerial firepower grows.
On Friday the Bengals used their No. 37 selection with a running back that they had become extremely familiar with.
Head coach Marvin Lewis checked Giovani Bernard out during North Carolina's Pro Day, then invited the prospect out to dinner with other coaches during a visit to Cincinnati last month. We had known for some time that the Bengals were interested, even using that as a foundation for selecting him No. 53 during the SB Nation writers mock draft.
"The offensive is starting to go into the identity Jay Gruden wants," Bengals running back coach Hue Jackson told the media following Cincinnati's selection on Friday. "(Bernard is) a threat anytime he touches the ball." Jackson added that it was Bernard's versatility that "made him their top back" who can also be an every down back if needed.
Bernard rushed for 1,228 yards and 1,253 yards in 2012 and 2011 respectively, with 25 combined touchdowns on the ground. Equally as impressive are his hands, generating 92 receptions for 852 yards receiving and six touchdowns.
Along with Andre Smith signing a three-year deal on Friday to inject a significant level of confidence with a returning offensive line and upgrades at running back and tight end, Jay Gruden might be the happiest man in Cincinnati.