Running back Giovani Bernard may not just miss Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, he may sit on Nov. 6 when the Cincinnati Bengals host the Cleveland Browns on Thursday Night Football. That, at least, is according to the mothership. Geoff Hobson writes that Bernard "is nursing both a shoulder and hip problem and could also be held out of the following Thursday night game against the Browns since there is just a four-day gap."
It doesn't appear that Cincinnati is terribly worried about Bernard's injury though.
Perhaps if Week 10 were played on a Sunday, Bernard would have a greater chance at playing next week. Unfortunately, the Bengals play two games in the span of five days. When you have a 200-pound Giovani Bernard taking shots between the tackles, a hip pointer and a clavicle injury are things that are bound to happen with heavy workloads. Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson told ESPN's Coley Harvey that he disagrees with that point of view.
Jackson said he didn't think Bernard's injuries were the result of putting a larger workload on his smaller frame.
"I know because of his size and whatnot people say that, but I don't believe that's the case," Jackson said. "The things where he was nicked up didn't come from taking too much. It just came from somebody tackling him and hitting him in the right spot."
According to NFL Insider Chris Mortensen, the Bengals are getting Cedric Peerman warmed up as the team's complimentary back if Bernard is out this Sunday. Peerman has carried the football five times this season for 15 yards --and all five were during garbage time late in Cincinnati's 33-7 blowout of the Titans. Additionally, Peerman has only touched the football 14 times (one reception) over the past two years, accumulating 37 yards from scrimmage. NOTE: He's only played 46 snaps on offense since 2013.
In the end, it might not even be Peerman. Per the mothership, Rex Burkhead could get his first carry
of the season of his career this Sunday against Jacksonville. A former sixth-round draft pick out of Nebraska, Burkhead has been active in only three career games with, as far as we can tell, no offensive participation. During this year's preseason opener, he carried the football five times against the Kansas City Chiefs for 21 yards. In six career preseason games (missed two this year due to injury), Burkhead has carried the football 34 times for 149 yards rushing and a 4.4 yard/rush average.
I'm rambling. Let me simplify this... If Giovani Bernard is out:
1) Jeremy Hill starts, Cedric Peerman backs him up
2) Jeremy Hill starts, Rex Burkhead backs him up
3) Jeremy Hill starts, Peerman and Burkhead rotate
4) If you're trying to figure out your fantasy lineup, then Giovani Bernard will start.
The key theme here is that if Bernard is out, Hill will start. The second-round rookie out of LSU has generated 195 yards rushing (on 50 carries) and 131 yards receiving (on 13 receptions), giving him 326 yards from scrimmage.
Unfortunately Hill's season has been as temperamental as the team's streaky nature. In his first three games this season, when Cincinnati went 3-0 with dominating wins over Atlanta and Tennessee, Hill generated 132 yards rushing and two touchdowns... he was on pace for 704 yards rushing for the season. Since the team's week four bye, Hill has only posted 62 yards rushing in four games combined with a 2.6 yard/rush average. Now, he's on pace for 446 yards.
But don't worry, he'll be ready.
"I always prepare myself like I'm the No. 1 guy, so every rep I get, I don’t take it for granted and not go full speed," Hill said before Thursday’s practice via Bengals.com. "I do it to the best of my ability and make sure I'm getting the mental looks, as well. So it’s the same thing for me. I want to go out there Sunday."
Despite the doubtful nature of Bernard's availability this Sunday, Hill thinks that Bernard is tough enough to play. "If Gio’s playing then he is, if he’s not, he’s not. But I figure he'll be out there. Everyone thinks he'll be out there, so that’s what we're going to do."
I like that. It's simple. Easy to remember.
Hill and company need a good outing. A confidence booster... especially for an offensive line that's struggling interiorly, as well as Andre Smith on the outside. Cincinnati hasn't rushed with any authority since posting 193 yards in their 37-point tie against Carolina. Blowouts against the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts forced Cincinnati to disregard the running game to overcome increasing deficits.
And while the 1-7 Jaguars could be viewed as an "easy victory", one might want to reexamine that perspective. The Bengals will face a Jaguars rushing defense that... yes, ranks 20th, allowing 115 yards rushing per game. However, they've increasingly improved as of late, allowing 70 yards rushing or less in three of their last five games and averaging 16.5 points allowed per game.