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Bengals running backs: Mr. First Half & Mr. Second Half

A look at the huge difference as to when the Bengals are using Jeremy Hill & Giovani Bernard.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Taking a look at the Bengals’ usage of Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard, there is one very interesting trend that's easy to observe. The Bengals start will Hill, but finish with Bernard.

Here is the number of running plays each of the two running backs gets based on which Bengals’ offensive drive the team is on. For example, on the first drive of the game, the Bengals have handed Hill the ball 19 times, compared to 0 for Bernard.

Total Rushes Drive #1 Drive #2 Drive #3 Drive #4 Drive #5 Drive #6 Drive #7 Drive #8 Drive #9 Drive #10 Drive #11 Drive #12 Drive #13
Jeremy Hill 19 4 4 7 11 2 6 3 2 1 2 0 0
Giovani Bernard 0 5 5 6 1 5 2 12 11 7 8 4 4

Hill receives the carries on the first drive of each game, with a 19-0 lead in that category. For the first seven drives of the game, Hill owns a commanding 69 percent of the rushes between the two running backs. But that dominance in attempts suffers a drastic change on the Bengals’ eighth offensive drive and onward.

From their eighth offensive drive, until the end of the game, Hill is only used on 15 percent of the running plays, between him and Bernard.

Hill’s high 69 percent usage in the first seven drives, and hardly visible, as he only appears in 15 percent of snaps thereafter. The results are Hill running the ball only 47 percent of the time.

So the big question is, why do the Bengals rely so heavily on Jeremy Hill early in the game, but totally ignore him afterwards?

  • Does Hue Jackson simply forget that he has Jeremy Hill on his team?
  • Are the Bengals afraid Hill might fumble, and don’t want him to touch the ball in the second half?
  • Are the Bengals resting Hill, saving him up for later in the season when they want to unleash him?
  • Are the Bengals falling in love with the passing game in the second half of each game, and using passing formations which only use Bernard in their personnel groupings?
  • Is it that Hill followed the old Andre Smith offseason un-conditioning program, and is worn out by halftime?

Regardless of what the reasoning is, it seems that the Bengals, for some reason are developing a strong trend where they have Mr. First Half (Hill) and Mr. Second Half (Bernard).