It has to be tough as an offensive coordinator of an 8-1 team to continually be asked questions about a perceived weakness in your offense. Hue Jackson may be feeling the frustration from media members that are insistent there is a problem with the Bengals running game.
In a recent press conference, Hue Jackson showed some of that frustration with the questions about the running game. Per Coley Harvey of ESPN, Jackson became testy when asked about the running game struggles:
"We're trying to win games. It's not about running the ball. Please. That's not the only thing we do. We throw the ball, too. You asked me about running the ball and you said, 'Are we going to jump-start the running game?' And I said, 'We're running the ball.' So I don't understand what it is that you guys are looking for."
Fans and the media alike have questioned the running game and what feels like a failure of Jeremy Hill to be effective in the offense. But, to Hill's and Jackson's defense, the Bengals have faced five of the league's top 11 rush defenses this season. Like Jackson states in an answer to a later question, it is important to not focus on one aspect of the offense and take what the defense gives you. Jeremy Hill agrees.
"We've played a lot of great rush defenses this year. We understand that, and the smarter OCs in this league, they don't get stubborn and try to force it down," Hill said via ESPN. "You've got to take what the defense is giving you, and we've done that this year. Again, this week we'll try to establish the run, but if it's not happening that way, you've got to make throws down the field and you've got to back those guys up a little bit. Hue's been doing a great job of that all year, and I don't expect it to change."
While the message is nice, there is still some concern with the Bengals' rushing attack. We know the running game becomes even more important as the weather changes and the season drags on. The frustration comes when we see success from Giovani Bernard on the ground and then struggles from Hill in the same games.
Last season Hill finished strong and surprised many people with the success he had in the rushing game. He totaled 1,124 yards and averaged 5.1 yards a carry. This season he is only averaging 3.2 yards a carry and is on pace for around 700 total yards. The question of his effectiveness in the game comes from the stats but also what seems like hesitation on the field. Hill simply doesn't look like the player we saw in the final nine games of the 2014 season.
Is this truly a case of the opponents deciding to stop the run and Hill's stat sheet feeling the affect? Or is this the case of a second year player struggling in a sophomore slump? There's no way to know, I just know you probably shouldn't ask Jackson about it.