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Limiting Jeremy Hill’s Workload in 2015

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The history of the NFL is littered with successful running backs who abruptly received big workloads, and subsequently saw their productive careers race to an abrupt end.

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

During the first half of the 2014 season, the Bengals’ running game seemed to be going nowhere. Giovani Bernard was averaging barely 61 yards per game, while failing to reach 3.9 yards per carry. Rookie Jeremy Hill was barely getting seven carries a game, and not doing much with them.

Midway through the season, the Jacksonville Jaguars came into Cincinnati, and that all changed. Hill emerged as a stud cranking out 154 yards and two touchdowns in that game. From that point forward, Hill took the league by storm. He led the NFL in rushing in the second half of the 2014 season. During that span, Hill averaged more than 100 yards per game with 6 touchdowns on a massive 5.4 yards per carry.

Hill’s pace during that span would have projected to 306 rushes and 1,652 yards were he to play for the entirety of the season. And many fans would obviously love to see him receive that workload during the upcoming season.

Jeremy Hill

Jeremy Hill gashes the Jaguars

Be careful what you wish for.

The history of the NFL is littered with successful running backs who abruptly received big workloads, and subsequently saw their productive careers race to an unexpected end.

Consider, Arian Foster, Chris Johnson, Edgerrin James, Larry Johnson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Shaun Alexander, Terrell Davis, Priest Holmes, Jamal Lewis and Doug Martin... These are just some of the well-known, productive RB’s of recent memory who received big workloads, and followed that up with serious injuries and/or major downturns from their previously productive careers.

+ Arian Foster had three straight seasons of highs in carries and touches (278~351) and (331~393) respectively. He followed that up with a major injury costing him half of the next season.

+ Chris Johnson’s workload during his second year in the NFL topped 350+ rushes and 400+ touches as he pushed to reach 2,000 yards rushing. After that, he was never the same. His production dropped off considerably the following year, and was even worse the next year.

+ In his first two years Edgerrin James topped 360+ rushes and 430+ total touches. He followed that up by missing 10 games the next season.

+ Priest Holmes spent three straight years compiling 300+ rushes and 380+ touches. The heavy workload took its toll, as he missed half of the following season. From that point forward, he was never the same, only playing in 19 of the next 64 games before his NFL career came to an end.

+ Holmes’ injury opened the door for Larry Johnson, who spent two seasons as a high volume workhorse, hitting as many as 416 carries, and 457 touches. The following year he got hurt, and Johnson never returned to his pre-injury form.

+ Maurice Jones-Drew spent three seasons averaging 320 rushes and 360 touches. The following year he missed 10 games and got progressively worse the next two seasons, before finding himself out of the league.

+ Shaun Alexander spent five straight seasons as an elite RB, averaging 330 rushes and 360 touches per season. The last two of those five seasons, he topped 350+ rushes. The following year he got hurt and missed10 games. Like Jones-Drew, he got progressively worse during the next two seasons before ending his career.

+ Terrell Davis lit up the NFL for three consecutive All-Pro seasons, averaging 370 rushes and 400 touches during that stretch. Following the heavy workload, he was hit hard by injuries. His production took a big hit, as he missed 31 of 64 games before ending his career.

+ Jamal Lewis cranked out an amazing 2,000 rushing yards on a whopping 387 carries, and 413 total touches. The workload caught up with Lewis, who missed a quarter of the following season and saw his production cut by half. He did manage a solid career, but was never as good as his first few seasons before his injury.

+ Doug Martin emerged as a stud rookie RB cranking out 319 rushes, and 358 touches. Following that big workload, he missed 10 games the following season, and has yet to return to his rookie form.

Let these running backs serve as a cautionary tale for those who want Jeremy Hill to take on a heavy load in 2015.

Many RBs who spend one to three years as high volume workhorse backs have seen their careers take a big dive afterwards.

As much as we may want to see Hill pounding the ball 20+ times a week and cranking out huge yards for the Bengals, for the sake of Hill’s career, we would be better served with Hill staying in that 15 rushes per week range.

Fortunately for the Bengals, they have Giovani Bernard on the roster. This allow them the ability to keep Hill’s workload from becoming excessive, and hopefully saves him from suffering a huge injury or drop in production, which hits many RBs who take on too many carries per year.