The stat lines are very close. Jeremy Hill finished the Bengals Week 1 game against the Raiders with 63 yards on 19 carries but punched in two big touchdowns. Giovani Bernard had the same yardage on 11 less carries for a 7.9 yard average and a long of 28 yards. What does that mean for the Bengals' backfield in the future? There are a lot of options.
The Bengals also have Rex Burkhead and Cedric Peerman who could both hold down the running back duties if needed for a spell this season. However, they may not need to if Hill and Bernard keep this kind of momentum going.
There was a pretty even distribution of snap counts for the players also. Hill led the pair with 36 snaps to Bernard's 30. The important thing is both showed their strengths and capitalized on their opportunities.
We know Jeremy Hill. He is a tough runner with a knack for finding the opening. He can switch direction and then punish a would be tackler if needed. We watched him attempt a run up the middle on 4th and short that he then took to the outside. After breaking an arm tackle, he made the second guy miss and the Bengals waled away with a touchdown instead of a turnover.
Giovani Bernard can dazzle with his speed and shiftiness. Not only did he account for the 63 yards, he also caught all 6 passes he was targeted on for 25 yards. Allowing him the opportunity to get the ball in space is playing to his strengths. The Bengals seem to realize this and worked it into the playbook.
We may not see such even distribution in the future. The Bengals are in the unique position where they can play the hot hand this season. If the game dictates a runner who can hit in the middle and churn out tough yards, then Hill may take the lead role. Other times the Bengals may need someone to swing out or attack the defense in a sweep and Bernard could take the front seat in those games.
Either way the Bengals are fortunate to have these two players on their roster. A true thunder and lightning attack that Cincinnati can use to expose weaknesses in the opponent's defense. Think of the extra preparation needed during the week for a team to be in position to stop both of these options.
On top of all that, the Bengals have the opportunity to limit the wear and tear on a pair of running backs who will be needed late in the season and relied upon in the postseason. Splitting time allows these guys to avoid the hits of a bell cow back and could make them fresher in the second half of the year.
I still want to see a look where both are on the field at the same time. Like Ohio State uses with a stable of quarterbacks, how would a defense react if both Hill and Bernard were in the backfield? How would you know what was coming?