The Bengals offense lost a good amount of production from last year with the departures of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, but the team has managed to keep a more important player on the roster for a little while longer. Giovani Bernard is going to be a Bengal for at least the next four years and will continue to be a crucial part of the Bengals' offensive attack. This week, the Bengals signed Bernard to a three year, $15.5 million contract extension. But what specifically has Bernard done to earn a contract that puts his value among the highest paid running backs in the NFL? Let's take a look at some of his 2015 game film.
Last year, we saw how the offense evolved into a more shotgun-oriented unit, and Bernard's skill set translated perfectly into this transformation.
Here, we see the offense in their base three wide receiver shotgun formation with Bernard alongside in the backfield.
At the snap, the backside tackle and guard pull across the line of scrimmage and Bernard has the patience to wait on the hole that develops in front of him.
The keys for this play to work are not only for the pulls to be executed by the tackle and guard, but for Bernard to have the patience and explosiveness out of the shotgun set, as we see him burst through the hole and avoid tacklers with ease into the end zone.
From a personnel standpoint, Bernard fits how the offense wants to run going forward.
Another selling point for Bernard is how his efficiency with the ball in his hands took a big jump, as he increased his average yards per touch from 4.86 in 2014 to 5.92 in 2015. A big component to this drastic improvement was how much more patient Bernard was running the ball in tight formations, while still being able to accelerate through holes.
Playing running back sounds pretty straight forward: get the ball and run. But if it were that easy, anyone athletic enough could be successful. The running game is almost entirely dependent on blocking, and if the running back is patient enough to see the blocks in front of him developing. Let's look at an example from Bernard against the Chargers. Here, we see a power formation from the Bengals with two tight ends and a fullback in the backfield with Bernard.
Right away we see the backside guard pulls around and the fullback goes to make a down block.
As far as blocking goes, this play is already a failure as zero push was made against the defensive line, and Bernard was left out to dry behind a wall with nowhere to go. But, with patience in tight space, he is able to maneuver around outside where the blocking dictated movement. He picks up a first down off of a play that was going nowhere.
It's plays like this that not only increase your production, but cause the coaches to keep you on the field more often, which is exactly what happened with Bernard as the 2015 season wore on.
Through his first three years as a pro, it's really been Bernard's pass catching ability that most say make him more valuable as a running back than anything. By using him as a receiver out in the flats and as a check down, the offense gains a new dimension with his quickness, elusiveness and ability to turn small plays into big gains. This play against the Texans showcases exactly that.
Again, we see Bernard in their shotgun formation. It's third and long and the Bengals are looking to pass. Before being released out, Bernard's job is to delay the pressure coming from the right side. He chips the rusher and resumes getting in in the flat. The rest is just classic Bernard.
With a simple cut, Bernard picks up the first down and the drive continues.
From day one, Bernard has improved as a pure runner, a reliable receiver and as a serviceable blocker. Even for a player of his stature, he is able to contribute as an effective weapon on all three downs, and has cemented himself as a centerpiece in one of the most balanced offenses in the league. Regardless of how Jeremy Hill bounces back from his sophomore slump, retaining Bernard was a necessary action that needed to happen for the continuity of this group. And just like Bernard does week in and week out, the organization got the job done in extending Bernard to a contract he's proven he' worthy of.