One of the Bengals’ most disappointing players in 2015 was Jeremy Hill. A breakout rookie season in 2014 led to sky-high expectations for the former star LSU running back. He didn’t live up to those expectations, but he did add a bit of color with his words and endzone celebrations last year. At times, it was a refreshing call back to the days of Chad Johnson, who came up with new and interesting celebrations, keeping the fans and city entertained.
But, at other times, you kind of wished he would keep his head down and focus on returning to his 2014 form rather than being entertaining. Apparently, Hill has been thinking the same thing lately.
“I’m not celebrating this year,” Hill told Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. “No.”
2015 was a rough year for Hill as a whole. After breaking out for an astounding 1,171 rushing yards and 215 receiving yards in only nine starts in his rookie regular and postseason, he generally regressed with only 844 rushing yards and 106 receiving yards in 15 starts in his sophomore campaign.
He did function well as a touchdown vulture in 2015, tying for the league lead in rushing touchdowns (11). He also fumbled less in 2015 (4) than in 2014 (5). But, his fumble at the end of the Bengals’ 2015 Wild Card game was far more devastating than all of his 2014 fumbles combined. So, his fumbling in 2015 seemed worse even though it wasn’t statistically.
It would be nice to see Hill repeat or even improve upon his excellent touchdown performance that he put up in 2015. If he does, Bengals fans can probably agree with running backs coach Kyle Caskey’s perspective on the celebration aspect.
“I’ll celebrate for him,’ Caskey said. “I’ll take care of that.”
For the most part, Hill has already been looking better than he did last year. He could be seen breaking through the defensive line in training camp, like he used to, and translated that into a few good runs in preseason so far. He’s recorded three carries for 16 yards in both game (which is interesting) and broke through for a touchdown on Friday in Detroit. The improvement has definitely not gone unnoticed.
“He’s decisive. He’s confident. He’s running with power and aggression,” Caskey said, “and doing it with acceleration we all knew he had and he’s putting it all together.”
When Hill scored his touchdown against the Lions, he made good on his commitment to be singularly focused on his football performance. He chose to flip the ball to the referee instead of making a big spectacle about his touchdown or even celebrating with his teammates. Some might find it refreshing to see a player get to the endzone and act like they’ve been there before. But, for Hill, the strategies and celebrations aren’t even on his radar this year.
“I don’t really care about that stuff,” Hill said. “I just want to get better and help my team.”
After a lackluster 2015 season, it makes perfect sense for him to cut out all of the distractions and focus on one single goal. Granted, it was fun to see Hill add a bit of color to the team when he had a chance. But, this is probably the right mindset for him to adopt if he is serious about being a great running back in the NFL.
“I want to be 100 percent on my dots,’ Hill said. “The guys I’m looking at to make my cut. That’s what I want to do. I just want to be solid on my reads. Be effective and efficient out there. Get better every time.”