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Dave Lapham surprisingly critical of Jeremy Hill

It’s time for the Bengals to find an upgrade at running back, or at least move Hill down the depth chart.

Cincinnati Bengals v Houston Texans Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

After a second-straight mediocre season, Jeremy Hill may not be the Bengals’ top running back for much longer.

During Monday’s Bengals Line show with Lance McAlister, Bengals play-by-play man Dave Lapham spoke about Hill and how he needs to make big improvements this offseason in order to keep his job next year.

Lapham was very critical of Hill, saying he needs to either run harder and break more tackles, or lose 30 pounds and become more of a speedier back. Hill’s issue is he’s a bigger back trying to run like he’s a faster back like Giovani Bernard, which isn’t working. Meanwhile, Lapham was highly complimentary of Rex Burkhead.

“In catching up with some of the lineman today and some of the coaches, all off the record, of course, they were like, that was an eye opener,” Lapham said of Burkhead’s season final performance. Lapham also said that the Bengals should find a way to bring him back next season, while also adding that Burkhead could be a star No. 1 running back in New England or Baltimore in the future.

“To me, if Jeremy is going to continue to run like the way Jeremy has run, lose 30 pounds. You’re trying to run like a 205 pound tailback, and you weigh 235. If you weigh 235, bump people, get up in the hole like Rex does, and knock some people down,” Lapham said of Hill.

Lapham was incredibly animated in saying this and isn’t usually this critical about any single Bengal, so hearing him rip into Hill shows just how bad it’s gotten for the incumbent starter. That’s evidenced by Hill’s 3.6 and 3.8 yards per carry average in the last two seasons respectively.

Hill also has just six carries of 20-plus yards over the last two seasons. That’s hurting the Bengals’ offense, which finished 15th in total offense last year and 13th this year while ranking 13th in rushing offense both years.

Pro Football Focus ranked Hill 34th out of 59 eligible running backs this season. He ended up having five games this year in which he averaged under 2.3 yards per rush. He had 10 games in which he averaged 3.4 or less yards per carry.

That’s just not going to cut it, and Lapham (and most Bengals fans) are tired of watching it.

Lapham also thinks Rex Burkhead will get a nice free agent deal this offseason, though it likely won’t be with Cincinnati. All of this is what Paul Dehner of the Cincinnati Enquirer thinks of the Bengals backfield heading into the offseason. Dehner also thinks the Bengals land a nice running back in the 2017 NFL Draft.

Between Hill’s ineptitude heading into a contract year in 2017, Bernard recovering from a torn ACL, and Burkhead likely leaving this offseason, the Bengals would be wise to spend a high pick on a running back in this year’s draft.

Another reason Cincinnati should draft a running back high is they need a back who’s good enough to make his offensive line better, not be dependent on having a great line like Hill and Bernard have needed. Burkhead showed how to make your line look better in the Bengals’ season finale.

Guys like Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook and D'Onta Foreman are the kind of backs that make their offensive lines better. That’s what the Bengals need, especially if they lose Kevin Zeitler and Andrew Whitworth this offseason. Zeitler could land a big free agent deal elsewhere, and Whitworth probably only has a handful of years left in the league.

And if the Bengals are going to keep starting players like Russell Bodine and Cedric Ogbuehi, having a back who can overcome bad blocking is critical. Hill has shown he can succeed when given great blocking, but if it’s even average, he struggles to do anything.

Hill isn’t doing that, so the Bengals need to find someone who can very soon. They could try to keep Burkhead, but if they do, he needs to be part of the competition to start next season, and it needs to be a fair competition.