Giovani Bernard hasn’t been given the opportunity as the Bengals’ lead back going into the season for a few years now. First the team went out and got Jeremy Hill, and then they added Joe Mixon last season. However, having Bernard healthy to start off the season could have a huge impact on the Bengals offense.
Weight: 205 pounds
College: North Carolina
Hometown: Boca Raton, FL
Experience: Sixth-Year Player
Bernard has two years left on his deal. He is set to make $3.5 million this season, according to Spotrac. He will also be carrying a $4.25 million cap hit for the 2018 season, and he would have $1.5 million in dead cap value.
Bernard is set to hit free agency following the 2019 season.
Bernard was picked 37th overall in 2013. It seems like it wasn’t even that long ago. He came out of North Carolina, and was such a drastic change of pace from the running backs the team had before. He is a home run hitting back, which is something the team didn’t have with Larry Johnson, Cedric Benson or Benjarvus Green-Ellis. It made him an instant fan favorite.
He had over 1,000 yards from scrimmage his rookie season, which weirdly enough was the season he had his most touches. It looked like he was going to be the Bengals’ next feature back when along came Hill a season later. Bernard won the starting job, but an early injury opened the gates for Hill to gain more and more playing time.
The most frustrating part was Hill never found that same magic as his rookie season. Bernard, however, maintained his same consistency, but he still remained the second man on the depth chart. He finds himself in a familiar role behind Mixon now. The hope is though that the Bengals learned from their mistakes.
Entering the season healthy should really help Bernard. Last year the team brought him along slowly because he had an ACL injury late in the 2016 season. This year he should start out as being a big part of what the Bengals do.
Last season when Bernard and Mixon were both healthy the snaps were split up fairly evenly with Mixon obviously receiving more. We should expect a lot of the same this season, but Bill Lazor’s new offense would be wise to take advantage of Bernard in open space. There should be times when Lazor should even think about having two running backs on the field at once to keep the defense on their toes. Anything to get an advantage.
Bernard should easily be more productive with a better offensive plan, more weapons around him and a better offensive line up front. Bernard won’t be a lead back, but he is still an important weapon for this team.
The end seems to be close for Bernard and the Bengals. The team selected Mark Walton in the fourth round this year, and he has a very similar style as Bernard. This should have too much of an impact on Bernard’s status with the team this season though, but it may be something to monitor next season. Right now Bernard is a great veteran running back to have who has showed he has the ability to step in and start if Mixon can’t go.
Roster odds: 95 percent.