With the summer in full swing and NFL training camps less than two months away now, we gathered our Cincy Jungle staff to rank the top 25 Bengals of the 2020 season.
This ranking is simply who we believe are the 25 best Bengals heading into next season. It includes veterans and rookies alike, though it obviously is more favorable of players who’ve actually played snaps in the NFL, so don’t expect guys like Joe Burrow to be a top-five player right off the bat.
For a recap of the list, check out our stream here.
We continue the list at No. 21 with a fan favorite; a running back who doesn’t get the attention he deserves and is often overshadowed.
No. 21 Giovani Bernard, running back
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Many fans have either forgotten or moved on from the hype surrounding Bernard. He was a second round pick back in 2013. His rookie season was filled with promise that was quickly overshadowed by Jeremy Hill’s rookie season. We haven’t really seen Bernard is a starting role outside of filling in for Joe Mixon recently, though.
That is to be expected as Mixon has quickly become the player the Bengals were hoping he’d be when they drafted him. However, it has been criminal how little Bernard has been utilized. Especially when you consider the more modern offense Cincinnati is running now.
Bernard had 404 total yards last year on 83 touches in 2019. For the caliber of backup Bernard is, that just simply isn’t enough. He also only played just over 40 percent of the offensive snaps in 2019. Some may look at that and say it makes sense given Mixon being the lead back, but guys like Alex Erickson played almost 56 percent.
What I’m getting at here is that the Bengals have an abundance of talent at the skill positions, but they weren’t really creative in how they deployed those guys, especially when they were banged up at wide receiver. Bernard may not be a wide receiver by position, but deploying him in the same backfield as Mixon and motioning either one out of the backfield would’ve been an easy way to create serious mismatches.
At no point in the season did we even really see Bernard lined up at receiver, which could’ve been dynamic bringing him in motion for jet sweeps, quick screen or even have him run a few routes. They really had all season to add this wrinkle at some point, but we never saw it. Bernard easily could’ve been a home run threat on an offense that was desperate for another one.
The Bengals are absolutely loaded in the backfield now. Mixon and Bernard are as talented as they come. Cincinnati also spent two sixth-round picks on running backs in 2019 with Trayveon Williams and Rodney Anderson. Both of these young guys could be pushing for snaps, but the Bengals coaching staff should see it as an opportunity to try to utilize as many of these guys on the field as possible. Really make defenses have to prepare for multiple backs in the backfield or motioned out.
Bernard has proved time and again that he is capable of being the modern NFL back who can kill defenses that give him an opportunity in the open field. Cincinnati just needs to get better at finding him those chances.