It's amazing when you think about it.
Two years ago the Bengals used a combination of BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Cedric Peerman, Brian Leonard and Bernard Scott. Save for Peerman's undeniable reliance on special teams, Green-Ellis, Leonard and Scott have long departed and are currently without an NFL team. And, the offensive coordinator that directed them has replaced Mike Shanahan in Washington.
Using a pair of second-round picks in the 2013 and 2014 NFL draft, the Bengals upgraded the position with Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill. And so far, the results have been exciting, productive and worth it.
Hill and Bernard have combined to rush for 317 yards on 81 attempts, averaging out to a (pedestrian) 3.9 yard/rush average. Hill alone is averaging 5.1 yards/rush but whatever... it's not about the yardage.
It's the scoring.
Hill and Bernard have combined for five rushing touchdowns through three games -- which is more than what 28 NFL teams have. Their five rushing touchdowns is also the most rushing touchdowns by a Bengals team through the first three games since 1986 -- when they had names like James Brooks, Larry Kinnebrew and Stanley Wilson, all of whom finished that season with at least five rushing touchdowns.
Hill's touchdown on Sunday was nothing short of 100 percent effort -- kind of like a turtle's head emerging suddenly from his shell. That's a weird description. Here:
"I think I pressed it too far in there and should have cut back sooner to help my linemen out," Hill said after the game. "But I kind of pressed it in there too much, and a guy grabbed onto my leg, and I just stretched out there trying to make a play. They marked me short at first, so I didn't really know if it was going to be a touchdown or not."
Hill's first career touchdown in week two against the Falcons extended Cincinnati's lead to 21 points with over six minutes remaining in the third.
While Hill is rewarding Cincinnati with early-season returns, Giovani Bernard continues motoring. His three rushing touchdowns, two scored on Sunday against the Titans, is tied for the league lead with Dallas' DeMarco Murray, Seattle's Marshawn Lynch, New Orleans' Mark Ingram, Kansas City's Knile Davis and Cleveland's Isaiah Crowell. Bernard's second and third quarter touchdowns against the Titans expanded Cincinnati's lead from 12-0 to 26-0, essentially allowing the team to press cruise control for the final quarter.
The Bengals have also generated 25 first downs on the ground, which is second among all AFC teams -- more than 10 first downs were gained against the Falcons and Titans respectively.
When Hue Jackson was promoted from running backs coach to offensive coordinator earlier this year, it was the running game that Jackson identified as a strength in his vision.
"We know we need to run the football," Jackson said in January. "We want to run the football. I think that’s where it starts. That’s what (Marvin) preaches. From there, we have some very talented players on the outside. We have to give them opportunities to make plays. We’re not going to shy away from having to throw it when we need to. In order to win and be a very good offensive football team, you have to be able to run the ball, and that’s going to be a starting point for us."
So far, so good.
Rushing Touchdowns in the first three games, dating back to 1986 when the Bengals last had five rushing touchdowns.
|After Three Games||Rushing TDs|