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Gio's Time Has Come

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Although BenJarvus Green-Ellis is still more than capable as a short-yardage back, the time has come for the Bengals to feature rookie Giovani Bernard. Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images.
Although BenJarvus Green-Ellis is still more than capable as a short-yardage back, the time has come for the Bengals to feature rookie Giovani Bernard. Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images.

Five games into the 2013 NFL season and the Cincinnati Bengals have a dilemma on their hands. Two running backs – BenJarvus Green-Ellis and rookie Giovani Bernard – have been splitting time this season for a rushing game that ranks 19th in the league with just under 100 yards per game. While having two running backs does not seem like a bad idea, one still has to be deemed the primary ball carrier. In this case, the Bengals should make Bernard their primary running back.

Not to take anything away from Green-Ellis’ ability, but he does not possess the explosion and big-play capability that Bernard does. While both players have rushed for 209 yards, Bernard (4.6 yards per carry) has only rushed the ball 45 times compared to Green-Ellis’ 71 carries.  At his current 2.9 YPC pace, Green-Ellis is projected to finish the season with 698 total yards from scrimmage. Conversely, Bernard is projected to finish with 1,082 total yards.

As the lone back in the system last season, Green-Ellis rushed for a career high of 1,094 yards (3.9 yards per rush) and six touchdowns. He also added 22 receptions for 104 yards. This season, Bernard’s explosiveness has taken Green-Ellis off the field during passing downs. Bernard has 14 receptions for 129 yards and a touchdown. Green-Ellis had the ability to be the primary back, but the selection of Bernard in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft showed that the Bengals has second thoughts.

Bernard was a standout at the University of North Carolina. In two seasons with the Tar Heels, he totaled 2,481 rushing yards with 25 touchdowns. He added 92 catches, 852 receiving yards and six touchdowns through the air. Bernard was the type of player the Bengals simply could not pass on, especially with an inconsistent starter on the roster. At one point during the 2012 NFL season, Green-Ellis went five consecutive games without rushing for more than 70 yards. The following three games were all over 100 yards rushing.

While the “Law-Firm” can still be an effective short-yardage back, it appears as if it’s time for the rookie to claim his spot as the starter of the Bengals. If Bernard is putting up these numbers in a limited amount of playing time, imagine his statistics if he had more reps as a starter.