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Multi-Faceted Bernard Looks To Make Presence Felt In Cincinnati

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The Bengals made Giovani Bernard the highest-drafted back in April because they felt he could provide them with an explosive dimension out of the backfield they have lacked for years. Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images
The Bengals made Giovani Bernard the highest-drafted back in April because they felt he could provide them with an explosive dimension out of the backfield they have lacked for years. Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Without question, Giovani Bernard adds a dimension to the Cincinnati Bengals’ offense. In fact, he brings enough different qualities to the table that he could quickly become a matchup nightmare for defenses.

The Bengals took the versatile back out of North Caroliana in the second round with the idea of pairing him with bruiser BenJarvis Green-Ellis to give themselves a more elusive, quick footed, change-of-pace playmaker they've lacked at the position for a few years.  

If Green-Ellis is the bonecrusher that can deliver the body blow and get the first down with two yards or fewer to go, Bernard can be the back that lands the haymaker with his ability to break off a couple of 20-yard runs. Despite rushing for over 1,000 yards last season, Green-Ellis has never been that kind of back while Bernard is the player that gives Cincinnati that potential, with his patience for blocks to develop and the vision to make cutbacks and defenders miss – all in one explosive package.

Bernard has excellent hands, as evidenced by his 2012 college totals. In 2012, he managed 47 receptions for 490 yards and five touchdowns for the Tar Heels. The resulting 10.4 yards-per-catch average is an incredibly high number for a running back and indicative of his ability to make defenders miss in space after the catch. Bernard may even line up at receiver for some plays in Cincinnati.

Part of Bernard's appeal is the fact that the Bengals didn't have much in the way of receiving threats out of the backfield last year. No back had a catch for more than 20 yards and Green-Ellis had 22 catches total for 104 yards – averaging 4.7 yards per catch. Bernard gives QB Andy Dalton yet another target and perhaps takes some attention away from wideout AJ Green.

Bernard is also a solid blocker. He worked in a lot of up-tempo shotgun formations last year in North Carolina, taking on pass rushers and showing an impressive physicality in his game. Though a bit diminutive when compared to NFL linebackers and defensive linemen at 5-8 and 202 pounds, Bernard’s willingness as a blocker should help him see the field early and often. 

Another of Bernard's abilities lies in the punt return game. Last year, he back returned 16 punts for 263 yards (16.4 average) and two scores. While it remains to be seen if Bernard will be featured in the Bengals; return game, his success with it at North Carolina at least makes him an option for a return here and there. 

It seems that the combination of explosion, vision, patience, pass-catching abilities and blocking would make Bernard a three-down back. However, the Bengals will probably stick with Green-Ellis as the early-down option with Bernard seeing significant snaps as a backup and on passing downs. Going forward, Bernard may be Cincinnati's long-term feature back. He certainly possesses the skills and attributes to contribute on every down and, if he stays healthy, Bernard is definitely a back to watch out for in 2013 and beyond.