CINCINNATI -- The often fiery Hue Jackson has gotten on his running backs regularly this season about running through more tackles and making sure they pick up blocks in the passing game.
But it's always been in private.
Near the end of a 20-minute chat with reporters that spanned multiple topics, the offensive coordinator went out of his way to address Jeremy Hill, saying the rookie ought to focus explicitly on his job: "to run through somebody."
Jackson's comments stemmed from a question about remarks Hill made in the locker room after Sunday's 14-13 win at Tampa Bay.
By his estimation, the Bengals squandered chances to add to their 112-yard total primarily because the Bucs kept dropping a safety into the box as an eighth defender, making it difficult for the Bengals to match up enough blockers to give the running backs alleys through which to run. Typically, that extra defender shifted down when quarterback Andy Dalton made checks at the line, Hill added.
"They game-planned it pretty well," Hill told Bengals.com. "They brought a safety down. Whenever we caught them in a two-[safety]-high, we ran the ball pretty well. When Andy made his checks, they kind of brought the safety down."
It's safe to say Jackson disagreed with that assessment.
"I don't know what Jeremy says," Jackson said. "They weren't responding to Andy's check.
"Jeremy don't play quarterback. What Jeremy needs to do is run the ball. What Jeremy wants to do -- I don't care if it's eight men or seven men -- break tackles, OK? That's what running backs do. They break tackles and that's it. At the end of the day, his job is to run through somebody and come out the other side and go find a way to score, period. So all his drop-down, who did this, did what -- that ain't his call."
Hill only gained 40 yards on 13 carries to average 3.1 yards.
Pressed about still needing an extra player to block the safety, Jackson continued. Referring to passing scenarios when teams bring extra rushers, he said it was the running back's responsibility to check that extra player.
"He has to block the safety," Jackson said. "Didn't you just say eighth man in the box? That's the back's job. The great back, that's his job. So that's what you need to tell Jeremy for me."
With meetings canceled following the win, players weren't required to show up Monday. Hill wasn't in the locker room when it was open after Jackson's meeting with reporters.
None of this will surprise Hill. He's heard it all before.
"I have aspirations of those guys being extremely special," Jackson added. "I give them their kudos. They've done some good things, but they can do some things better and they'd be the first to tell you that. The special backs in this league make uncommon plays all the time. It's just what they do. And if you want to be considered that, you have to make those plays, and the play isn't when everybody's blocked.
"It's when it's not blocked right, it's when things are a little cloudy. That's when you've got to find a way to make a play, and that's what I'm searching for all the time. The guy that does that is the guy that will be considered one of the best in this league. We've got two very talented backs. But they're young backs. They're growing. They're growing with the offensive line. We need to continue to grow faster so we can make those plays."