Poll: How much should Bengals RBs run?

February, 11, 2014
Feb 11
2:00
PM ET
Last week, Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard raised some eyebrows when he told NFL Network that he and his teammates were bracing for the implementation of the "craziest playbook ever" when new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson puts it into action later this spring.

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How much should Bengals RBs run under new OC Hue Jackson?

  •  
    11%
  •  
    37%
  •  
    43%
  •  
    8%
  •  
    1%

Discuss (Total votes: 757)

What exactly delineates a regular old "crazy" playbook from the "craziest" one ever? Well, that's only known by Bernard, Jackson, and presumably the rest of the Bengals' ballcarriers.

What is known by those outside Paul Brown Stadium's home locker room is that with Jackson in charge, Cincinnati's offense will look to build off its top-10 showing in 2013 by running the ball more than it recently has.

But how much more should the unit run? That's what you're here to answer.

Are 25 carries per game enough for the Bengals' running backs to have this season? Or is that not enough? What about 30 carries? Thirty-five? Forty?

Each Tuesday afternoon this offseason we'll be posing a different poll question here on the Bengals blog for you to answer. Last Tuesday, you were asked which of the Bengals' 13 free agents you thought the team needed to retain. Offensive tackle Anthony Collins was your collective pick. The week before, those polled believed the Bengals needed to draft a mid-to-late-round quarterback to help back up Andy Dalton.

With respect to this poll, let's be clear. It's asking you to think specifically about the Bengals' running backs. What is a good combined average of per-game for the group, that, for now, is headed by Bernard and BenJarvus Green-Ellis? Last season, the Bengals as an offense averaged 30.1 rushes per game. Their running backs had the bulk of those, combining for an average 24.9 carries per game.

Under former offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, who left last month to serve as Washington's new head coach, the Bengals ranked 18th in rushing offense last season. Across all three of Gruden's seasons, they were 17th, averaging 110 yards per game in the regular season across that stretch.

That ranking may be a little low for Jackson's liking, but with an offense that also features multiple receiving threats, including two-time Pro Bowler A.J. Green, a 110 yards-per-game average is rather admirable.

While Jackson might want to see the regular season rushing yard numbers a little higher, it's mainly the postseason rushing statistics that have him and many others troubled. In their last three playoff games -- all losses -- the Bengals ran just 60 total times, for an average of 20 carries a game. Like the regular season statistics above, those numbers were buoyed by occasional carries from quarterback Andy Dalton and receivers.

In 2011's playoff loss at Houston, three Bengals running backs split 16 carries. The next year, two split 12. Against San Diego last month, Green-Ellis and Bernard shared 20.

Yes, the Bengals trailed significant periods of time in each game, but by halftime of all of them, they either led or were within a touchdown or field goal of tying the game. It wasn't as if they were playing catch-up for nearly 60 minutes and needed to pass their way into a comeback.

It was January's wild-card round defeat to the Chargers that seemed to bring the Bengals to their philosophical breaking point. Just one day after Gruden's departure for Washington, Jackson made it known that while he applauded the good that came from his predecessor's coaching, he also believed the path forward for this franchise was through a better balance of the run and pass.

So, with that in mind, how much exactly should the Bengals' running backs run this fall? Cast your vote now.

 

Coley Harvey

ESPN Cincinnati Bengals reporter

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