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Bengals' post-fumble message to Jeremy Hill: 'You're a really good player'

Bengals running back Jeremy Hill had a disappointing second season, but the team is confident he can regain his rookie form this fall. Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

INDIANAPOLIS -- Jeremy Hill has promised his coaches the fumble he lost at the end of the Cincinnati Bengals' playoff loss to the Steelers will be a source of motivation throughout this offseason.

The promise his coaches have made to him is that they will keep feeding him positive energy.

Just after the Bengals' 18-16 playoff loss, one in which Hill's critical late-game fumble was a factor, running backs coach Kyle Caskey approached the second-year back with a message he wants to keep repeating.

"You're a really, really good player and you need to remember that," Caskey told him. "One moment's not going to define you as a player."

To many Bengals fans, that fumble does define who Hill is at this moment. After a turnover-free two-year college career, Hill came to Cincinnati with high expectations as it pertained to ball security. He took pride in mentioning how proper ball security was constantly drilled into his head at LSU.

In Hill's two seasons with the Bengals, though, he has fumbled nine times in regular-season and postseason games. Six have resulted in turnovers, but none as costly as the one from the playoff loss against Pittsburgh. Right after it, the Steelers marched quickly downfield and after two Bengals personal-foul penalties and kicked a 35-yard field goal in the final seconds that proved to be the winner. If Hill doesn't lose the football, the Bengals likely would have worked the clock to ice a win.

"When you watch the [fumble] from the end zone copy, he's going with his other arm to cover it up. It was just a little late," Caskey said. "He knows that he should've had both arms on the ball. You can say that he should've gone down, because he's playing football, and it's in the heat of the moment, and unfortunately, it got ripped out about two inches away from him being down. He's got to learn from those type of mistakes where sometimes you do just have to go down."

The fumble compounded what was already a difficult year for Hill. After averaging 5.1 yards per carry as a rookie, he only mustered 3.6 in 2015. Despite the low average he still had a career-high 11 touchdowns with nine coming in goal-line scenarios.

"He knows this year he wasn't the running back that he knows he is," Caskey said. "But you have to take the bad and mix it in with the good stuff that he did and show him that it wasn't all bad this year. You did some good things, and let's build on the things that you did and let's figure out maybe why did these bad things maybe happen during the year, and let's try to fix it as quickly as we can so that when we move through OTAs and training camp, we can just move forward and put all that behind us."

Caskey said Hill's improvements hinge on ball security and the decisiveness with which he hits holes between the tackles.