Gio Making Himself at Home

Cincinnati Bengals' Giovani Bernard (25) runs against the Carolina Panthers during the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Jason E. Miczek)
Cincinnati Bengals' Giovani Bernard (25) runs against the Carolina Panthers during the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Jason E. Miczek)

Giovani Bernard arguably is busier learning coach Zac Taylor's offense than anybody except quarterback Andy Dalton.

Taylor's commitment to variety does seem noticeable. The Bengals have taken the field in a multitude of different personnel groupings and formations this past spring. Checking out how Bernard was utilized in OTAs, it is easy to see how his role could be advanced in the new offensive scheme. 

One series on offense, Bernard lines up behind Dalton in a single set backfield. The next series, Bernard splits out wide right and runs a comeback route. Fast forward to the next series and Bernard is to the left of Dalton in the shotgun formation.

No matter where he’s at or when his number is called, Bernard is excited about the challenge.

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Time flies. Year 7 !!

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"I've always been the type of guy when my opportunity arises is to go out and play, play hard, play for your team,” Bernard said. “I think that's the biggest thing. We have to play for each other. It's not about the stats, it's not about how many plays I get. I just want to go out there when my number is called and make the play."

The numbers though do matter though when it comes to Bernard and a correlation to the team's success. 

In the three years where Cincinnati made the playoffs (2013-15), Bernard's season averages came out to 164 carries for 702 yards rushing and on the receiving side 49 receptions for 445 yards.

After 2015 though, Bernard’s usage dipped even though he played roughly the same number of games per year. Bernard did miss the final six games of the 2016 season, but his rushing totals the dipped to season averages of 84 carries for 335 yards rushing and 39 catches and 314 yards as a receiver.

A look back at Bengals running back Giovani Bernard and some of his best images from 2018.

Bernard will be looked upon as a key facilitator for the Bengals to improve upon a rushing attack that ranked 26th in rushing carries (359), 21st in rushing yards (1,682) and 18th in rushing touchdowns (13) last season.

For Taylor, having the luxury of a dynamic back like Joe Mixon, who ran for an AFC-best 1,168 yards in 2018, paired with the versatility of Bernard gives the team a cornucopia of options to attack defenses.

"We've got a good backfield right now with Joe and Gio to start," Taylor said. "It's good to get them both out here and take the load off of each other and help the young guys come along. Happy with what I am seeing from both of those guys. They are dialed in and focused. We are in good shape with those guys."

Taylor said his plan was to have the core components of the offense installed by training camp. With his skill set, Bernard figures to be a strong complement to Mixon and return to those 2013-15 numbers.

Four weeks’ worth of training camp practices will give the Bengals a chance to add some extra wrinkles, not to mention fine tune things. For now, Bernard and his teammates are doing everything they can to learn, enjoy and keep developing as the 2019 season gets closer by the day.

"It's been well,” said Bernard. “Just getting accustomed to the new playbook and accustomed to the change. Everybody is really trying to understand how Coach Taylor wants this team to be ran. I think everybody is really buying in. Obviously right now it's just trying to pick up the X's and O's as time gets rolling we'll understand it a bit more and be ready for week one.”

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