Mailbag: How good is Giovani Bernard?

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1. The Bengals had one of the best defenses in the NFL this past season. Their toughness and grit gives them a Steelers/Ravens-like style.  What does Cincinnati need to do in order to have that type of defensive success for a multiple years? – Joseph in Chicago

Cincinnati’s defense is still young, just like the offense. But they do have a chance to be dominant for a long time, just as those Steelers and Ravens teams that you mentioned. For the Bengals the key going into next season is developing a star in the back end of the defense. A guy that can provide the same type of production as  Vontaze Burfict did in 2013. A game changer is what they need. This could make them an even greater defense, and a unit that could be a force for years to come.

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2. With so many young players, the Bengals have yet to reach their full potential. But with so many staff changes, how big of a step can we expect them to take in 2014? And in what direction? – Tristan in Lima

Cincinnati is very young, and still growing. It’s clear we have not seen all that these guys can do. As far as how big of a step they will take, that is something we will need to judge after seeing the moves Cincinnati makes in the draft. New coordinators, Paul Guenther and Hue Jackson, both have really good relationships with the guys on this roster. Both coaches played key roles in the development of all the young talent the Bengals have. So while we can not say for sure how big of a step the team will take next season, I think it’s safe to say the step will be in the right direction. Which is forward.
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3. Giovani Bernard had an outstanding rookie season. And he did so as the number two running back. Where does he need to improve most? How high is Gio’s ceiling? – Christian in Cincinnati

Giovani Bernard showcased many of his skills during his rookie campaign. The young running back showed that he has great speed and quickness, as well as good hands. He did have a crucial fumble in the Bengals’ playoff loss back in December, a “rookie mistake” if you will. But, judging from his body of work thus far, Bernard’s ceiling has to be high. As you mentioned he was the second string back behind Bejarvus Green-Ellis this season. Yet the rookie out of North Carolina still managed to notch just over 1200 yards of total offense. Bernard also totaled the second most catches on the entire roster. Marvin Lewis and company need to strongly consider making Bernard their feature back in 2014. Let Gio carry the ball 20+ times per game, and use Green-Ellis as the power back for situation runs. Then we will truly know where Giovani Bernard’s ceiling is.

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