NFL Season Preview: Giovanni Bernard


It’s that time of year again! Football season!

On September 3rd, the North Carolina Tar Heels will be kicking off their season against the South Carolina Gamecocks. The game will be hosted at Bank of America stadium in Charlotte, nationally televised on ESPN.

For the NFL, the first Sunday of regular season football is on September 13th. Keeping it Heel will be providing plenty of coverage for the current UNC football players, but what about the Heels in the pros?

One of the most popular Carolina players of this past decade is RB Giovanni Bernard.

Perhaps the greatest play of Gio’s collegiate career was his game-winning punt return against NC State. Here’s another look at that historic play:

For UNC fans, beating NC State is always a great feeling, but to do it on a punt return like Giovanni Bernard did, it’s even sweeter.

After leaving North Carolina for the 2013 NFL Draft, Gio was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2nd round. Although he wasn’t drafted until the second round, he was still the first RB selected.

In his rookie season with the Bengals, Giovanni rushed for 695 yards, and five touchdowns.

But this past season, Gio dealt with some injuries, and had to miss three regular season games. Nonetheless. he still matched his rookie season number for TD’s, and rushed for 680 yards.

Giovanni Bernard is still making highlight plays in the NFL. Take a look at this insane TD run against the Miami Dolphins…

What can we expect from Gio this season?

Last year Bernard played second fiddle to rookie RB Jeremy Hill. And you can expect more of the same again this season.

In his rookie campaign, former LSU halfback Jeremy Hill rushed for over 1,000 yards, and had 9 touchdowns. Hill had 222 rushing attempts, while Gio only had 168.

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The NFL is getting to the point where most elite teams have two RB’s they use. Even though Jeremy Hill is poised to have more success this upcoming year, that doesn’t mean Bernard won’t be featured in the team’s offense.

Giovanni Bernard is a dual-threat running back. He can beat you with his feet, and with his hands.

Cincinnati Bengals QB Andy Dalton targeted Gio 59 times last year, and 43 of them resulted in receptions. Bernard finished the season with two receiving touchdowns and 349 yards. Which was a step-down from his rookie year, when he had 56 receptions and 514 yards.

On the other hand, Jeremy Hill had 27 receptions for 215 yards, and was unable to find the end-zone.

According to ESPN Fantasy Football’s season projections, Giovanni Bernard is predicted to finish the season with 562 yards rushing, and five TD’s, which is around the same from last year. Jeremy Hill is poised for a big sophomore campaign with 1233 yards and 10 touchdowns.

I have to say that I agree with ESPN’s projections for Gio. His primary role this year with the Bengals will be mostly 3rd down and passing situations. Giovanni has the potential to have around 500 receiving yards this year, which is great for a running back.

In conclusion, just because Gio Bernard isn’t the No.1 RB on the depth chart, that doesn’t mean he isn’t important to the Cincinnati Bengals. From Week 12 on last year, Hill averaged 20 touches per game, while Bernard averaged 13.3. He will get plenty of reps, and if Jeremy Hill were to catch the injury bug, Giovanni will step up in his place.

Best of luck to former Tar Heel Giovanni Bernard in his upcoming season with the Bengals.