"Bernard is still going to get a lot of key touches as the change-of-pace guy," Hobson wrote, projecting Bernard with 8-11 touches per game. "I think [OC] Hue [Jackson] uses him a lot more in the pass game this year. With [tight end Jermaine] Gresham expected to be gone, I'm going to write in Gio for 60 catches."
It's not a stretch, as Bernard caught 56 passes as a rookie, then 43 in 13 games last year. He had a touchdown grab in each of the last two regular-season games and was Cincy's best receiver down the stretch, per Hobson.
The Bengals were without their top two receiving threats, A.J. Green and Jermaine Gresham, for the first-round playoff game, and their solution was for the offense to feature three running backs, with Bernard teaming with Jeremy Hill and
Burkhead drew the first two touches of the game, racking up 23 yards on an end-around on his only carry of the day and adding 34 yards on three receptions over the course of the game. He managed just 76 yards on 16 touches during the regular season.
Bernard displayed excellent athleticism on his 17-yard score in the first quarter, grabbing a short pass across the middle of the field and hurdling over a defender on his way to the end zone. While he's seen his role in the running game reduced in recent weeks, Bernard remains an integral part of the passing attack, catching touchdowns in back-to-back games over the last two weeks.
Bernard ends the regular season with 680 rushing yards on 168 carries and 349 receiving yards on 43 receptions along with seven total touchdowns. He'll square off with the Colts in the first round of the playoffs Sunday.
After yet another huge performance in Week 16 against the Broncos
The Bengals rode Hill to victory Monday, on the strength of his second 140-yard game in a row. He rushed for 147 on 22 carries, including an 85-yard touchdown, and pushed
An injury disrupted Bernard's season, but Hill hasn't shown any reason to consider giving the job back since he's been healthy. In the five games since Bernard has been healthy, he has 56 carries and 14 receptions, while Hill has 86 carries and nine receptions, with four touchdowns and 514 all-purpose yards. Bernard will still be around, but moving forward into next season, Hill looks like the back to own in Cincinnati, though both should have some value.
Bernard caught all five of his targets for 45 yards and ran eight times for 36 yards. He has 184 yards from scrimmage in the past two weeks.
Bernard should figure heavily into the receiving game again when Cincy visits the Steelers in Week 17.
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