CINCINNATI — Jeremy Hill wasn’t drafted in the second round to sit. BenJarvus Green-Ellis has served the Bengals well for the past two seasons, doing much of the dirty work required of a running back, grinding out more than 1,800 yards. Flash is not the style of runners like Green-Ellis or Hill. That’s the domain of the Giovani Bernards of the world.
Bernard is going to be the Bengals’ No. 1 running back this season. That’s so comfortably set that he never bothered putting his helmet on Thursday night for the final preseason game against Indianapolis, which the Bengals won 35-7 at Paul Brown Stadium. Rookie center Russell Bodine was the only first-team player to play Thursday.
These final preseason games are made for final evaluations. Rosters are being cut downs to 53 in the next couple of days. Hill is going to be on that list of 53. The coaching staff didn’t need Thursday night to make its final assessment on Green-Ellis. The Bengals know what they have in the man known as The Law Firm. He didn’t play the last two games because of a hip injury but he is a consummate professional who has been the perfect role model to the running back room for life in the NFL.
The question is: is there room for him and his on the roster?
Besides Green-Ellis, Rex Burkhead (knee) and Cedric Peerman (unspecified injury) also couldn’t play against the Colts. That left the workload up to Hill and fellow rookie James Wilder, Jr. Hill had touched the ball 25 times for 123 yards in the first three preseason games.
Thursday night he ran it 20 times for 90 yards and six caught all six passes that were thrown his way for another 70 yards. When he wasn’t handling the ball, he was busy picking up blitzes and protecting quarterbacks Jason Campbell and Tyler Wilson.
"Jeremy has to understand what it’s like to be an NFL running back," said head coach Marvin Lewis. "We aren’t five deep. When we get to Sundays and we go down to 46 guys, and if he’s going to be the guy, then he’s going to have to be able to have to be able to shoulder the load. You can get some good conditioning out here tonight. He’s going to learn to run with his pads down and protect the football. They were good snaps for him learn with tonight."
Hill got 20 touches in the first half for 123 yards. He nearly had an 8-yard touchdown run but a replay review overturned the call, saying Hill’s knee was down one-half yard short of the goal line.
Hill was shaken up late in the first half after picking up 12 yards on a swing pass out of the backfield. He needed 13 yards for a first down, so he dove for the marker only to come up short. He fell funny on his right funny bone in the process but when the Bengals took over for the first time in the second half, Hill was back on the field.
He got three carries and one pass reception in the first four plays of that series.
Thursday was another part of the learning curve for Hill. Most of those lessons have come in the classroom with position coach Kyle Caskey and the other running backs. Not all of them will be back in that room come Monday when the Bengals start their week of preparation for Baltimore.
"I’ve learned the working daily grind of it all," said Hill. "Football is always going to be football at the end of the day. Once you get out there and start running and playing, that’s what you’re here for and I don’t think anybody can help you with that. You’ve just got to get out there and let your abilities shine.
"But I think the biggest thing about this is preparation. It’s the things that you do on a day-in and day-out basis to set yourself up and put yourself in position to do well. That’s the biggest thing I get from those guys."