For Bengals fans, the 2015 season ended in disappointment as the team fumbled away yet another opportunity to win a playoff game. But, up until that point, it was an incredibly exciting season in which the team finished with a regular season record tied for the franchise's best ever (12-4). One particular player who had an impressive season was running back Giovani Bernard, who finished with the most yards per run of any running back with at least 150 touches on the season (4.7).
Heading into training camp, there are a few things that the Bengals really need to focus on in order to improve upon a very exciting 2015 season. Recently, I sat down with Bernard to talk about his perspective and expectations for the upcoming season.
"I think camp is going to be a time when guys can step up and prove themselves, including myself," Bernard said. "It's an opportunity for guys to take that next step. I think we have a lot of players on the team who can do that. So, it's going to be a fun year."
The Bengals have expressed a collective goal of winning the Super Bowl this year, and Bernard is no different.
"We have the same goals every year," Bernard said, "That's: win our division, win the conference, win the Super Bowl."
The Super Bowl is the ultimate goal for nearly every NFL player each season, so, it's not a huge surprise to hear him throwing that out. But, Bernard is confident the Super Bowl is a realistic goal for Cincinnati.
"Yeah, man," he said. "I think that you just gotta buy in."
Fans are buying in, coaches are buying in and players are buying in. Now, it's time to prove it on the field that the Bengals can get past the first weekend of the playoffs and make a deep run.
Bernard has a very positive perspective on the team's chances going forward and how the offseason changes will play out, specifically with new offensive coordinator Ken Zampese.
"Obviously we have a new OC, so we have to buy into what he's telling us. So, once we do that, once we play together, once we fill in some pieces, we'll be fine," Bernard said. "Coach Zamp is a good dude. He's been a behind the scenes guy for a while. But, I think this is his time to get his name out there even more. Obviously, his name's already out there. For the everyday Joe that doesn't know Coach Zamp, they'll know who he is after the season. It'll be neat."
In addition to Zampese, there are a lot of new additions to the team this year, including some very talented rookies. Bernard, in particular, is one player who really made the most of his rookie season and broke out in impressive fashion. Despite being the No. 2 running back behind BenJarvus Green-Ellis, he managed to put up 170 rushes for 695 yards and five touchdowns. He also caught 56 passes for 514 receiving yards and three more touchdowns.
Bernard also had one particular Barry Sanders-esque run that year against the Miami Dolphins, which many fans still remember to this day and will continue to remember for years to come.
Kyle Phelps | www.cincyjungle.com | July 28, 2016