Wednesday, December 21, 2016
Rex Burkhead has been around for four years. But, is the speedy back finally getting the playing time he deserves? His snap count needs to be increased.
By Emile Pierce
December 21, 2016
Cincinnati Bengals fans are well aware of the situation. The five-year playoff run has come to an end. A promising season has turned into dreams of 2017. But, that doesn’t mean stop caring. Rex Burkhead has emerged as one of the feel-good stories of the campaign. Filling in for the injured Giovani Bernard, Burkhead has quickly honed his skills. If fans didn’t know him before, he’s doing a good job of telling his story.
When Bernard finished the game against the Buffalo Bills, no one was ready for the devastating news that followed. Gio had suffered a torn ACL, to the surprise of everyone. ACL tears are an unpredictable injury and take at least a year to mend. When Bernard comes back, he’ll be in for a serious rehab schedule. But, in that time Bengals brass will have to make some decisions on what to do.
Burkhead has proven that he can take the pounding and keep on ticking (hope that’s not a curse). His shifty, speedy running style is something that hasn’t been seen for years in Stripes. Along with his quick wheels, Burkhead has an element of strength that doesn’t get much recognition.
That’s an element truly necessary to combat the heavy blitz schemes of many defenses. Surprisingly, Burkhead was in on just 36% of the snaps.
Two Battles To Go
With the season coming to an end, this should be the time to really see what Burkhead has to offer. At times, I can truly be a homer. But, facts are facts. Jeremy Hill seems to start out with a head of steam and then fall into mediocrity. Maybe it’s the O-line or Ken Zampese’s zany play calling that makes Hill seem inadequate. Whatever it is, now is the time to find out what Rex is made of.
During the come-from-ahead loss to the Steelers, Burkhead was a beast. But, he inflicted most of his damage in the first half. Let’s not get too happy here. The Bengals employ a two running back system that has its advantages. Hill is supposed to be the big bruising back that slams the line and wears the defensive line down. The change-of-pace back (Gio or Burkhead) is the designated speedster that comes in when the defense has lost their legs in pursuit.
Unfortunately, Hill isn’t performing at the level necessary to get things set up for back No. 2. Against the Steelers, Jeremy ended the day with 43 yards rushing on 20 carries. A strange thing happened on the way to the stats. In the first half, Hill had 44 yards. So, he had a grand total of -1 yards in the second half? That truly needs to be addressed.
With the unanswered troubles at running back, Burkhead should get a chance to shine. After all, he’ll be a free agent in 2017. This is the time to find out what he can do. Gio’s injury could be more costly than expected.
The season is already over. In the last two games, Bengals fans should be treated to winning football showcasing players of the future. Burkhead is on that list for more snaps.
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