Marvin Lewis Sets the Bar High for Bengals Second-Round Pick Giovani Bernard

Matt GrayContributor IMay 11, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 24: Giovani Bernard of North Carolina runs with the ball during the 2013 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 24, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The first Bengals workouts of 2013 kicked off on Friday with the annual rookie minicamp.

It was the first opportunity for Marvin Lewis and the Bengals coaching staff to get a look at their draft haul, and they came away impressed.

It's no secret that Lewis is the master of saying absolutely nothing in a press conference, but on Friday he was quick to praise his new recruits.

He was particularly high on Giovani Bernard and made some lofty comparisons between his new RB and current NFL stars.

[on Bernard] look at Ray Rice when he was a young player, this guy is already a little taller, a little heavier. The only difference in the two of them is Ray's arms were two inches longer. If that matters. We're looking at comparisons of (Doug) Martin, and the back down in Jacksonville (Maurice Jones-Drew), and those kind of guys with that kind of stature. Everybody sees where they are now, but you also look at physically where they started out, and I think Gio’s got special ability that way". via -

For Bernard, it's an extremely flattering comparison. But it also gives him a lot to live up to.

In his rookie year, Doug Martin went for over 1,000 rushing and 400 receiving yards, racking up 12 TDs. Maurice Jones-Drew had 16 TDs, came close to breaking 1,000 rushing yards and had over 400 receiving yards. Rice made a quieter entrance into the NFL but has since exploded, laughing his way to 1,000-plus yards in consecutive seasons.

Lewis' comparisons give us a good indication of just how big a role he hopes the former UNC running back can play in this offense.

The early signs suggest Bernard's up for the challenge. That's despite his admirably humble instance that he just wants to be himself.

Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer noted that Bernard "got plenty of work catching the ball out of the backfield" during practice.

Geoff Hobson of later grabbed Lewis for some more thoughts on Bernard and first-round pick Tyler Eifert:

[Bernard] will be able to really help us offensively and have an opportunity to carve out roles and niches early on in their rookie seasons. The game's not going to be too big for either one of them and that was really evident in the first two practices today.

In the years since the Bengals reboot, Lewis and his coaching staff have lead the charge in getting younger players on the field from the offset.

Thanks to the successes of A.J. Green and Andy Dalton, it looks set to stay that way.

For now, Lewis seems confident that Gio Bernard and Tyler Eifert can carry on that trend.