Bengals still confident in Jeremy Hill, want him in starting rotation

Cincinnati's Jeremy Hill had a hard time holding onto the football on Sunday against the Chargers. Darron Cummings/AP

CINCINNATI -- Despite Jeremy Hill's two turnovers in Sunday's win over the San Diego Chargers, the Cincinnati Bengals have no plans of making a switch at the running back position.

Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson confirmed that Monday when he indicated Hill's benching in favor of Giovani Bernard in the third quarter of the 24-19 victory was only temporary.

"Yeah, I'll put him back in. It's a new game," Jackson said. "That one's over and done with. We're 2-0, so we're moving on. We're moving on to the next game."

This means when the Bengals travel to Baltimore (0-2) on Sunday, Hill will open the game at his familiar spot on the field, lined up behind quarterback Andy Dalton.

"Jeremy will be fine," head coach Marvin Lewis said. "He will get back at it and earn our trust as it goes. But we can't have the ball on the ground."

Twice in last weekend's game, Hill lost his grip on the football during two separate drives. The first time, about halfway through the first quarter, Hill had the football ripped from him as he was being tackled after crossing midfield. With his leg being twisted by the pile that had formed around him, Hill was going down at an awkward angle when linebacker Donald Butler yanked the ball out of his hands.

After a video review to see if Hill's knee had hit the ground before the ball came out, officials confirmed the fumble. The Bengals back, who had been injured on the play, was slapped with his first turnover of the season.

Two quarters later, long after returning from his minor knee issue, Hill had trouble cleanly catching a pitch from Dalton. It, too, resulted in a turnover as the Chargers recovered the loose ball. When Cincinnati's offense came on the field for its next drive, Hill was on the sideline. Bernard, who went on to have 123 rushing yards on 20 carries, finished the game at the position. The move had fantasy implications, too. Bernard's outing gave his fantasy owners 13 points under ESPN's standard scoring system. Hill's received minus-1 point.

"Jeremy's been a running back his entire life, so he understands taking care of the football is of utmost [importance]," Lewis said. "You can't have the ball stripped, and the second one is easy -- catch the football before you run. That is junior high school teaching there."

Hill had five fumbles as a rookie last year, with two of them resulting in turnovers. In college at LSU, Hill only fumbled once in two seasons. This preseason, he vowed to make 2015 a turnover-free year.

Jackson said it was his idea to bench Hill and that Lewis signed off on it. Had Lewis disagreed, Jackson would have let Hill continue. The assistant coach didn't really want to do that, though, because he felt compelled to prevent the risk of any other turnovers. He also wanted to pass along a message to his second-year back that the fumbles had consequences.

"If you're going to turn the ball over too many times, you can't play," Jackson said. "That's with any of our guys. It's just the way it goes. I'll still be lenient maybe with other guys. I don't want anybody to hold me to the standing of saying, 'OK, well he just turned it over, too. You better get him out.' No, there’s a process to it. I know what it looks like and what it feels like and Coach Lewis does, too. When we make that decision we make it and move on."