Bruce Arians offered strong praise for running back Gio Bernard this week, calling the 9th-year veteran’s performance “more than pretty good.”
One of the few outside additions to the Buccaneers’ Super Bowl-winning roster this offseason, Bernard will look to fill the role of backfield receiving threat, which nobody really claimed last year. Such a player proved critical to Tom Brady during New England’s dominant run throughout the 2010s, with James White, Dion Lewis and other prominent players proving to be lethal options.
“The best thing about him is he’s the ultimate pro,” Arians said of Bernard. “Super prepared, he came to OTAs everyday, even though he didn’t have to. He wanted to be a major part of the offense, and he is already.”
Bernard, who played all eight of his previous seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, has accrued more than 2,800 receiving yards in his career to go along with 11 touchdowns on 342 receptions. With his career yards per reception mark sitting at 8.4, Bernard has proven to be a smooth, reliable pass catcher who maximizes his touches. Not only that, but he’s heralded as one of the best blockers at his position, which was oftentimes a struggle for Tampa’s running backs last year.
Though his touches in the run game will be limited on early downs due to the presence of Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette, Bernard will likely be locked in on obvious passing downs and third downs.
He’s already given a little taste of what he might be capable of in this offense, as he caught Brady’s only completion for a first down during Tampa’s first preseason game last week - ironically against his former team.
How much was Brady missing these easy first-down conversions last season. Gio Bernard, as expected, looking like a perfect fit pic.twitter.com/4rLOGdM074— Kevin Cole (@KevinColePFF) August 16, 2021
Arians added during his media session that Bernard will play a little bit tonight against the Titans, but not much. That will leave plenty of touches for Ke’Shawn Vaughn - who played well last week - and other options like C.J. Prosise and potentially Troymaine Pope. The latter missed a large chunk of practices this week, so failure to participate in this game would lead to an already steep uphill climb toward making the roster and even the practice squad.
Vaughn’s spot seems fairly safe at this point, but he’ll need to continue to show progress in all areas of the game, especially special teams, to show Arians he belongs on the 53-man roster. The 2020 third-round pick could be a regular gunner on the kickoff units.
The Buccaneers and the Titans kick off at 7:30 tonight.