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Bengals making Rex Burkhead a receiver-running back hybrid

Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns

Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns

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In his first two NFL seasons, Bengals running back Rex Burkhead rarely got the ball, with just 16 total touches. This year, the Bengals plan to change that.

Although Burkhead remains third on the running back depth chart behind Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard, the Bengals like Burkhead’s ability enough that they’re going to find ways to get the ball in his hands. That means playing him about half the time at running back and half the time at wide receiver. Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson says it’s all about getting the best players on the field.

“He’s very talented,” Jackson said of Burkhead, via the Cincinnati Enquirer. “You have a talented player on your team you see if you can find a way to get him involved. He can do a little bit of everything. He can run the ball, too. He can catch, protect. He’s one of the better players on our team so we will see what we can do with him.”

Burkhead lined up at wide receiver in the Bengals’ playoff loss to the Colts and had his best game of the season, catching three passes for 34 yards and also picking up 23 yards on his only run of the game. Now Burkhead is learning to play receiver regularly.

“When you’re coming out of the backfield you’re usually going against a linebacker and you’re usually going against straight-up man. Or it’s a simple zone you can read off of,” Burkhead said. “Now you’ve got cover-2, quarters, cloud coverages, and other things you have to learn about. And you’re running against nickel, dimes with corners and safeties. So it’s new, especially when I’m running some routes I’ve never run before.”

If Burkhead can learn to run those routes, he can play a big role in the Bengals’ offense -- something he hasn’t done in his first two seasons.