By Conrad Clowers
Herald Sports Writer
There is no team sport that needs depth like football. The sheer violence and wear and tear on every man leads to a ‘next man up’ philosophy. When a team has backups as good or nearly as good as the starters the confidence increases. Chris Evans is one of those studs the Bengals have in the backup roll. Evans doesn’t get a gob of playing time. You can see him on kickoff returns and occasionally in a special package on offense.
Not everything has always come easy to the Bengals backup running back. For much of his career, while at the University of Michigan, Evans was a backup that exploded every time he got his chance. Evans never averaged less than 4.6 yards per carry while playing for Jim Harbaughs Michigan Wolverine football team. An issue with academics kept Evans out his senior season. Despite missed time at Michigan, the Bengals had still seen enough where they were ready to take a chance on the quick footed running back. Cincinnati would grab Evans in the 6th round of the 2020 draft.
Since coming to the NFL, playing time has been scarce for Evans. He currently sits behind starter Joe Mixon and backup Samaje Perine in the Bengal backfield. Evans has been at his most dangerous on swing passes, where he is a threat to the defense to take it a long way. Evans has seen his production decrease in 22 as opposed to 21. Last season the then-rookie finished with 15 receptions for 151 yards. This season through nine games, he only has 30 yards on 2 receptions. While his time in the backfield has decreased, his opportunities of making explosive plays has increased on special teams. The former Michigan standout is averaging 21.1 yards per return on kickoffs after 10 tries. Former Bengal running back Gio Bernard filled the role of third down swing back for several years. After Bernard left Cincinnati for Tampa, Evans was put in the role of dual third down threat runner/receiver for the Bengals.
Cincinnati currently sits at 5-4 currently coming off a 42-21 win against the Carolina Panthers. The team has one of the toughest schedules in the NFL in the second half of the 2022 season. The Baltimore Ravens lead the Bengals by one game in the division. For Evans, he knows every kickoff return he has or every third down play he gets to turn into a first down could be the difference between victory and defeat.
The Bengals have gone through their share of injures. Explosive players like Evans can only enhance the chances of keeping the Bengals in the W column.