2014 Season Previews:
The Bengals had a good season
The Bengals made the playoffs
The Bengals improved by one game
The Bengals went 0-1 in the playoffs
See a pattern?
So how will the Bengals get over the hump? Did they do enough to advance?
Andre Whitworth moves back to Left tackle to replace Anthony Collins who left for Tampa Bay, Withworth started last year at left guard for Clint Boling who hurt his
ACL last year, but should be back to his consistent self.
The Center position is going to be one to watch, Kyle Cook was cut, so Mike Pollak is the leader to take over the role, but the Bengals did draft Russell Bodine to compete for the job as well.
Kevin Zeitler battled injury all year, and wasn’t effective due to it.
Andre Smith is one of the best run blockers at right tackle, but does tend to have problems with pass protection, but he’s getting better at stopping speed rushers.
Dalton just got a huge contract, and lets be honest, are you really wanting the return of Akili Smith? Dalton, when he is on, can be one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL. The problem is, he can be great on first down, then horrible on second down, then nail a third down conversion. He can be good for one quarter, then useless the rest of the game. Hard to blame the Bengals for the deal, there are many teams that would love for a QB to take every snap, throw for 4200 yards and 33 TDs and work on the 20 picks. The only guy to throw more TDs than Dalton last year in the AFC was that guy in Denver. The backup is Jason Campbell, whom has a lot of love from OC Hue Jackson, but no one wants to see this guy play, but it might spell the end for Josh Johnson. AJ McCarron is the rookie to watch, but who was the last Sabin QB to be worth anything?
The Bengals actually have a solid 1-2 punch at running back. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is in a contract year, but I’ll bet he’s playing for a another team, as the Bengals added Jeremy Hill in the second round. Giovani Benard should be the guy getting the biggest share of the carries, as he did 1200 yards and 8 TDs. I don’t know how much of a three headed monster the Bengals will use, but its a good problem to have. Benard actually had the second highest number of catches on the Bengals, for you fantasy people.
AJ Green is A MAN. Three straight Pro-Bowls and 97 catches last year, adding 11 TDs. Its almost hard to see how good Dalton would be without Green out there. On the other side is Marvin Jones, who also hit double digit TDs with only 51 catches. Mohamed Sanu is the third guy, and he added 47 receptions. The Bengals added Tyler Eifert last year, but they had a hard time getting much prodution from him, and Jermaine Gresham out performed him and double his touchdown catches. These guys got 6-6 and 6-5, by the way. If the Bengals continue to use two tight-end sets, Hue Jackson has got to find a way to get more from both guys without taking Sanu off the field so much.
Carlos Dunlap had his best year as a pro, and highest number of sacks since his rookie year, and the promise of more blitzes should be music to his ears. The other end, Wallace Gilberry tied for the team lead in sacks with 7.5, and if he can repeat that, this could be a dominant year for this line. This unit could replace the
loss of Michael Johnson fairly easily with Robert Geathers.
Domata Peko is a solid run-stuffer, but doesn’t do much damage to the pocket, but thats what the Bengals have Geno Atkins for. Coming off an ACL tear in week 9, Geno should be back to being the monster has have been. This unit is very strong and very deep. If Geno is back to 100%, and Dunlap and Gilberry continue to tear off the outside, this unit will continue to be the pride of the Bengals D.
Rey Maualuga is in the middle, and was a major weak point in 2012, had a bit of a bounceback last year, until he got hurt. He’s still got to improve in the middle if he’s going to get another contract from the Bengals.
Vontaze Burfict had a major year last year, making the Pro Bowl, there are reports of him swapping with Maualuga. I just don’t think that’s a good idea. James Harrison is gone, so the other spot is up for grabs with Emmanuel Lamur and Sean Porter should be in the mix.
The Linebacker unit could very well be the position on this team that sinks the Bengals defense. If Maualuga can play, then they might be ok, if they can replace Harrison, then it might be ok, but if both fall apart, then this unit is going to be trouble.
Terrance Newman is 36, his backup, Adam “Pacman” Jones is 37. In case you were wondering, neither of these guys have been confused with Darrell Green, who right now might be able to play in the NFL.
Leon Hall is trying to do what Thomas Davis did, and comeback from repeated ACL injuries, but doing it as a corner isn’t going to be easy.
Thankfully Darqueze Dennard was pulled in the first round to pick one of these spots.
George Iloka was given a starter’s spot last year and did a better than expected job and Reggie Nelson is better than average. The Corners are going to be a weak point here, but the Bengals know that going in. If Dennard isn’t what he needs to be, then this unit is toast. If he is a solid corner, then this might be a passable unit for the Bengals.
Mike Nugent is a decent kicker, but his kickoffs need a lot of help, but punter Kevin Huber is almost a good a punter as you are going to get in the NFL when it comes to putting the ball where it needs to go, but doesn’t have the best distance. The coverage teams have always been top-notch.
The Bengals needed to carpet bomb the Linebackers and Secondary, but really didn’t I understand the thought process of taking the best guy available,when there are only a few trouble spots, but much like the Panthers, you know where the weakness is, either you take what you need, or you back up a few spots and stockpile an extra pick or two. Dennard should be a solid player, but 2nd rounder Hill was a luxery as was third rounder Will Clark. Russell Bodine has to show something that other teams missed, and while I do like the AJ McCarron pick, I wonder if he will find a home with the Bengals. Its a good draft, but not something they needed to do. If Hill is a star- will he help more than a starting corner? Or a MLB in waiting or someone to take over for Burfict if he does move to the middle?
I’ll be upfront. I’ve never been that big a fan of Marvin Lewis. I don’t think the loss of Jay Gruden is going to hurt that badly. Zimmer is going to be a bigger loss. The Linebackers have problems. The interior of the offensive line could cause problems. Its going to be a long year until the playoff and we find out if the Bengals are worth anything. The hardest part for the Bengals is they have such a possibly to fail. Much like the Broncos and Pats- if they have a down year, they have failed.
Record wise, I’m looking at a sweep of the division other than the Ravens. 5-1 there, plus 2-2 vs the NFC South, then 3 wins against the AFC South- 2-2 at worst, then it comes down to week 5 at New England and 16 vs Denver. So 12-4 can happen pretty easily. 13-3 isn’t outside the realm of possibility. Of course, of they slip up as they did last year against the Browns and Steelers, then all bets are off and 9-7/10-6 is there. I’ll split the difference and go 10-6 with them dropping a game vs the Bucs and Browns they shouldn’t have.
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