2017 Season Preview: Cincinnati Bengals

I am 44 years old, to bring down the Bengals history in my lifetime is east, had Sam Wyche- got beat in 2 Super Bowls by my team, sucked for decades, got Marvin Lewis, who puts them in the playoffs but can win when they get there. Pretty simple. The Bengals had a major drop last year, not only failing to win 10 games as they had been doing, but winning only 6 games.

Offense: Andy Dalton was the only person to throw a pass  last year, and had a good year with 18TDs and 8 picks, while thats not stunning, remember he lost his top WR, TE and RB for massive chunks of the season. Not to mention he also had a cruddy line in front of him. If everyone comes back healthy, with AJ Green, Brandon LaFell and first rounder John Ross, this could be the one of the best trios in the NFL. I don’t get the Ross pick as last years second rounder Tyler Boyd was looking like he might be a solid pick as well. LaFell might be the odd man out and that would leave Cincy with a very young group. Tyler Eibert is also proving his first round pick potention as well, but needs to stay on the field. Running Back should be a fun position all season, as we have 3 2nd round picks, 2013 Giovanni Bernard who can be solid, 2014 Jeremy Hill who had to carry the load last year with Bernard hurt, and 2017 Joe Mixon, who never would have been a 2nd rounder at all if only on-field issues counted. Again, we have a plethora of riches here. Contrast that with the Offensive line, where Dalton got little if anything, and there wasn’t much push upfront. Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler are both gone, and those two started every game last year. Whitworth is a huge leadership loss, but Andre Smith returns but still a downgrade even if he returns to how good he was as a Bengal. Zeitler is the better player, and this line has taken a massive step backward.

Defense: The Bengals had a pretty big dropoff from 2015, and could face another climb to get back to last year, but that won’t be the fault of Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap, two Pro-Bowl level players, but the other twosome present a fairly large dropoff. The next level behind them is also solid, if unspectacular. Karlos Dansby is gone, as is Ray Maualuga, two players that will be missed, but Vontaze Burfect is looking to mind his P’s and Q’s after a quiet year, so that’s a positive. The secondary has a ton of talent, starting with the ageless Pacman Jones but this group doesn’t pull a lot of turnovers. Maybe 2014 No 1 Darqueze Dennard can escape that bust tag this year.

Special Teams: Kevin Huber is a solid punter, but kicker is a question mark, as the Bengals even used a 5th rounder to try and fill that hole. Coverage units are not spectacular, but decent.

Overall: I still think the Bengals made a mistake drafting another wideout, and really needed to get some help for the offensive line. That is really going to hurt them going forward as its not as good as last year and Dalton got beat up last year.
I’m a bit struggling here. I can’t see them beating Pitt, and Baltimore has a much better defense than the Bengals, plus the Browns have improved. I’ll give them 2 division wins, and 2 vs the AFC South. I’m only going 1 win vs the NFC Central, as Bonus Games vs Buffalo and Denver only gives them another win. 6-10.

Three Questions

I. Marvin Lewis is on the final year of his contract, what does he have to do to get a 16th year if you owned the team?

Joe: Lewis enters his 15th campaign as the Bengals’ head coach with no security beyond. To extend his run as coach of the Bengals, the team probably needs to either make the playoffs or be damn close to that possibility at the end of the season. Otherwise we may see the end of long run for Lewis in Cincy.

If Lewis is gone it won’t because he didn’t give it his best shot; prepare his players the best he could, rather it will because the team just wasn’t good enough.

The one thing that may hurt Lewis even if the Bengals’ make the playoffs? Seven times Lewis has taken the Bengals to the playoffs and they have zero wins in those seven times there.  He needs to win in Prime Time. He needs to win in the playoffs.

Dan: I think they definitely need to compete for a playoff spot and have a pretty good season. The playoffs are definitely in reach for this team so he needs to make sure his team makes something happen. If they finish under .500 and no chance at the playoffs, he’ll be gone and Cincinnati will be looking at other options for head coach.

David: I don’t think Marvin can save his job, to be quite honest with you. I don’t see the Bengals rebounding, or if they do, doing anything, and I can’t see them getting to the playoffs, much less winning a game once they get there. The Bengals have to do something before Dalton has the same playoff feelings as Carson Palmer in Cincy.

II. This is the first non-playoff year since 2009, hiccup or downward trend?

Joe: The problem facing this team is that they are essentially young and unproven. So, they just may not be firing as a team on all cylinders this year and could miss the playoffs. That will not mean they are necessarily on a downward trend. It just may mean that they need some time to jell together as a team to get it together.

If they make the playoffs? Then that downward trend question is moot.

If they don’t? Then 2018 will be the true test of getting the answer to that downward trend or hiccup question.

Dan: I think it was a hiccup. They still need work on their offensive line but with the way the draft was at offensive line, it really wasn’t all that vital to go and grab one. They did grab a wide out in round one, followed by a running back (Joe Mixon) in round two. Both will have huge contributions for this team in the immediate future. Also, AJ Green will be healthy which will help Andy Dalton and the offense tremendously. What hurt them last season was Green missing the last quarter-plus of the season.

David: I’m thinking trend. That O-Line stinks, and not getting better, and Dalton is getting older, and they were a loser in free agency. The Browns are getting better, and seem to have leadership for once.

III. Did the Bengals make a mistake taking a wideout number 1 with all the holes on the O-Line?

Joe: Yeah, it certainly would make a person think that.  With their picks in the draft…  9 (WR John Ross), 41 (RB Joe Mixon) and 128 (WR Josh Malone) …  they look like a team that will be playing an offense that will spread the field and open things up.

Only problem: Who is going to stop the rush?

Dan: No, not at all. He’ll be an excellent playmaker on their offense and with AJ Green on the opposite side, it’ll open up a lot of good looks for him. He should complement Green very nicely. The draft was extremely weak at the offensive line positions so forcing a draft pick on one early would have been foolish.

David: Yes. When you are banking on Andre Smith to come save Andy Dalton from becoming David Carr, do you really need another target for Dalton as he’s getting put on his backside?

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