Marvin Lewis must know something about somebody high up in the Bengals organization. He must. There is no other reason for him to still be employed as head coach of the Bengals. 13 seasons with a record of 100-96-2, with zero wins in the post-season. The Bengals have had the talent in recent years and still they manage to do barely anything with it. They have made the playoffs the last four years; but is anybody expecting them to do much more than make the playoffs again?
Andy Dalton gets a lot of the blame that should go to (or be shared with) head coach Marvin Lewis, but that’s just not fair. Dalton is a decent quarterback with above average talent – that’s enough to win games in this league when things around you are going perfect. That’s never the case in Cincy though. In their playoff game last year Dalton was working with the offenses “B Squad” because the team was decimated by injuries. If Dalton doesn’t start become more assertive in the pocket and doesn’t start avoiding the turnovers – he’ll be a back up for the rest of his career after this season. . .
One would think, having A.J. Green as your number one option at wide receiver would be enough for a quarterback to stay in the Top Ten, but things don’t work that easily in the league. A.J. Green was bothered by turf toe last season, and sidelined him for three weeks, including last year’s playoff game. A.J. Green is in a contract year, and it’s expected of him to have a huge season, so he can get pay days similar to Dez Bryant and Demariyus Thomas. Green is a freakish athlete who attracts a lot of double teams, meaning somebody else has to be open, ANDY! The problem here is that Cincinnati has never really supplied a great counterpart to Green. Mohammed Sanu and Marvin Jones are decent wide outs, that can have a nice week or two, but can’t provide enough week to week as a legitimate threat to defenses. The only hope outside of Green in this passing game is the potential that lies in tight end Tyler Eifert. Eifert has shown flashes of being a good receiving tight end, but he needs to separate himself from the rest, especially after missing almost all of last season from an elbow injury he suffered in week one.
With Dalton unsteady and Green the only viable force in the passing attack – it’s a good thing the running game is supplied by Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard. Bernard provides the flash and a real threat in the passing game from the backfield while Hill gives you the traditional size and skill set that can keep him on the field for all three downs. The Bengals will have to keep these two fresh and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, must be creative in keeping these two involved in the game plan every week.
The offensive line is gritty one, that helped anchor the Bengals ground game which put up over 2100 yards. The group returns but Andre Smith is in a contract year but with A.J. Green’s contract looming over this season and considering the contract extension given to offensive tackle Clint Boling – this may be Smith’s last go-round with the Bengals.
The corner backs for the Bengals are two former first round picks that the organization is banking on. Dre Kirkpatrick has had his ups and downs in three years but this is his time to be the “guy” in the secondary who can take on the oppositions toughest match up. Darqueze Dennard was drafted last year out of Michigan State and might still be a year away from getting his game right. Adam Jones has been playing with his head on right lately and he can still slide into the three or two spot on the corner back depth chart if somebody slips up.
Geno Atkins wasn’t the same last year and neither was defensive end Carlos Dunlap. The Bengals figure things just can’t stay the same and both will get back on their game this year. If the defensive line has a second year of disappointing the fans in Cincy, expect these line backers to be all over the place. Good thing for the Bengals is that they are well stocked in that position.
The Bengals signed A.J. Hawk in the off-season, who isn’t as dominant as somebody with a name like “A.J. Hawk” should be – but he’s a smart player with no quit. His work ethic is infectious will hopefully rub off on the wild man of the group Vontaze Burfict. Burfict is coming off of a knee injury that shortened his season – Bengals took a gamble on drafting him and then later signing him to an extension. He is an all out beast, who plays recklessly. Sometimes too recklessly. He is also noted as being one of the league’s “dirtier players” which is a title nobody should hold up proudly. Rey Maualuga is the athletic version of A.J. Hawk. Good against the run and can get to runners who hit the outside – unlike Hawk. An interesting addition to the Bengals defense is linebacker Paul Dawson who was taken in the third-round. Dawson, coming out of TCU, he attacks the ball carriers and tries to blow them up on every attempt. He is a quick linebacker with great pass rushing potential but on a scale of maturity – he’s closer to Vontaze Burfict than, let’s say. . .an A.J. Hawk.
Predicted Record: 10-6
Predicted Pro Bowlers: A.J. Green, Jeremy Hill, Kevin Zeitler