The Bengals are strong on the path of defeating inconsistency. Cincinnati players, coaches, front office and fans are anything but ignorant to the failures of producing successful seasons in back to back years. There are a few things that the Cincinnati Bengals cannot afford to go wrong if they are to achieve their goal of marching onward to another postseason bid.
On defense the Bengals most valuable player is unarguably defensive tackle Geno Atkins. The Bengals added an army of depth in the defensive backfield, but stopping the opposing passing game starts on the defensive line. As the shared league leader among defensive tackles in sacks with 7.5 Geno Atkins is a rare specimen at his position.
Since his days at the University of Georgia, Geno Atkins has shown the ability to disrupt the opposing backfield like few other defensive tackles. If the Bengals are forced to go a hefty length of the season without Geno Atkins it could spell disaster for both the running and game and the pass rush.
The second most integral part of the Bengals infrastructure seems to be at the offensive guard position. The Bengals let Bobbie Williams and Nate Livings walk during the offseason and in turn they replaced them with the rookie from Wisconsin, Kevin Zeitler and the veteran from the Carolina Panthers, Travelle Wharton.
The Bengals will likely have to move on without Wharton as he deals with a season-ending injury. Clint Boling will be the starter in place of Wharton and the outcome has yet to be determined. But head coach Marvin Lewis and offensive line coach Paul Alexander have praise Clint Boling for his work ethic during the offseason and his willingness to learn under the guidance of his apparent tutor, established veteran tackle Andrew Whitworth.
If the Bengals get even thinner at the offensive guard position, however, it could prove to be a fatal blow. Last year the Bengals could hardly get a decent push to propel the running game. As a unit last years Cincinnati running backs averaged 3.3 yards per carry, which ranked 30th in the NFL.
The establishment of the running game is crucial to Andy Dalton‘s progression as offensive coordinator opens up the playbook for his second year quarterback. If the Bengals drop yet another guard for an extended period of time or experience poor play from both sides, Dalton will be forced into pressure situations before the snaps as the team will have more 3rd and longs.
This might not be an obvious problem to the casual fan, but any football die-hard knows that it is much tougher to read a defense in 3rd & long because they can show blitz and then drop 7-8 into coverage, confusing a young quarterback, which occurred during Dalton’s short stint on the field against the Jets last week.
To summarize; the O-Line needs to stay strong so that the running game can thrive.