Fans of the Cincinnati Bengals saw a lot of changes this offseason. Defensive end Michael Johnson, offensive tackle Anthony Collins, and wide receiver Andrew Hawkins, all fan favorites, have gone on to new teams. Both coordinators got head coaching positions elsewhere. There are even upgrades coming to the stadium, where there will be a new scoreboard and a new weight room for the players. It would seem that fans could get a completely different team in 2014, but things aren’t always what they seem.
The biggest difference from 2013 to this season is at the top. Both Mike Zimmer and Jay Gruden accepted head coaching jobs with other teams, and the Bengals will have two new coordinators. However, the impact of this is somewhat mitigated by the fact that the replacements come from within. On offense, Hue Jackson takes over, bring experience, and emotion, with him. He will continue to do a lot of the things that the Bengals have done in the past, and though there will be some variations, it won’t be a completely unrecognizable offense. On defense, former linebackers coach, and long-time assistant Paul Guenther steps in. Zimmer was a very successful coach, and Guenther will likely keep the same system in place that fans have grown accustomed to over the past few seasons.
The loss of some of the key contributors is concerning for many fans of the Bengals. However, the team doesn’t believe in any one player being bigger than the team as a whole, and thinks that the lost players can be replaced effectively by the next man up. Wallace Gilberry and Margus Hunt will vie for the starting spot Johnson vacated, while Tanner Hawkinson could be the key backup that Collins had been. The rest of the roster, from quarterback, to the offensive line, to the secondary and linebackers, will look about the same as it did last season.
The Bengals underwent some major changes this offseason. From the coaching staff, to the locker room, there was a fair degree of upheaval, the kind that can adversely affect teams. In spite of the differences on the team this season, fans shouldn’t expect to see a team much different from the ones they’ve watched in the past. The Bengals have done a fine job of keeping up continuity by bringing in guys to minimize the amount of adjustments needed. Of course, the team remains the same at the top as well, with Marvin Lewis going into his 12th season as head coach. Will there be changes? Of course. Nothing stays the same in the NFL. In Cincinnati, things will certainly look different, but on the field it should be a case of “same old, same old”.