May 29, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert goes up for a catch during organized team activities at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
That lead the Bengals to go out this offseason and draft Tyler Eifert, a dynamic tight end who can lineup all over the field and will also serve as a nice redzone target for a team that’s been among the league’s worst in converting redzone trips in touchdowns over the past two seasons.
They also added Giovani Bernard, a change-of-pace back who has the breakaway speed to give the Bengals a true playmaker in the backfield, something they’ve lacked since Cedric Benson was still playing at a high level in 2009. He also provides them with a legitimate playmaker out of the backfield, and will be a solid third-down back, especially on passing downs.
The Bengals have desperately needed that, and it was painfully evident when they went 0-for-9 on third down vs. the Texans in a narrow 19-13 loss this past season.
Youth also comes into play, as the Bengals started seven players on offense last year who had less than four years on NFL experience. Offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth, one of the locker-room leaders and veterans, had those same sentiments when talking about his team’s’ most recent playoff loss:
"We’re making strides. We keep knocking on the door. If you keep knocking on the door, somewhere you find that hole you get through. We’re young as crap. We’re seriously young. We’ve got a lot of young guys playing in these environments for the first time. We’ll get better. It’s my job to make us better. Like I told (some) of our young guys, put it on me, let me shoulder it. I’ll find a way for us to get better."
While the Texans have been a thorn in the side of the Bengals, they didn’t do anything to significantly improve their team this offseason, nor did the Indianapolis Colts, another Wild Card team from 2012, and Cincinnati will face them in a crucial Week 14 matchup that will have a potential spot in the playoffs on the line. With the game being in Cincy, the Bengals should be favored to win and further increase their chances of making the postseason.
Again, a third-straight trip to the playoffs is the minimum this team should accomplish, and anything short of that will be a disappointment. The Bengals have a great chance to remain a fixture in the NFL playoffs, and in Part II of this series, we’ll look at their window of oppurtunity to win the AFC North and a playoff game for the first time in two decades.