StripeHype: Bengals Sunday Roundtable
What is the main Key to this Season that the Cincinnati Bengals need to execute to repeat as AFC North Champions?
The obvious answer is Dalton and his ability to execute under pressure, but beyond the quarterback position, the Bengals need to sustain their historical pass rush. Last year Geno Atkins had the second most sacks on the team (6.0), and he missed over half of the season. While he will be back this season and should provide that disruptive force in the middle of the line, it’s hard to see Wallace Gilberry as an upgrade or even a facsimile to Michael Johnson. Without a significant threat on the other side, Carlos Dunlap will likely get more attention from offensive lines. Further, depth at end is a consideration as well. Margus Hunt was the fifth defensive end last year, and needs to take significant (albeit unlikely) strides in order the Bengals to be as fearsome on defense as they were last year.
Winning at home. After going undefeated last year, the bar is set high. The schedule is more difficult as will be opposing quarterbacks, so pass-rushing effectiveness could be key, but the key here will be winning at home against some tough division opponent and then taking 1 or 2 on the road.
The key of execution for the Bengals this season is going to be the play of the Defensive Line. The loss of Mike Zimmer is going to hurt. Expect the Linebackers to be fine, considering that Paul Guenther is the D.C. now and there is an improved coaching staff on the back end with the addition of Vance Joseph. Losing Michael Johnson is going to hurt, but with the return of Geno Atkins it may not be as bad as foreseen (keep in mind he is coming off of an ACL tear).
They need to find a way to win on the road. The Bengals went 8-0 at home and 3-5 on the road. They also will need win games they are supposed to when they play Jacksonville, Cleveland, and an improved Tampa Bay team. When they travel to New England, Indianapolis, and New Orleans, they will need to be near perfect and win those games.