Bengals Goal Should Be Health In 2015
Dec 28, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green (18) lays on the field after suffering an apparent injury against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second half at Heinz Field. The Steelers won the game, 27-17. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports
The Cincinnati Bengals suffered from injury after injury this past season. Tyler Eifert went down in Week One and Vontaze Burfict‘s concussions kept him down for much of the season. It seemed the Bengals couldn’t catch a break and lost numerous weapons on both sides of the ball. It should be the only reason the Bengals get a pass on the 2014 season and this year’s playoff loss.
Marvin Jones broke his foot during the preseason. It led to Jones having surgery on both his foot and ankle, which sidelined him for all of last season. Marvin Jones was a bright spot in 2013 and complemented A.J. Green in the passing game. He caught 30% of the Bengals’ touchdowns and gained 712 yards during his breakout season. He will aid the offense significantly if he can stay healthy next season.
Tyler Eifert played a huge role in his rookie season. He also caught three passes during the first quarter against the Baltimore Ravens in Week One; it proved to be the only action he’d see all season after dislocating his elbow on his third, and final, catch. In 2013, Eifert caught 39 passes for 445 yards and two touchdowns. Although the numbers in 2013 don’t look big, the impact he made and the coverage he drew allowed guys like Jones and Green to enjoy one on one opportunities. If the start of 2014 is any indication of what is to come, he was and will be a primary target for Andy Dalton, once healthy, in 2015.
A.J. Green was probably the most significant loss in 2014. He missed essentially five games in the regular season, after leaving the Falcons game early, and then missed the Wild Card game against the Colts. The Bengals could have used their star player on a number of occasions, like against New England and Indianapolis (both times). He finished the season 29 receptions and 385 yards short of what he produced in 2013. He also produced five less touchdowns and had two more turnovers this season when compared to 2013. His impact was greatly diminished by his injuries and so was the Bengals’ offense.
Vontaze Burfict became the emotional and physical leader of the Bengals’ defense in 2013 when Geno Atkins went down. This season, his absence was a huge blow to this defense in all phases of the game and undoubtedly impacted its effectiveness. New defensive coordinator, Paul Guenther, almost looked lost when designing the pass rush without his leader on the field. Burfict played in only five games and had 29 tackles, a forced fumble, and two tackles for loss during his short season. He had microfracture surgery in the off-season and hopes to be ready to go come next season. The Bengals will need to return to its past top five defensive form in 2015 if they hope to reclaim the AFC North crown and return to the playoffs.
Jermaine Gresham was probably the most overlooked injury this past season when he missed the playoff game against the Colts. The Bengals were missing Dalton’s two favorite targets of the season and still remained offensively competitive for a good portion of the game. They eventually went flat in the second half and could have benefitted from Gresham’s presence in many situations. He is the only free agent of this group, and his return to the Bengals is questionable. If he returns in 2015, a healthy Gresham could help form a dangerous double tight end weapon.
As David Petrocelli pointed out in his article on Thursday, the Bengals’ schedule will be rough in 2015, so having every weapon healthy and available would greatly benefit their prospective for the upcoming season. I know 2014 just ended, but I am already excited about the start of 2015.
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