Dec 22, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalto (14) looks on from the bench in the first half against the Denver Broncos at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Despite Cincinnati‘s penchant for consistency, when the team takes the field in the coming season, they’ll be doing so under unique circumstances. Due to both intrinsic and extrinsic factors, for both team-oriented and selfish goals, the 2015 Bengals should be more motivated than ever.
The 2015 season combines a perfect storm of motivating factors that touches nearly every key Bengal. A combination of unfulfilled promise, contract years, players seeking larger roles, and players returning from injury should motivate players to be better than they’ve ever been both as a team and as individuals. This motivation should permeate throughout the locker room and will lead the team to greater success or the end of an era.
Despite having one of the most talented rosters in the NFL, the Bengals have been unable to join the ranks of the NFL’s elite. They have made the playoffs the past four years yet have been eliminated immediately. This kind of failure likely means 2015 is Marvin Lewis‘ make-or-break year, and possibly Andy Dalton‘s. Beyond the two faces of the franchise, the burn of playoff failure should motivate the team as a whole. No team or player wants to be defined by such a lack of success, so the team as a whole should be unified under the motivation of finally living up to the promise they’ve offered over the past few years.
Once the 2015 season concludes, many Bengals, somewhere around 16-20, will be free agents. Regardless of how old these players are, it’s likely they will all be playing to prove their worth towards a new contract. The opportunity to earn a lucrative deal should only help motivate these players to play their best ball in 2015.
Beyond these players, there are several Bengals who are playing under what essentially amounts to year-to-year deals. These players include Andy Dalton, Domata Peko, Rey Maualuga, A.J Hawk, Mike Nugent, and Cedric Peerman. If these players want to play out the entirety of their respective deals, they must prove their merit on a yearly basis, which becomes especially important this year as the Bengals will be faced with some serious financial decisions in the near future due to the aforementioned large number of impending free agents.
Then, there’s an entire other faction of young players who are looking for larger roles within the team. Earlier this offseason, Marvin Lewis named a handful of defensive players who he’d like to see more of in the coming season. Beyond these five players, Bengals such as Rex Burkhead, A.J. McCarron, Marquis Flowers, Jayson DiManche, and James Wright will be doing the same. This type of situation should create a healthy competition between these players and the respective veterans they compete with on a daily basis. Nothing breeds success like competition, and with the highly talented roster the Bengals possess, this competition should exist both during training camp and throughout the regular season.
Finally, there’s the unfortunate yet motivating factor of proving ones worth following injury. No player likes to be remembered for what they were like prior to an injury. Unfortunately for Cincinnati, the injury bug struck the team hard the past few seasons, so there is a group of players who are looking to prove their careers won’t be defined by an injury: Geno Atkins, Tyler Eifert, Vontaze Burfict, Marvin Jones, Michael Johnson, and even little known, yet promising guard Trey Hopkins. If just this contingent of players were to find success in 2015 following their respective injuries, the team’s prospects for the coming season would be infinitely improved.
With the “window for success” closing quickly on the team’s current core group of players, 2015 is largely a make-or-break year for the Bengals as a whole. Players should want to fulfill the promise they offer both as a team and as individuals regardless of the reason for doing so. With so many motivating factors influencing all levels of the organization in the coming season, the Bengals should be more motivated than ever to prove that supporting this team is a worthwhile cause.
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