Cincinnati Bengals: 1988 and Now

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Sep 20, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Marvin Jones (82) and wide receiver A.J. Green (18) run off the field during the game against the San Diego Chargers in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Cincinnati defeated San Diego 24-19. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Receiving Weapons

Then
Though Dalton may not be Esiason reincarnated, one thing is clear: his arsenal of weapons in the passing game is extremely similar to Esiason’s arsenal back in 1988. 26-year-old Eddie Brown was a Pro Bowl wide receiver in 1988, catching 53 passes for 1,273 yards and nine touchdowns in the greatest season of his career. Brown’s 24 yards-per-catch average is a huge testament to his ability to torch opposing defenses deep; Brown was a solid deep threat for the ’88 Bengals, much like the 2015 Bengals receivers. Tim McGee was another nice deep threat in Cincinnati, catching 36 passes for 686 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 19.1 yards per reception. Tight end Rodney Holman was Esiason’s third target, catching 39 passes for 527 yards and three touchdowns. Holman was a Pro Bowler in 1988, and he was voting to each of the two ensuing Pro Bowls after the ’88 season. Esiason, like Dalton, had two Pro Bowl-caliber targets and a deep threat in the passing game, and although they didn’t have any insane numbers, the fact that three guys all had solid production is a testament to Esiason’s arsenal out wide, much like Dalton’s.

Now
Despite the lack of jaw-dropping numbers, A.J. Green is an elite NFL wide receiver, and he is still playing like an elite wide receiver. Marvin Jones has been huge, taking the top off of opposing defenses and torching them deep. On the off chance that neither guy is open, Tyler Eifert is always open; he has quickly become the best tight end in football not named Rob Gronkowski in the first season he’s been fully healthy. As the only team in the NFL with a elite wide receiver and an elite tight end, this team is clearly loaded out wide–just like the 1988 Bengals were loaded out wide.

Thunder and Lightning

Then
The Cincinnati Bengals were lucky enough to have drafted one of the most known figures in the NFL in the 1988 draft, landing fullback Ickey Woods, notorious for his “Ickey Shuffle” touchdown celebrations. His size, speed, and toughness propelled the backfield. And with running back James Brooks in the mix, the 1988 Bengals had their own version of “Thunder and Lightning.” Combining for 29 touchdowns, Cincinnati’s one-two punch in the running game was a deadly combination that kept opponents on their toes all season long.

Now
Cincinnati’s running back tandem of Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill is perhaps the NFL’s best running back duo. While Jeremy Hill has gotten off to a slow start in 2015, he’s still had plenty of success around the goal line, punching in five touchdowns on the season (good for second-best in the NFL). Bernard, on the other hand, has been the yardage guy for the Bengals. His 427 yards rushing through six games (most of which he hasn’t been the primary back) are good for seventh in the NFL and the most among running backs who have had to share the backfield in any extent. Bernard’s 5.5 yards-per-carry average ranks best among NFL running backs who have totaled at least 75 carries this season. Thunder and Lightning are back, and Cincinnati’s running back duo gives the team an offensive balance not seen in a very long time–perhaps last seen in 1988.

Next: These Lines are Beasts

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