The Cincinnati Bengals offense under Hue Jackson was one of the most well balanced offenses in the league. Can they maintain that balance? They will have to in order to keep winning.
The Cincinnati Bengals, in 2015, proved to everyone how important it was to find a balance early in games. However, Hue Jackson is now in Cleveland and Ken Zampese will have to move away from just being a quarterback’s best friend to managing the whole offense.
In 2015, the Cincinnati Bengals were 9-1 when rushing for 100 yards or more and only 3-3 when rushing for under 100 yards. The one loss last season when they Bengals did rush over 100 yards was against the Denver Broncos, with A.J. McCarron under center, in addition to most of the yards being gained in the first half for 17 points.
It will be vital to continue that in 2016, even under a new coordinator. The Bengals had their best regular season offensive showing in 2015 since the late 1980’s, and Andy Dalton saw the field much better with both control and balance. The passing game was opened up by the success they found in the ground attack. It will be even more important with a few new faces in the receiver position.
The other advantage it gave the Bengals was it kept defenses honest in blitz packages, loading up the box with seven or eight players, with the fear of a play action fake. Keeping defenses on their toes was the biggest advantage the Bengals had all of last season.
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Ken Zampese understands the pressure a successful and balanced run game can take off the receivers and most importantly, the quarterback. However, they can not just play the run game with leads. Clock management is key to win games, as we saw against the Seattle Seahawks, but the Bengals ran a clock drain offense for most of the second half against the Broncos, which ultimately failed.
The Bengals offensive balance will be vital for their success in 2016. If they can maintain the ground game that they had early in the 2015 season, they will be the team to beat in the AFC North. It will be up to Andy Dalton and Ken Zampese to put together the offensive plan, but something tells me Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard are pushing hard for the ball.