There are major repairs needed for the Bengals to grace the postseason landscape again. But, are the fans and coaches seeing the same problems?
The Bengals are in need of an offensive line patch. It’s not that hard to see. If you watched the Cincinnati offensive line flounder through the season, it’s a no-brainer. There have to be some tweaks (understatement) made to the unit that protects Andy Dalton and paves the way for the running game. Fans are looking for a star-studded answer to the 2016 collapse. The Bengals need to stick with the plan.
There are some interesting mock drafts that have exotic mixes coming to the Queen City. This year’s class of draft picks is loaded with defensive talent. The rule of thumb is to take the best available pick and then see what the Big Board is screaming. With the Bengals holding the No. 9 position and four compensatory picks, the door is open for some wild picks and booing crowds.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much time for dreaming. What’s the phrase? Almost doesn’t count. The Bengals came close to winning playoff game number one under Marvin Lewis, in 2015. The 2016 campaign (must we go there again?) was a total disaster.
From a fans point of view, it was a return to the mediocre seasons endured during the Lost Decade. From the viewpoint of Mr. Lewis, there are a few things that need to be fixed. The O-line isn’t one of them. That’s what Marv said, via Bengals.com.
"“The line is not a concern. We know all areas of our team, particularly the offensive group, have to do a better job of protecting our quarterback and that comes from every person and every position group on the offense. Protecting the passer is always a priority. It’s never changed. It just doesn’t fall on the line. It falls on everybody.”"
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So there you have it. Lewis says the Bengals’ offensive line is fine. When Noah was building that ark, I’m sure people said the weather was just fine. The Bengals are in jeopardy of losing both Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler to Free Agency. The duo has become 2017’s answer to Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones. The salary cap and Mike Brown’s tight wallet are sure to cause some heart attacks. Yeah. Everything’s just dandy.
When the question of bringing Andre Smith back is a hot topic, there’s something amiss with the front five. But, the average Bengals fan isn’t supposed to understand that.
There were three Bengals on the Pro Football Focus Top 101 Players list. Can you guess who the highest rated player was? If you said Whitworth, you get the kewpie doll and a month supply of StarKist tuna. Losing him could cause a tidal wave of chaos. But, that’s what the Bengals thrive on. Unnecessary punches to the throat. Yet, the resounding question is unavoidable. What do the fans want?
The “Big If” Scenario
Let’s cut to the chase. If both Zeitler and Whitworth decide to chase the money, the Bengals are looking at a rebuild around Dalton. Does that make Cincinnati woo Smith back or pursue young talent in the draft? The consensus is set. The names have been etched in stone and most fans are ready to see them in Orange and Black. Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook, Reuben Foster and Ethan Pocic top the list of most mocks. But, who really needs to land on the roster?
With so many Bengals set to walk away, it’s a tossup. Coming out of LSU, Pocic has the experience at both guard and center and would definitely be a good fit for the line. Tons of teams need a quality running back. Rex Burkhead could easily be snatched away from Ken Zampese. With Jeremy Hill playing below his rookie level and Giovani Bernard recovering from an ACL injury…the Bengals need depth at the position. Could any of the aforementioned backs add pop to the lineup? Throw in a little Joe Mixon for spice and things get interesting.
The Average Joe
Truthfully, all the mock drafts are fun and eye-opening. But, the real deal will happen in April. When the Bengals are finally on the clock, Lewis and Duke Tobin will be expected to work their magic again.
Fans today are savvy and knowledgeable about the game. Some spend as much time analyzing draft picks as the pros. But, every supporter of the Stripes wants one thing: to see the Bengals hoist a Lombardi. If the results of the draft and free agency catapult Cincy back to the playoffs, go back and look at your notes. Compare them to what Bengals brass did.
Hopefully, fans get what they want and Cincinnati fills its needs. Together, that should mean a return to the top of the AFC North and more.