If the Bengals are going to get things back on track, the answer is simple. Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton have to deliver stellar performances.
Last season was one to forget. The Bengals raised hopes and promptly smashed them individually. The mantra was a simple one. Get faster and get younger. Well, the football gods pulled some strings and Cincy got what they wanted. Now, with speed a factor in the minds of fans, Andy Dalton has to step up. If his game is going to improve, this has to be the year. Along with Dalton, Coach Marvin Lewis also needs to have a great campaign.
The big knock against Dalton has always been his arm strength. With receivers that can reach Warp 9 (I’m givin’ her all she’s got captain), it’s now about the accuracy of his deep passes. The Bengals arguably have one of the best wide receiver corps in the NFL. Made up of youngsters and first-year burners, the “wow” factor is truly off the scale. But, it will be about Dalton developing chemistry with his new threats. When he does, the AFC North will be in serious trouble.
What’s holding Dalton back? That’s been the million-dollar question for the majority of his time in Cincinnati. He gets a pass for 2016. Working with offensive coordinator Ken Zampese was his excuse. But, he won’t be able to use that excuse this year. Any system changes should be well ironed out. The 2015 season was…well, a fluke. If not for that Week 14 brain cramp, the Bengals could have been riding their first playoff win.
Wash, Rinse, Repeat
What needs to happen? Dalton needs to have a repeat of that 2015 gem and toss in a bit of last year. According to Zampese, the 2016 offense was a mirror of the prior season. But, it sputtered and stalled in the red zone. If the Bengals are going to capitalize on the success of this year’s draft, Dalton has to step up and be the Pro Bowl-caliber signal-caller that fans are waiting on.
There can be no waiting for the troops to catch up. Dalton has to lead the Bengals to the postseason with a strong performance. He has to be a leader on the field and in the locker room.
Not only does Andy have to show his credentials, to wear the captain’s “C” on his chest, his game needs to be flawless. Any excuses for losing to the Steelers is unacceptable. Both games should be considered primetime affairs. The days of splitting the series are gone. Dalton has to bring it and play each Pittsburgh game like it’s Baltimore. Will it happen? It needs to. There’s been a steep investment in intimidation. John Ross and Josh Malone were among the fastest at the NFL Combine, per SB Nation. Now, they’re both Bengals.
"“With him, we can line him up in the slot and he can take the top off. Put a ball in his hands and let him make the plays,” Green explained. “I think the biggest thing with him is he’s so dynamic, we can put him all over the field. A lot of people have to play us honest now because we have that threat that can really take the top off.”"
Lewis On The Spot
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With the exception of last year, Lewis seemed to have things in hand. For five straight years, the Bengals were a fixture in the postseason and fans were happy. Well, thrilled that the Bengals made the playoffs but disappointed with the results.
The fact that Lewis has not been given a contract extension is huge. Owner Mike Brown could be at the end of his rope. Lewis has had seven chances to lay the golden egg. Instead, the eggs are of the goose variety. By this time of year, the details are worked out and Marvelous Marv is under contract. As of late, Brown has not offered his seal of approval for another season.
Need An Explanation?
It’s really sort of simple, from the layman’s point of view. Win a freakin’ playoff game and advance. It may seem like an understatement but it’s the basis for Lewis’ dislike around the city.
Once again, the Bengals had a draft that was considered decent by “expert” standards and diehard fans. Lewis has shown he can put a team together on paper. Now, he has to make it work.
Could Brown decide to ink Lewis during training camp? Sure. Anything can happen. But, if Mike has gotten fed up like the majority of Bengals fans, he’s in Missouri mode. Lewis will have to turn things around drastically. The problem still remains. If he has a mediocre yet strong year (12-4, Wild Card), Brown could still keep him in Cincinnati.
Unfortunately, this needs to be it. Dalton and Lewis are connected at the hip. They both need to have a stellar year to keep things moving forward. Otherwise, it’s time for some new blood.