Key players for Bengals’ return to postseason

Jun 13, 2017; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals running back Jeremy Hill (32) runs drills during minicamp at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 13, 2017; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals running back Jeremy Hill (32) runs drills during minicamp at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

If the Cincinnati Bengals are planning a return to the playoffs, they need key players healthy and focused. They’ll help the offense run like a Cadillac.

There’s no need to panic, you haven’t missed the Bengals’ home opener. The start of football mania is still a few months away. But, there are still a few question marks surrounding Cincinnati and certain players. No, there are no surprise injuries that suddenly popped up. In order for the Bengals to make some noise during the regular season and into the postseason, there has to be a fierce desire to go beyond the norm. Essentially, decent players have to get an attitude and standout players have to be superb.

It’s easy to single out players for their lack of success or recent failures. Unfortunately, that’s the nature of the beast. The NFL isn’t a place for stifled potential or mediocre dreams. It’s built on the premise of winning it all. In order for the Bengals to make a move on the postseason and success in the playoffs, there have to be certain players that make a commitment to winning and keep it throughout the season.

There’s no need to keep bringing up Andy Dalton. He understands the need for his leadership. In fact, Dalton has probably read so many articles on the subject he can regurgitate specific passages on cue. But, that’s my take on The Ginger. Who else needs to get keep a chip on their shoulder?

Hill Street Blues 

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This has to be the year. There can be no doubts and second guessing. Jeremy Hill has to take the bull by the horns, roast it over an open flame and leave no leftovers. In other words, Hill has to have the type of year that makes fans remember the first time he wore a Bengals uniform (wanted to use uni, but that’s also a Sea Urchin).

No one should have to remind Hill that he’s in that purgatory most athletes despise. He’s in the last year of his rookie contract. What a wonderful time to be alive. This will be the season that proves what Jeremy is really made of. Under most circumstances, players in the same position tend to shine. But, there’s always the chance that things implode and go south in a hurry.

It has to be about production and proof with Hill. Injuries have kept him from returning to that 2014 form that fans cherish. But, the fond memories won’t save him this time. It’s sink or swim and the Bengals ain’t tossing life preservers.

That Other 85

Yes, you pegged it. Tyler Eifert is also in the same nice mess (thank you Stanley) that Hill happens to be in. Fans have probably forgotten that Eifert is also staring at the possibility of changing teams. Eifert’s breakout year came during the Bengals torrid 2015 season. That year, he shredded defenses for a league leading 13 TDs and got a nod from Sports Illustrated, as the No. 7 ranked tight end.

When he’s up and running, Eifert is a beast to behold. But, therein lies the problem. He can’t seem to stay healthy enough for the Bengals’ plans. Getting an entire season from Eifert would be an early Christmas present for Dalton, OC Ken Zampese and the fans. But, don’t hold your breath. Not only is Eifert trying to get healthy from the Pro Bowl ankle issue, offseason back surgery is now on the list.

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Marvin Lewis likes what he sees from Mason Schreck and players are impressed with Tyler Kroft. But, the Bengals’ offense is suited for the long, lanky attributes of Eifert.

Getting both Hill and Eifert to have stellar years would be the ideal situation. But, at least one of them has to get focused and step up for the Bengals’ postseason hopes.