Bengals fans are set for another year of heart-pounding football. As training camp moves closer, it’s all about dreams and reality.
Training camp looms (3 p.m. Friday at Paul Brown Stadium) and so do the lofty feelings about what will happen this year. After a heartbreaking 6-9-1 campaign, the Bengals will get things in gear for another season. As a fan, it’s always a push to see Cincinnati going beyond the first round of the postseason dance. But, there are some signs that this could be a breakthrough year. Understanding the markers is the key.
Each year, Bengals faithful purchase new gear and pull out the old feelings of uncertainty. Those feelings are usually hidden beneath years of frustration and grief. Broken promises litter the landscape of most Cincinnati fans’ dreams. But, there’s hope. Even if it comes in the form of a better record. Yet, there’s more to look forward to. Additionally, there are more weapons to help fuel the postseason push.
Stretching The Field
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Let’s get right to it. A.J. Green has been the man. I repeat, Green has been the catalyst for this team. No, he’s not the only bright spot of the past six years. But, he’s been a Bengals highlight reel all alone. With that said, he has always needed help. For those who would like to talk about Andy Dalton’s arm strength, evidently, that’s not the issue. Green has been to six consecutive Pro Bowls, with the help of Dalton’s arm. Moving on.
This is about John Ross and Josh Malone. With a concerted effort from James Urban (WR coach) and OC Ken Zampese, there should be a huge leap in the passing game. Both players have amazing highlight videos–most college players do. Fortunately, the Bengals have done their detective work on the players drafted. Ross and Malone could be the answer to Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones. Having that depth in the receiver room can only make things better for the offense. It’s time for Dalton to spread the wealth. That comes with another year under Zampese’s system.
Along with the aerial showcase, the Bengals will have a ground game. Yes, it’s true. A balanced breakfast will start your day off right. In other words, it won’t be about chucking the ball 50 times a game.
This should be the year that things click with the offense. Zampese has great things to say about Cedric Ogbuehi and the O-line. Essentially, that signals good news for the ground attack. Going into training camp, the Bengals have two healthy big-name backs and potentially another recovering from injury.
This won’t be a lopsided show. Fans should be ready for fireworks from all phases of the offense. Remember the Sanu runs? Put Ross in that spot. He’s the best option. If he doesn’t work, throw in Malone. It’s all a matter of how Zampese sees things in real-time.
Building A Beast
According to ESPN, Vontaze Burfict is in the best shape of his career. Coupled with the addition of more talented defenders, the Bengals’ defense is moving towards dominant status. Will they be that prototype D that shuts out opponents every other week? That’s truly a toss-up. But, they have a leader ready to make his mark on the 2017 season.
"“It’s not, ‘I’m going to start playing Week 4, Week 8, whatever it is; I’m going to wait to get in shape.’ He’s coming back in tremendous shape in the spring.” DC Paul Guenther offered. “He’s got the right mindset, so we’re going to need him to be that high-level performer.”"
Having Burfict at a high level means only one thing: the defense will rock.
It’s early and the votes are still coming in. But, the Bengals’ 2017 campaign should be about a stout defense and an overachieving offense. Toss in the Marvin Lewis factor and fans will have an interesting set of circumstances to chew on. Overall, the postseason is up for grabs. This version of the Stripes is up to the task.