The Cincinnati Bengals have seen high grades from many analysts regarding their recent draft selections. Peter King of MMQB thinks otherwise.
During this offseason, there was plenty of debates to be had regarding the Cincinnati Bengals as they came off their second losing season in a row. Following the team retaining head coach Marvin Lewis, that became the most significant upset for fans. One of the most significant debates leading this offseason was whether or not the Bengals should draft Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson.
The 2017 season was an all-around disaster for the Bengals offense as they finished last in yards per game and towards the bottom in many other offensive statistics. There is plenty of blame to go around from poor offensive line play following Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler leaving in free agency, poor playcalling following an offensive coordinator change two weeks into the season, and inconsistent play from their veteran quarterback Andy Dalton.
In Dalton’s defense, there wasn’t much going right around him last season. His big playmaking tight end Tyler Eifert was out for the year after week two, he had zero protection from his offensive line, and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor continued to go away from the run game to help the passing game. Star wide receiver A.J. Green was in double coverage most of the season without Eifert and first-round pick wide receiver John Ross who spent the season with multiple injuries.
On the other hand, Dalton was pretty inconsistent himself. His 59.9% completion percentage was the lowest since his rookie season. Since he was the talks for the MVP race in 2015 before his injury, we have yet to see Dalton play at that level again. Once again, this is not entirely on Dalton, but he does play a prominent role. The most critical part of the offense.
Cincinnati put a great deal of work into the offensive line this offseason starting with the hiring of former Dallas Cowboys offensive line coach Frank Pollack. Just before free agency period opened, the Bengals moved back nine spots in the first round to acquire Buffalo Bills left tackle Cordy Glenn. Then there is the first round selection of Ohio State center Billy Price who will replace the departed Russell Bodine.
With all of these moves and then including the re-signing of Tyler Eifert, who can hopefully stay healthy for his first full season, and John Ross coming into the season healthy this year, it looks to be a good group for Dalton to work with in 2018. Sports Illustrated Peter King of MMQB had other thoughts regarding the first round selection of Billy Price. In his article covering his thoughts on each team’s draft class, he mentioned that the Bengals should have drafted Lamar Jackson instead.
"I’ve seen a lot of people fall in love with the Cincinnati draft, but I’m not buying it. The Bengals should have picked Lamar Jackson and put legit pressure on Andy Dalton to play better. Bengals fans, do you really have faith that Dalton is going to take the next step and propel the Bengals over the Steelers? Billy Price is a nice pick, but I cannot fathom how he was chosen over Jackson."
There was talk about the Bengals looking at Jackson when they brought him in for a top 30 pre-draft visit leading up to the draft. While I made the argument on how Jackson would improve this Bengals offense, I don’t know that it would be the best decision. I also wrote an article on how the Bengals offense can get back to its 2015 production with Dalton. When looking at all the things that could go wrong, I chose to lean more on the side of not taking a top quarterback.
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His argument about bringing Jackson in was that it would only push Dalton to finally play better with some real competition behind him. I argued this same thing back when I wrote the article on why they should consider Jackson at 21. Dalton has yet to have any kind of real competition sitting behind him. Even if you thought A.J. McCarron was that guy, he left the Bengals in the frustration of feeling he never had an opportunity to compete for the starting job.
The counter-argument to this is that it would go against everything the Bengals have said this offseason. Cincinnati has been banging the drum all offseason that they are in win-now mode. Not rebuild mode for 2019 or 2020, but building to win in 2018. I would have to agree after looking at the moves they have made this offseason not only through free agency, which was a huge surprise for them to make any splash there but in the draft as well. Bringing in versatile guys that are immediate upgrades and immediate contributors.
There’s also the argument of splitting the locker room in half. While we may not like the fact that Lewis got retained after another failing season, he made it clear that he wanted to roll with Dalton. Are you going to draft a quarterback in the first round knowing your head coach doesn’t want that player? Then you have bad chemistry between that player and the coach. You also have the problem of splitting the locker room on players who want a change and others that believe in Dalton. If there is any disbelief in the locker room, the team is sunk.
For a team that is all in on winning this season, it just didn’t make sense to pull the trigger on the Louisville product. Jackson ended up going to the Baltimore Ravens after trading back into the first round with the 32nd pick from the Philadelphia Eagles. Passing on Jackson could blow up in Cincinnati’s face if Baltimore turns him into a star that they have to face twice a year. I like Jackson and think he will have success at the NFL level, but with the state of the Bengals, I thought it was the better option to repair other needs before bringing in a new quarterback.
I also see the side of Lamar Jackson being a quarterback of the future argument. As someone that has gone to bat for Jackson and thinks he will be a good quarterback if not great in the NFL, I think he could have developed in the Bengals offense and taken it to a new level. However, the move just doesn’t fit what the front office has been talking about all offseason. Plus the factor of Lewis likely one more bad season away from getting the boot, I don’t see him wanting to take that chance.
What do you guys think about this debate? Leave a comment in the section below and let’s discuss the pros and cons of each side. Let’s get the conversation going and see what you guys think! Do you think that Lamar Jackson would have been the better move for the Bengals this year or do you believe that Andy Dalton will lead this team to their first post-season win of the Lewis era?