The Cincinnati Bengals have reason to be optimistic about their new offense and new additions, but is there reason to be concerned as well?
The Cincinnati Bengals have had a busy offseason between new coaches coming into the organization and adding players to the roster. It’s especially true for the offense as offensive coordinator Bill Lazor puts his stamp on the playbook for the first time. Lazor looks to change a significant portion of how the offense plays and while it can be exciting, there are also reasons to be worried.
With additions of offensive line coach Frank Pollack, left tackle Cordy Glenn, and first-round pick center Billy Price, it’s hard not to get excited about the Bengals offense in 2018 behind what hopes to be a better offensive line. Even with some of the concerns around Price in his rookie season or Glenn’s injury history, they are significant upgrades over last year’s starters. Former center Russell Bodine and tackle Cedric Ogbuehi will not be hard for either to surpass.
Then you have the fact that second-year running back Joe Mixon will be getting the bulk of the carries this season after an insufficient rookie year. Tight end Tyler Eifert will be back after missing all but two games last season, and wide receiver John Ross will be healthy for the first time since being drafted last offseason. Add in Lazor’s new offense, and what we have heard so far, it’s exciting to think about what this offense could do in 2018.
With all of this being said, why are analysts so down on the Bengals following all the additions? Most of this can stem from so many pieces needing to go well for Cincinnati to succeed this season. There are still plenty of red flags in this offense that could kill the entire offensive production.
It all starts with the offensive line. After ranking 28th in the league last season according to Pro Football Focus, the line was to blame for a majority of the issues in 2017. Billy Price won’t be able to play against defensive tackles until training camp as he rehabs his partial pectoral tear suffered at the combine. Offensive linemen have needed more development over the last few years due to the college offenses being run entirely different than the NFL.
Will Price not only stay healthy but be able to start week one and be enough of an upgrade over Bodine that quarterback Andy Dalton can have time in the pocket and the run game has holes to run through? Will Glenn be able to stay healthy or will he sustain another injury resulting in Cedric Ogbuehi taking back over? An injury at left tackle could cripple this offense as we saw last year.
There’s also the fact that Eifert has yet to stay healthy for a full season since being drafted in 2013. Last season Eifert was only involved in two games before going down with a season-ending injury. Expecting him to be healthy for the entire 2018 season is wishful thinking considering what we’ve seen in the past, and without Eifert on the field, Dalton loses his safety blanket over the middle.
John Ross has put in a significant amount of work this offseason working out with other receivers around the league and also with Bengals former wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Even star wide receiver A.J. Green has told the media about how impressed he is with what he’s seen from Ross in camp. Looking explosive and confident is exciting but will Ross be able to drown out the noise of the bust label and live up to expectations finally? If not, we are back to being stuck with Brandon LaFell opposite of Green.
How will Lazor utilize Mixon and Giovani Bernard in the run game this season? After ranking 29th in rushing attempts last year and the talk being about Lazor’s new offense being primarily revolved around attacking deep, how many chances will the rushing game get to succeed? Dalton and the Bengals offense need a successful run game to get back to being a contender as we saw what it looked like without one last season.
There are so many things that could go wrong in the Bengals offense this year that could take away from it’s potential. If the offensive line doesn’t make a big step forward or cannot stay healthy, Dalton and the running backs stand little chance. If Eifert and/or Ross cannot remain on the field or live up to the hype, will Green have another down season?
Even with all of the red flags that could derail the offense in 2018, it’s hard to think that every one of these scenarios would happen. Worst case scenario we are looking at the same offense from last season but with a better playbook that utilizes the strengths of their players. Lazor has yet to get a chance to use his playbook, and Frank Pollack should get more out of the offensive line than we saw last season. While there is plenty of concerns, there are more reasons to be optimistic about having a better 2018 season.