Bengals can’t afford to lose in 2018

CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 29: Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrates with fans after the Bengals 24-23 win over the Indianapolis Colts at Paul Brown Stadium on October 29, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 29: Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrates with fans after the Bengals 24-23 win over the Indianapolis Colts at Paul Brown Stadium on October 29, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

The Cincinnati Bengals have multiple changes that have to work to have success in 2018. The team cannot afford not to make the playoffs.

The Cincinnati Bengals have made numerous changes this offseason that leave plenty of question marks around the team. Bringing in coaches like defensive coordinator Teryl Austin and multiple positional coaches including offensive line coach Frank Pollack, will one offseason be enough to get the team back on track to the playoffs? The franchise has also brought in players to help contribute this year. Everything points to win this season, but if they can’t, this team could suffer.

There is plenty to be optimistic about when you look at the turnaround this offseason. Solidifying the left tackle position with Cordy Glenn and improving the center position with first-round pick Billy Price should bring better production from a line that has been a disaster the last two seasons. Add in the fact that the line has Pollack to develop the unit better should get fans excited for an offense that has high potential.

Cincinnati’s offense will also have star tight end Tyler Eifert back on a one-year incentive deal. Whether he will be able to stay healthy for a full season, something he hasn’t been able to do yet is another question, but he will be a big part of offensive coordinator Bill Lazor’s offense while he is on the field. Lazor can’t afford to build the offense around the elite playmaker, however, in case Eifert does go down with another injury.

The offense will also have second-year receiver John Ross fully healthy for the first time. Everything coming out of OTA workouts points in the direction of Ross looking explosive and ready to take over the second receiver spot across from star wideout A.J. Green. Last but not least, the offense has running back Joe Mixon entering his second season with the club coming off the final two games of the season where the running backs had tremendous success.

Just on the offensive side of the ball, there is plenty to be excited about, but there are also just as many question marks. There are just as many factors that have to go right for this offense to have better production after a season where the Bengals ended last in the league in yards per game. Players have to stay healthy, and there are plenty of high profile players that have injury concerns. Lazor’s offense also has to get the Bengals offense back on track and be efficient, or this team will fail to make the playoffs for the third season in a row.

Cincinnati cannot afford another season missing the playoffs. The Bengals biggest playmakers in Green, defensive tackle Geno Atkins, and defensive end Carlos Dunlap all are or are turning 30 this season. Quarterback Andy Dalton is also entering the season at 30-years-old. With star players getting older, the window is getting smaller for Cincinnati to make a true run in the future.

If the Bengals suffer another losing season, we should hope that it would be enough for owner Mike Brown to move on from head coach Marvin Lewis. Unless someone like Teryl Austin is elected to step up and can turn around the team in one offseason, this would mean at the least a small rebuild. Rebuilds can often take years even when they aren’t drastic. Andy Dalton would have to be looked at as someone the team would move on from if he struggles once again this season to lead his team to the playoffs.

Of course, Lewis won’t move on from Dalton because he has too much riding on the veteran. He doesn’t have time to grab another young quarterback to develop as he should already be sitting on the hot seat in Cincinnati. Of course, we aren’t sure if the Bengals know what a hot seat really is at this point. Considering the team didn’t draft a young quarterback this season to even replace backup quarterback A.J. McCarron who left for Buffalo until the seventh round, it would seem there is no future behind Dalton.

Seventh-round pick Logan Woodside likely will land on the practice squad this season as there have been reports that he’s not getting a single rep at OTA’s. Matt Barkley is not a quarterback in waiting, but just a veteran presence with little-proven potential in his six starts since being drafted in 2013. Jeff Driskel has not proven to be anything more than a sometimes flashy quarterback against third strings in the preseason. Not to mention he has shown he can’t stay healthy.

The Bengals could regret not grabbing a young quarterback earlier in the 2018 draft if the team cannot make it back to the playoffs. Passing on Lamar Jackson in the first round can be argued either way considering the help the team needed on the offensive line, but failing to do so till the seventh round is something that is concerning. There’s not even a quarterback on the roster that I would be comfortable with stepping in for one or two games if Dalton were to go down let alone being the quarterback in waiting as the future franchise quarterback.

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With that being said, Cincinnati has to win in 2018 to avoid a rebuild that could set the franchise back years. With star players around the team getting older, Dalton and the new coaches have to find a way to get their first playoff victory since 1991. Cincinnati should strongly consider making a trade for a backup quarterback this season. Here’s to hoping that everything goes well and the team can turn things around this year.