The phrase coming out of the Cincinnati Bengals organization this offseason is that they are not rebuilding but in win-now mode. Have they proved that?
The Cincinnati Bengals have had one of the busiest offseasons since signing head coach Marvin Lewis in 2003. Bringing in coaches like defensive coordinator Teryl Austin and offensive line coach Frank Pollack are the most notable additions. Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor will have his first offseason at his new position to draw up a playbook to revolve around Dalton’s strengths.
When it comes to player personnel, Cincinnati has few big moves to be excited about after two consecutive seasons missing the playoffs. The biggest move they made was trading for left tackle Cordy Glenn from Buffalo and moving back nine spots in the first round. Other than Glenn, the Bengals grabbed some average players in free agency, but none that are likely to make a huge impact right away.
Players like inside linebacker Preston Brown who actually contacted the team wanting to play for his hometown team was signed on a one-year deal, defensive tackle Chris Baker and right tackle Bobby Hart all signed one-year deals. None of these players strike me as players that will be huge upgrades. Baker has some potential coming in working under former coaches from his days in Washington but has some personality issues. I don’t see him being the answer to the defensive lines problems.
While Brown ties to lead the league in tackles last season with 144 combined, but only nine of those for a loss. That means that by the time he was making the tackles the offensive players had already gained yardage. I’m not saying Brown is terrible, but he’s not going to be a sudden star on the Bengals defense. Vontaze Burfict is starting off the season with a suspension once again and finding someone to fill that void the first four weeks will prove difficult as the linebacker group is one of the biggest question marks on the team going into the season.
Nick Vigil has shown some potential opposite of Burfict but as for covering while Burfict is out, there’s not much to throw in that role. Many fans want to see third-round pick Malik Jefferson take that role and while he has some speed and abilities to get into the backfield at times, he’s nowhere near Burfict.
Bengals relying too much on untapped potential and injury prone veterans.
Cordy Glenn remains the biggest addition this offseason but has not played a full season the last two years due to injury. Billy Price was consistent at Ohio State, but there is no way of knowing how his injury will affect this season. There’s also no way of knowing how well he will play in 2018 as center rookies aren’t known for being huge contributors right away. If either goes down at some point during the season, the Bengals offensive line is at huge risk of falling apart even with the coaching of Pollack. Imagine having to see Cedric Ogbuehi have to step in for either side due to injury.
Cincinnati brought back tight end Tyler Eifert on a one-year prove it deal this offseason but hasn’t stayed healthy for a full season his entire five-year career. In the last two seasons, he has been in ten games and look how the offense has looked without him. Eifert is already having medical issues in camp and backup Tyler Kroft is also injured at camp and nowhere near the explosiveness as Eifert.
At the wide receiver position, A.J. Green needs help from younger untapped potential this season to help draw defenses away. John Ross has had a good offseason and is turning heads at camp but we still don’t know exactly what he will be in the NFL. Tyler Boyd has shown flashes but has yet to receive a real opportunity at a starting position. The only proven potential is Brandon LaFell who showed he was not going to be the guy to take defenders off of Green. If Eifert is going to be out for a considerable amount of time this season, which is likely given his track record, who is going to step up?
Last but not least, backup quarterback A.J. McCarron left in free agency for the Buffalo Bills this offseason and the Bengals failed to bring in anyone competent of covering if Andy Dalton were to go down for a game or two even. Matt Barkley has six total starts in his six seasons and has bounced around the league. Cincinnati would be lucky to win a game under Barkley, especially if one of those playmakers or offensive linemen get hurt. This is easily the biggest gap between talent from starting and backup quarterbacks for the Bengals in many years. If Dalton goes down for a couple games, it could cost the entire season if Cincinnati isn’t completely dominant coming out of the Gates.
Cincinnati has some big stars around their roster, but there are also still some big question marks, injury concerns, and holes left even after the draft. On offense, there are too many things that could go wrong that could tank the entire thing. With injuries already happening to Eifert in camp, it makes me wonder if he can stay healthy for long in 2018. Without Eifert, Cincinnati would need players like John Ross and Tyler Boyd who are still untapped potential and unknowns at this point to step up in a major way.
The Bengals had the worst rushing season in franchise history last season and ran the ball very minimal. While Lazor’s new offense and the upgrades on the offensive line are helpful, we still don’t know exactly what running back Joe Mixon will be. We assume that he will be a great back for the Bengals but it is still an unknown as well. If Glenn cannot stay healthy for a full season, it could really disrupt the entire offense if Cedric Ogbuehi has to come in and play at the left tackle position.
There are so many things that have to go right for the offense this season for it to have a big impact on what the team does. Cincinnati has the potential to be a very well rounded team and even dominant if everything goes well, but how often does that happen. With so many unknowns, we could also see another year of the middle of the pack and miss the playoffs once again. Can Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton prove that they have not reached their full potential this season? I guess we will find out.