The Cincinnati Bengals have star playmakers when it comes to the red zone. Who will be the top targets in the red zone for them in 2018?
The Cincinnati Bengals have some star players that make big plays in the red zone. Even without star tight end Tyler Eifert for most of the 2017 season, the Bengals ranked 11th in red zone scoring percentage with 55.81. It was also an improvement from 2016 where the team had a percentage of 53.70 and ranked 18th in the league. Can Cincinnati improve their red zone efficiency in 2018?
Quarterback Andy Dalton proved successful in the red zone last season with 18 touchdowns and only one interception. Even without Eifert, the Bengals improved in this area of the field which should be good news for fans. It’s still a question mark whether or not Tyler Eifert will be healthy and on the field as he is already having medical issues in camp. If Eifert is on the field, the red zone efficiency should easily increase.
Last season without Tyler Eifert, wide receiver A.J. Green led the team in red zone targets with 16. When inside the twenty-yard line, Green caught seven passes for 72 yards and found six of his eight touchdowns in 2017. In the absence of Eifert, backup tight end Tyler Kroft stepped in and made a significant contribution when inside the red zone with seven touchdowns, coming in fourth in the league. Cincinnati should have more potential targets for quarterback Andy Dalton in 2018.
In offensive coordinator Bill Lazor’s new offense, there should be some names that could help the Bengals in the red zone. Second-year wide receiver John Ross looks to bounce back from a disastrous rookie season and prove he was worth a top ten pick in 2016. While Ross is not the big body receiver that most people look for when it comes to red zone targets, he has the speed and explosiveness to be a playmaker still.
One player that could find himself squeezed into the back end of the wide receiver group for possible red zone looks is seventh-round pick wide receiver, Auden Tate. Standing at 6-foot-5 and 228 pounds, Tate can overpower and outreach smaller cornerbacks. The red zone might be the best place for Tate as he doesn’t show the speed coaches want in a receiver but can go up and get the football. He has even been impressing in camp.
With the depth at tight end when it comes to red zone contributors, Tate will have to show his ability to play special teams as well. If Eifert can’t stay healthy, he could be someone that the team wants to keep around for those red zone plays. His reliable hands and ability to get both toes down in the back end of the end zone should strongly be considered. Tate finished his college career at Florida State with ten touchdowns last season.
Running backs Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard are two more players that could find themselves getting more opportunities at catching the ball in the red zone in 2018. Lazor has spoken about wanting Mixon to be more involved in the passing game, and running backs can be dangerous in the red zone.
With players like Green, Eifert, and Kroft, the Bengals have some great talent at red zone targets. If Eifert can manage to stay on the field, we could see more two tight end sets while in the red zone in 2018 to take advantage of the trio in that area of the field. If that is the case, I see Cincinnati’s red zone efficiency increasing again this season.