The 2019 Bengals are starting to take shape, but questions remain for all teams this time of year. Let’s take a look at the most impactful ones remaining in Cincinnati.
NFL rosters are bloated every year at this time. Even so, most of the key pieces for teams are in place. There may still be a free agent signing or two, but Cincinnati’s roster and situation as a whole is no exception.
Zac Taylor and his staff deserve a lot of credit for clearly establishing that they want a run first football team. Also, they may not know exactly what the offensive line is going to look like yet, but the talent in that room has certainly increased. This was an absolute must. We have these answers, but are the two biggest questions remaining for this year’s Bengals.
Will a third pass catcher emerge?
A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd were not on the field at the same time enough last year thanks to injuries, but the seven time Pro Bowler and last year’s breakout star are as good a receiving duo as the NFL has to offer.
However, without a third pass catching option, most defensive backfields are good enough to take at least one of them away. Former first round pick John Ross did catch seven touchdowns last year, but has just 21 career catches total. He was drafted to be an every down threat. He has that opportunity this year and the Bengals need it, but this year may be his last chance.
Tight end Tyler Eifert is a former Pro Bowler and proven pass catching commodity, but Boyd wasn’t even in the league the last time Eifert was healthy for anything close to a full season. The Bengals can hope all they want, but it is tough to bank on Eifert.
If not Ross or Eifert, perhaps someone like undrafted rookie Stanley Morgan Jr. beats the odds and becomes an impact player. Regardless, the Bengals need a third option to emerge for this offense to be as good as it can be.
Is there a leader in the linebacker room?
Everyone knows the Bengals linebackers were bad last year. Five of them finished outside the top 100 in the Pro Football Focus rankings. Vontaze Burfict is now in Oakland, but most of last year’s crop is back. The defense as a whole can only get better compared to last year.
How much better depends on if someone can step up and stabilize the linebacker group. The most obvious candidate is Preston Brown. Brown is still just 26 and had a solid career in Buffalo before struggling and injuring his knee in his debut season with the Bengals last year.
Apart from Brown, the extent of improvement for the Cincinnati linebackers may hinge on how much incoming rookie Germaine Pratt can handle on his plate. For the Bengals defense to improve significantly, it looks like Pratt will have to handle an awful lot.