There is a lot riding on first-year head coach Zac Taylor. First and foremost will be how quickly he can resurrect quarterback Andy Dalton from the NFL doldrums.
The NFL isn’t complicated. For the Cincinnati Bengals, it isn’t complicated either. For the “worm to turn” in 2019, quarterback Andy Dalton and rookie head coach Zac Taylor need to connect in a way that his former boss and Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff has. Without, the thud in Cincinnati will be loud.
Dalton, who hasn’t been the same since a thumb injury in 2015, needs to find that gear that had him among the better quarterbacks in the league. The Bengals, in turn, are rolling the dice on someone connected with perhaps the best team in the NFC in LA. For Taylor, finding what makes Dalton and the Cincinnati offense click has been and will be the primary focus in a season that has opportunities.
The biggest question will be the offensive line. As good as Dalton was and could still be, and as potentially successful as Taylor may one day be, the O-line has to be able to protect. Taylor, who had the benefit of a trusted offensive front in Los Angeles, could find himself lamenting what Cincinnati still needs to develop. For Dalton, who still has two seasons on his current deal, knowing he’s on the franchise clock to make something happen is pressure he hasn’t dealt with much in his career. He needs a season where progress is tangible and not hidden in stats that don’t result in wins on the field.
That will be a tall order. The Bengals have a nightmarish kind of schedule that won’t allow any mistakes, and the division looks to be perhaps the toughest in the league.
The ‘good feelz’ that Taylor has brought to Cincinnati won’t mean much if the Bengals and Dalton spend the season looking up at everyone else. For the veteran quarterback who still has some tread left on the tires, success needs to happen sooner rather than later.
For better or for worse, Taylor and Dalton are wedded and need each other to succeed. If they can find a way to realize anything better than 6-10, 2019 has an opportunity to springboard real potential for 2020. Anything less could spell doom in a league where immediate success is less a good story, but a necessity in keeping a job. Regardless of how good Dalton may have been or how good Taylor may eventually be.