Cincinnati Bengals: What A.J. Green’s absence will tell us
It is never ideal to lose your superstar wide receiver to injury with the regular season right around the corner. Still, the Bengals will learn a lot about themselves sooner rather than later without the safety net that is A.J. Green.
IS ANDY DALTON ZAC TAYLOR’S QUARTERBACK OF THE FUTURE?
It’s no secret that the Bengals are using this season to evaluate Andy Dalton. With just two years left on his contract, the Bengals can cut ties with Dalton with no cap ramifications at season’s end.
With Green out, Bengals management will get to evaluate Dalton under a modern era offensive minded head coach. The former TCU Horned Frog will have to step up without his favorite weapon. Is he truly just an average quarterback or can he elevate the young receivers around him and get the team off to a hot start in the Zac Taylor era? If things begin to go south, you can expect the Bengals to dip back into the college ranks for a new signal caller.
WAS JOHN ROSS WORTHY OF THE 9TH OVERALL SELECTION?
There are many factors that can be attributed to John Ross’s lackluster first two seasons. Injury, being behind two stellar wide receivers, and simply being in Marvin Lewis’s dog house. Typically, three years into a player’s career is when you can truly judge how their career will go.
With Green out, Ross immediately becomes the top target for Dalton on the outside. Can he expand from his red zone role to become a dominant receiver in all facets of the game? That is what any team needs from a pass catcher drafted as highly as Ross.
CAN THE BENGALS FINALLY STICK TO A SOLID RUN GAME?
The Bengals made one thing clear in their most recent draft. They are dedicated to running the ball. Bengals fans are accustomed to fast starts in September and October when guys are fresh and the weather allows the passing game to thrive. However, once November hits, the team seems to lose momentum. A big reason for that is the run game’s struggles.
Sure, the Bengals still have tremendous passing options in Tyler Boyd, Tyler Eifert (if healthy), and maybe even Ross, but you can expect them to lean heavily on 2018 AFC leading rusher Joe Mixon until Green returns and beyond. If they can finally force feed a solid run game, you may see the team capture momentum later in the season, witness Dalton reach new heights, and enjoy Green getting a break from the constant double teams when he comes back.
IS ZAC TAYLOR THE OFFENSIVE GURU WE THINK HE IS?
Cincinnati fans have witnessed incredible offensive performances since Andy Dalton and A.J. Green entered the league together in 2011. When Green goes down to injury, their offensive machine just doesn’t hum the same. Marvin Lewis and his offensive coordinators could never find a way to keep the ship afloat until Green returned. Zac Taylor gets a chance to prove himself immediately with Green’s ankle injury.
Can he get Dalton to thrive despite missing his number one receiver? Can he keep the ever important ground game established as mentioned above? Can he overcome the injuries and shortcomings of the offensive line? It’s a lot to ask for a first year head coach, but if he can pull it off you can expect Taylor to be representing the Bengals for years to come.
DID THE BENGALS MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE PASSING ON TOP QUARTERBACK PROSPECTS?
The Bengals selected left tackle Jonah Williams with the 11th overall pick in this years draft. At the time of their selection, top quarterback prospects Dwayne Haskins and Drew Lock were still on the board.
Did the Bengals make the right decision taking the top tackle prospect and potential cornerstone player? There is certainly a school of thought that quarterback was the way to go at the top of the draft for Cincinnati. This true answer may have to wait until the Bengals get Williams back from injury. However, if Haskins or Lock happen to light up the league this year, it would certainly add salt to the wound as the Bengals come to terms with yet another first round pick suffering a major injury.
Overall, losing Green is a huge blow to the Bengals. Make no mistake about it, his injury will be hard to overcome. Even so, with him sidelined Bengals fans will get answers to their burning questions about the Zac Taylor era much sooner than the first thought.