The Bengals seemed to be headed at the end of last year’s 7-9 season for a major coaching shakeup. They did have a major shakeup but surprisingly, they retained Head Coach Marvin Lewis. They did get rid of Offensive Line Coach Paul Alexander and had a big staff-wide shakeup. Will that be enough to turn the team around?
Through the first two games last season, the Bengals offense was downright horrible, led by inept offensive coordinator Ken Zampese and a horrid offensive line. In stepped new offensive coordinator, Bill Lazor and the Bengals offense was better as the season progressed.
The biggest question with this team has been the offensive line and for once, the Bengals addressed this in the off-season signing of veteran free-agent tackle Cordy Glenn and the drafting of Center Billy Price. Maybe the biggest addition of the entire off-season was adding former Dallas Cowboys offensive line coach Frank Pollack. The Bengals offensive line should show significant improvement this year.
As for the running back position, the Bengals let go of Jeremy Hill. Look for second-year player Joe Mixon to carry most of the load along with Gio Bernard. If the Bengals are to contend this year, they must do a much better job of running the ball than they did last year.
The Bengals bring back the same receiving corps that they had last year including A.J.Green, but the most important player at this position may be Jon Ross, who was little used last year. Ross is a speedy playmaker who, if he can do what he did in college, would make the Bengals a very explosive offensive team. Put Ross in the slot and the fear of his speed will instantly make A.J. Green even more dangerous, as double-teaming Green would be a dangerous proposition with Ross on the field to compliment him.
At the Tight End position, the question is the same as it is every year. Can Tyler Eifert stay healthy? Really there is no reason to think the Bengals will have him for more than 6-8 games this season, but Tyler Kroft played well last year and would be a solid replacement.
The Bengals offense will come down to the improvement of the offensive line. As the line goes, so goes the offense.
The Bengals were a middle-of-the-pack defense last year and I find it hard to believe that losing former Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther to the Oakland Raiders will hurt too much. The Bengals weakness last year was stopping the run and if they can improve up front, this could be a bottom Top Ten defense.
It all starts up front in football and the Bengals up front have two of the best defensive lineman in football in Tackle Geno Atkins and pass rushing specialist Carlos Dunlap. Problems arise after those two guys.
Fifth round pick nose tackle Andrew Brown will have more expected of him than a normal 5th round pick and third-round pick Sam Hubbard needs to find some consistency in his game. If both men perform at a high level, this defense could be really good. It is, however, expecting a lot to think both of these guys can have big seasons.
That brings us to defensive tackle Andrew Billings who was inconsistent last year and really needs to step his game up this season. The Bengals need more production from the Tackle position next to Atkins and Brown or Billings must provide that if this team is to be better stopping the run this year.
At Linebacker, the story is kind of the same as usual. Can the Bengals survive without Burfict at the start of the season since once again he faces a suspension at the start of the season? Third-round pick Malik Jefferson brings all sorts of athleticism to Cincinnati’s linebacking corps but the question will be, can he bring consistency?
Jordan Evans, a sixth-round pick last year, had an ascending finish to his rookie season. Preston Brown, one of the Bengals’ biggest free-agent signings, will man the middle and for the Bills, Brown was a tackling machine. Nick Vigil is slated to start at Sam after missing the final five games of 2017 with an ankle injury. The Bengals look to be better at Linebacker and they are more athletic to be sure, but, will that translate on the field?
The Secondary seems to be the strength of this defense and it should be, as they have spent a number of years drafting defensive backs in the first round. Dre Kirkpatrick, William Jackson, Darqueze Dennard, George Iloka and Shawn Williams are all talent the Bengals have drafted and developed and this unit is one of the best in the NFL.
The Bengals went out and added second rounder Jessie Bates, who is a ball-hawking safety that should contribute this year. The guy to watch in all of this will be Willam Jackson III, who played well last year and has the makings of a shutdown corner in the NFL.
Kicker Randy Bullock bounced between five teams over five seasons, landing with the Bengals in late 2016. He’s coming off his most accurate year as a pro — 18-of-20 on field goals, 31-of-33 on extra points — and will be the frontrunner for the job in 2018.
Kevin Huber has been steady for the Bengals at punter since he joined his hometown team in 2009. Alex Erickson enters his third season as Cincinnati’s full-time return man, handling both punts and kickoffs. He’s extremely reliable. The Bengals will probably not be one of the best teams in the NFL when it comes to the kicking games but they should be solid here.
The outlook for the Bengals is always kind of the same. They have enough talent to get it done, but do they have the coaching to compete at a high level? The AFC is ripe for the taking but in the end, does anybody believe that Marvin Lewis can coach this team to a Super Bowl? That answer is, most likely, no! With that being said, if the offensive and defensive lines can improve, this is a possible playoff team. I look for the Bengals to win somewhere between 7 and 10 games.
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