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Football NFL

NFL Team Previews: Cincinnati Bengals

2018 Season Review: 6-10 (4th in AFC North)

No idea how this team won 6 games. No idea how they were 5-3 at one point. Hell they were 4-1 after five weeks in the season. So we’ll start there, the Bengals beat the Colts, Ravens, Falcons, and Dolphins in their first five weeks, putting up 27 or more points in each of those games. They also put up 37 against the Buccaneers in Week 8 before their bye week to get to 5-3 mid way through the season. But it was the second half of the season that did them in. The Bengals went 1-7 in their last 8 games, only scoring over 21 points once, and that was against the lowly Raiders.

Part of the reason the offense slowed up was because they lost AJ Green after he suffered a toe injury in Week 8. He tried to make it back in Week 13 but left early and was placed on IR. The Bengals also lost Andy Dalton in Week 12 to a thumb injury that put him on IR. So you take two of your best three players on offense out for a good majority of the season, and you get a team that can score during the second half of the year. So in 11 games with Dalton, the Bengals only scored less that 20 points twice, against the Chiefs and Saints. Without Dalton in basically 6 games, they scored less than 20 points 3 times.

The injuries caused the Bengals offense to be 17th in scoring with 23.0 PPG. They averaged 205.6 yards passing game which was good for 24th in the league, and 105.1 yards rushing per game which was good for 21st in the league. Overall the Bengals put up 310 total yards per game, which was 26th in the league.

A few things the Bengals could hang their hot on offensively were a solid OL, and the emergence of Joe Mixon at RB and Tyler Boyd at WR. The OL doesn’t have any big names you’d recognize, but they only allowed 37 sacks which was tied for 20th in the league, and they helped produce a 1,000 yard rusher in Joe Mixon in only 14 games. Mixon rushed for 1,168 yards and 8 TDs while also catching 43 balls for 296 yards and another TD. Tyler Boyd also filled in very nicely for once AJ Green went out. Just like Mixon, Boyd only played in 14 games and still finished with 1,028 yards on 76 catches and 7 TDs. All those stats led the Bengals.

Defensively, this team was one of the worst in the league. They gave up 28.4 PPG which was 30th in the league, they gave up 413.6 yards per game which was dead last. They also lacked a pass rush, they only had 34 sacks which was 28th in the league. As far as takeaways go, they were right in the middle with a +1 differential. The Bengals defense had 12 INTs and 6 fumble recoveries, while their offense committed 17 turnovers. A positive differential is good, but you’d like to see your defense get more than 18 turnovers on the year. 18 forced turnovers was 21st in the league.

Individually the one guy that stands out for Cinci is Geno Atkins, the dude is an animal. He played in all 16 games and led the Bengals with 10 sacks, and 13 TFL, while finishing second with 19 QB hits. The other bright spot on the DL was Carlos Dunlap. He was second in the team with 8 sacks, 8 TFL, and led the team in QB hits with 21. He also had 8 pass deflections and 2 forced fumbles.

Both their safeties led this team in INTs, Shawn Williams had 5 and Jessie Bates had 3. But both guys also led the team in tackles which isn’t a good thing. Maybe you have a safety that plays in the box a lot who is up there in tackles but for a team to have both guys, have almost 40 more tackles than the guy in third, is not a good stat. Now in their defense, both Safeties played all 16 games while they didn’t have one starting LB play in all 16 games.

Key Off Season Acquisitions

Head Coach Zac Taylor

New Bengals Head Coach Zac Taylor during his introductory press conference. (John Minchillo / Associated Press)

Taylor was the last head coach to get hired along with Brian Flores because they had to coach in the Super Bowl. Taylor comes over from the Los Angeles Rams where he was the QB Coach in 2018, and an assistant WRs coach in 2017. So it has been a very quick rise to the top for Taylor, and we’re going to see if he’s ready for the spotlight.

The joke early on was anybody associated with McVay was getting a look at head coach, well the Bengals were the team that hit the nail on the head. Taylor more so than anybody else picked to be a HC was the least amount of coaching experience.

What the Bengals want in Taylor is someone who can develop a young QB. This signing has the writing on the wall for Andy Dalton and his time in Cincinnati. Taylor is going to do what we can with Dalton and between him and the Bengals they’ll decide if Dalton is worth the time to keep developing. My guess is going to be no because the Bengals are probably going to be one of those teams vying for the #1 overall pick, which next year is going to involve Tua from Alabama. If not this year, they’ll have Trevor Lawerence the following year.

Taylor won’t have a short leash for that reason. He’s going to get the chance to pick his QB if Dalton doesn’t workout, and take at least two years to develop him. The Bengals showed great patience with Marvin Lewis so there is no reason to think they won’t do the same with Taylor.

Taylor brought in Brian Callahan to be his OC and Lou Anarumo to be his DC. On offense, expect to see something similar to what McVay runs in Los Angeles, with a twists from Taylor. Joe Mixon is a RB that can be utilized like Todd Gurley, they both have similar tool sets. As for the WRs, the Rams never had a WR like AJ Green but the Bengals don’t have the depth at WR the Rams had. Also, the Bengals are going to have a better TE in Tyler Eifert (if he can stay healthy) than Taylor every coached with in LA. I would expect Taylor to really focus on Joe Mixon and the running game. There is a reason why the Bengals spent two late picks on versatile RBs in the draft in Trayveon Williams from Texas A&M and Rodney Anderson from Oklahoma.

On defense, Taylor is going to have his work cut out for him. Anarumo was a late hire and has zero experience calling defense in the NFL. We can focus on Taylor being an offensive guy, but his biggest challenge has a HC for the Bengals is going to be with this defense.

2019 NFL Draft

Round 1 Pick #11: OL Jonah Williams

Not sure if OT was the biggest need for the Bengals, but then again they needed players everywhere. They probably would have been better off trading down and gathering more picks, but they took the #1 OL in the class at 11. Sadly for the Bengals, Williams hurt his shoulder and is going to be out the whole year.

Round 2 Pick #52: TE Drew Sample

Sample isn’t what the “new TE” of the NFL looks like. He only had 252 yards receiving last year with Washington but he’s a big ole guy at 6’5″, 255 pounds. He’s going to be a blocking TE that hopefully can develop into a better WR as time goes on. He’s not here to replace Eifert but he’s here so Eifert doesn’t have to play inside. Remember, the Rams don’t really have a receiving TE either, and that is the type of offense Taylor is going to bring in.

Key Off Season Departures

TE Tyler Kroft (to the Buffalo Bills)

The only reason this is notable is because Kroft was a solid backup to Tyler Eifert who couldn’t stay healthy. Kroft is on his way to Buffalo and the TE depth for the Bengals lessened just a little, but that is why they spent a second round pick on a TE in this years draft.

2019 Preview

Let’s not go through a whole bunch of B.S. here and try to convince ourselves the Bengals have a shot at the playoffs, because they don’t. They have a first year head coach in Zac Taylor, they have an aging QB that can get you to playoffs, but hasn’t proven he can win the playoffs, and although they have talent on this roster they don’t have enough to win this year.

The Bengals struggle to fill their stadium, they struggle to stay relevant when they’re actually good, and it’s only going to get harder this year. The 2019 season for the Bengals to me is all about evaluation for Zac Taylor. He needs to see what Andy Dalton can do in this new offense and if he can build around him still. Taylor and the Bengals need to see how much A.J. Green still has left (a lot I think), and if its still smart to keep him on the roster. Can Joe Mixon be a #1 back in this league and give you around 1,500 yards rushing and receiving? These are all answers offensively that need to be answered for Zac Taylor before moving onto next years draft.

I will say this, if Andy Dalton isn’t the answer I can see him getting pulled sooner than later and the Bengals seeing what they have in rookie Ryan Finley. Their schedule isn’t too tough at the start but this team is going to struggle, even if it isn’t Dalton’s fault the Bengals are losing I would expect them to pull him if the playoffs are easily out of site after the first 6 weeks of the season, or more likely after their Week 9 bye.

Defensively the Bengals also lack some star power and its hard to say what to expect. It took Zac Taylor a long time to find his DC and he finally did in Lou Anarumo who was only been a DBs coach in the NFL since 2012, although he was the interim DC in Miami in 2012.

All in all the Bengals don’t have a lot to look forward to this year when it comes to winning. 2019 will be all about evaluation for them and seeing if the players buy into what HC Zac Taylor brings to the table.

Schedule

The AFC North gets to play the NFC West and AFC East this year. The Bengals got last in their division so they also draw the Jaguars and Raiders.

I’m not sure there’s a less exciting team to potentially watch all year. Maybe the Dolphins? Who the Bengals get to play at in Week 16. That’s probably why the Bengals have only one prime time game which is also a division foe when they play at Pittsburgh Week 4 on Monday Night Football. After that, the Bengals will probably be the least watched team in the NFL.

There’s not really much to discuss here, the Bengals have their bye week later on in the season at Week 9 and the only real unique things on their schedule is playing three of their first four on the road (which all should be losses), and playing the Browns twice in the last four games of the team. Just give us two snow games here.

Fantasy Player You Want

I feel like you have to go with Tyler Boyd here. With AJ Green out, Boyd is going to be the #1 guy and he can deliver, he proved that last year. Plus I think with the image of what the Bengals are going to be this year, you can get Boyd a little bit later on for a guy who should finish as a WR2.

Fantasy Player to Avoid

I like Green. I like Mixon. I like Boyd. So my only option here is anybody but those guys. You don’t want their TE. You don’t want Andy Dalton. You don’t want that #3 WR. If you can’t get one of the big three, just don’t touch anybody on this team.

Ceiling

The Bengals are gonna be one of the worse teams in the league. I don’t see this team winning many games so I’m going with 6 games. Maybe they can steal a division game here or there and then they do get bad teams from last year like the Jets, Bills, Raiders, Dolphins, Cardinals, and 49ers. So there are some winnable games, I just don’t like the talent on this team.

Floor

Having said they have a lot of winnable games, all those teams minus the Dolphins should be much, much better this year and the Bengals could be worse. I’ll say this team has the chance for the #1 overall pick next year and I could see them winning just 3 games.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Bengals running back Joe Mixon (28) runs the ball at the Cincinnati Bengals training camp on Wednesday July 31, 2019 at Paul Brown Stadium. (Photo: Jeff Dean)
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