2018 NFL Season Preview- Cincinnati Bengals
For the first time in nearly a decade, the Bengals suffered back to back losing seasons.
After starting 0–2 and not scoring any touchdowns in their first two games, the Bengals fired offensive coordinator Ken Zampese. Quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor was promoted to offensive coordinator to replace him. The team lost three straight in early December by a 90-34 margin, which ultimately knocked them out of the postseason. Cincinnati can take solace in the fact that they were able to knock Detroit and Baltimore out of the playoffs in the final two weeks of the year.
Quarterback Andy Dalton struggled behind the poor offensive line and inconsistent running game. Dalton's numbers were respectable with 3,300 passing yards and 25 touchdowns, but was sacked 39 times and threw 12 interceptions. Running back Jeremy Hill was the opening day starter but was lost for the year with an ankle injury. Tight end Tyler Kroft was extremely productive with seven touchdowns catches while filling in for Pro Bowler Tyler Eifert. Efiert managed only four catches before a back injury ended his season. Wide receiver A.J. Green had a subpar season by his standards but still managed to reach 1,000 yards receiving and eight touchdowns. Brandon LaFell is the ideal number two receiver and Tyler Boyd was solid in the slot. The Bengals struggled to replace left tackle Andrew Whitworth and left guard Kevin Zeitler who left via free agency. Andre Smith and Cedric Ogbuehi were both gone due to injuries. In all, the line struggled to protect Andy Dalton and couldn't open up holes in the running game.
Defensive ends Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson had respectable seasons pestering quarterbacks. Nose tackle Andrew Billings made great strides after a redshirt rookie year. Injuries really hit the linebacker corps hard. Nick Vigil was the team's leading tackler before landing on IR with four games remaining. Vontaze Burfict missed the first three games of the year due to suspension and then missed another two because of a concussion. The secondary has the potential to be really special. Cornerback Darqueze Denard managed to stay healthy all year and led the team with two picks while Adam Jones missed the final four games with a back injury. Dre Kirkpatrick had a 101 yard interception return before fumbling the ball at the one.
The Bengals had two Pro Bowlers in wide receiver A.J. Green and defensive tackle Geno Atkins. Green made his seventh consecutive trip to the Pro Bowl in his seventh season. Atkins made his sixth Pro Bowl after finishing with nine sacks on the season.
The rookie class was a mix of disappointment and surprises. Wide receiver John Ross barley saw the field due to injuries and fumbled his only touch of the season. Running back Joe Mixon became the starter midway through the year and led the team with 626 yards and four touchdowns. The pick of Mixon was extremely controversial due to a domestic violence incident at Oklahoma, but he said and did all the right things on the year. Defensive end Jordan Willis had a nice season in the defensive line rotation. Linebacker Carl Lawson was one of the biggest surprises of the draft, leading all rookies with 8.5 sacks. Defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow played in every game behind the talented defensive line.
Opponent Passing YPG
Opponent Rushing YPG
After the 7-9 season, many expected head coach Marvin Lewis to step down or be fired. The Bengals responded to those rumors by signing Lewis to a two year contract extension.
After defensive coordinator Paul Guenther left to become the defensive coordinator for the Oakland Raiders, the team hired former Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin to replace him.
Notable Additions- QB Matt Barkley, TE Moritz Böhringer, T Cordy Glenn, T Bobby Hart, DT Chris Baker, LB Preston Brown
Notable Departures- QB A.J. McCarron, RB Jeremy Hill, T Eric Winston, G Andre Smith, DT Chris Baker, LB Kevin Minter, CB Adam Jones, S George Iloka
Bengals 2017 Highlights
2018 NFL Draft
Prior to the draft, The Bengals traded their first- and sixth-round selections to Buffalo in exchange for Buffalo's first- and fifth-round selections and tackle Cordy Glenn. Meaning Cincinnati wouldn't be selecting until pick 21. They have to do a lot of homework to find value in needed positions like quarterback, tight end, and offensive lineman.
Andy Dalton isn't going anywhere, but A.J. McCarron was granted his unrestricted free agent status and signed with Buffalo. Depth is needed behind Dalton.
Tyler Eifert has been injured for most of his career and is playing on a one year deal. Tyler Kroft has performed better than expected, but more bodies behind him couldn't hurt.
The team hasn't been happy with the production they've been getting from recent offensive lineman draft picks. Losing two more linemen to retirement and free agency, adding multiple players to the line must be a priority.
On draft day, Cincinnati ended up selecting Ohio State center Billy Price with the 21st selection. Price was viewed as the top pulling and trapping center in the draft, but his draft stock fell slightly he partially tore his pectoral muscle at the NFL Combine.
The Bengals also notably drafted Wake Forest safety Jessie Bates in the second round, Ohio State defensive end Sam Hubbard and Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson in the third, Miami running back Mark Walton in the fourth, and Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside in the seventh. Bates has the best ball skills of any safety in this class, but lacks the bulk to be dependable in run support. Hubbard has the work ethic to outperform more gifted opponents, but a lot of the mechanics of his game need refined. Jefferson has the explosiveness team's crave in linebackers but has marginal instincts at best. Walton was seen as the biggest sleeper running back this year, but has concerns due to his small frame which could lead to durability issues. Woodside was a productive college quarterback but lacks size desired in quarterbacks.
Cincinnati also notably signed Ohio State linebacker Chris Worley and South Florida quarterback Quinton Flowers as undrafted free agents. Worley has the smarts and versatility that will have value in the NFL, but his shorter frame is likely what made him go undrafted. Flowers is exciting to watch with the ball in his hands, but his short comings as a passer and in height forced him to try to become a running back.
Jesse Bates Highlights
What To Expect
Cincinnati has a big hill to climb if the expect to get back on the other side of the win column and I'm not sure if they have the pieces to do it.
Andy Dalton is a solid quarterback and will always keep the team competitive. The key for the offensive is to keep him up right and have those around him step up. Joe Mixon should be solid with a full year as the starter and a healthy offensive line. A.J. Green remains one of the top receivers in football and will look to bounce back from his from a season in which he dealt with drops and fumbles. Hopefully, John Ross can find a role with the team either as a slot receiver or as a return man. If Tyler Eifert continues to deal with various injuries, Tyler Kroft has shown he's more than capable of taking over the starting job. Adding Cordy Glenn, Bobby Hart, and Billy Price already makes the offensive line better on paper.
The defensive line is stacked with bodies who can all get after the quarterback. Assuming the linebackers can stay healthy, the run defense should be much improved as a whole. The secondary may have lost Adam Jones, but William Jackson and Josh Shaw are more than capable replacements to pair with Darqueze Denard and Dre Kirkpatrick.
To me, Marvin Lewis has to be the luckiest head coach in football history. To be with a team for 16 seasons and never winning a playoff game, any other guy would have been fired fives times over. Cincinnati looks to be solid defensively, but ultimately given the questions on the offensive line and with key pieces around the team, I can't see them competing with the teams consistently week in and week out.
Best Record They Can Hope For: 7-9