Cincinnati Bengals: 2018 Season Preview

Givanni Damico | August 22nd, 2018

The Cincinnati Bengals have been spiraling downward the last two seasons. They don’t seem to be heading in the right direction either. But we all know how the NFL landscape can change from year to year. Will 2018 finally be the year that Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton win a playoff game?

Cincinnati Bengals Season Preview

Recap of Last Season

The Bengals had another below average season last year finishing 7-9 with a 4-4 record at home and a 3-5 record on the road. It was another below average season for the Red Rifle, Andy Dalton. He threw for just 3320 yards and 25 touchdowns while also tossing 12 interceptions. He completed just under 60 percent of his passes and took 39 sacks. Compared to the opponents the Bengals played, Dalton was very average. These last five seasons have left Bengals fans and many football fans wondering: Why is Marvin Lewis still coaching the Cincinnati Bengals? Let’s not forget that in 15 seasons with the Bengals, Lewis still has yet to win a playoff game! They have made the playoffs seven times under Lewis and at one point they made the wildcard five years in a row between 2011-2015 and lost every single game. So, Bengals fans are ultimately tired of Lewis after last season and the prior seasons. The Bengals didn’t have a solid running back last year either. Joe Mixon led the team in yards with 626, and touchdowns with four, but he only averaged three and a half yards per carry. It was an underwhelming season for him. Giovani Bernard was next with 458 yards and two touchdowns while averaging almost four and a half yards per carry. Jeremy Hill only played seven games last year due to injury. A.J. Green had another good year with over 1000 yards and eight touchdowns, and Tyler Eifert was injured again. The run defense wasn’t good last year, allowing over 2000 total yards and 13 touchdowns. Giving up over four yards per carry isn’t going to help the defense. All in all, there were a lot of holes last season.

Strengths This Year

Let me be honest with all you football fans and all you Bengal fans. This season is going to be a struggle. Let me take you all over to the bright side, a place that many Bengals fans haven’t been in a while. The Bengals added some starters in the draft. They got younger and filled holes. They do have a nice young core with players like William Jackson at cornerback and Joe Mixon at running back. They are moving in the right direction, but it will take some time. They have a nice one-two punch in the receiving game with AJ Green and Tyler Eifert, but the problem is that AJ Green isn’t getting any younger. He turned 30 last month and I’m afraid that by the time the Bengals get back in the playoff hunt, Green will either be retired or in his last couple years and not be as explosive.
A major strength for the Bengals is their defensive line. They have studs in Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap. I have the same issue with them that I do with AJ Green though. They’re already getting older but they haven’t really slowed down. Geno Atkins is 30 years old and Dunlap is 29, but they keep playing hard. Atkins had 46 combined tackles and nine sacks last year while Dunlap also had 46 combined tackles while recording seven and a half sacks. They also have a very young core on the defensive line with Jordan Willis, Carl Lawson, and Sam Hubbard. Willis played every game last year but only started one game and recorded 25 combined tackles and a sack. Lawson had a very solid year last year totaling 16 combined tackles and eight and a half sacks last year even though he only started in one game! Willis was a bit of a let-down but Lawson really brought it in his rookie season. If I was a Bengals fan, I wouldn’t fret at all about Willis because he only got to start one game. Sam Hubbard was a starting defensive end for the Ohio State Buckeyes and was taken in the 3rd round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He had 42 total tackles and seven sacks last year while forcing two fumbles. The Bengals are set on the defensive line and the defense in general for a long time.

Weaknesses This Year

The Bengals weaknesses are headlined by head coach Marvin Lewis. I already mentioned the Bengals playoff success, or lack thereof, under Marvin Lewis. I don’t need to go on about that. He won’t denounce his team when they’re clearly doing something wrong, he’s too soft-spoken, and just can’t run a successful operation. He’s so clueless that he blamed the defense for the struggles at the beginning of last season when it was so obviously the offense! They weren’t putting up points! They had 290 points which was 26th in the league and gave up 349 points in the league which was 16th in the league. The defense wasn’t great, but it wasn’t the reason for them losing. Andy Dalton is a below-average quarterback who is coached by a below-average offensive coordinator and a below-average head coach. The offensive line has made strides in the offseason but they still have a bottom 10 offensive line in the league. Andy Dalton is going to get hit hard again this year and the running backs will average four yards per carry. The receiving core outside of AJ Green is below average. Tyler Boyd is average at best and Cody Core isn’t really going anywhere. John Ross is a bright spot for the offense if he can stay healthy. He missed last season and I am worried about his catching ability. He is extremely fast and a solid route runner but his hands are very questionable. Injuries have plagued Tyler Eifert over the last couple years and he isn’t back yet but should be for week 1 and if he’s healthy, he will be a monster and another bright spot that might give Bengals fans a few cheers. The offensive line is still BRUTAL! They’re planning on starting Cedric Ogbuehi, who was the 70th ranked offensive tackle last year when there are only 64 starters! There were backups with better grades than him. Bobby Hart, a new addition in free agency, doesn’t seem to be the answer either as he struggled with the Giants mightily. Overall, the cons outweigh the pros this year, and I recommend a tank and draft a starting quarterback as well as firing Marvin Lewis.

Additions/Improvements

The Bengals really tried to improve the offensive line this year. They acquired offensive tackle Cordy Glenn from the Buffalo Bills as well as a first round pick for some draft picks, one being a trade-up in the first round for Buffalo. They also signed offensive tackle Bobby Hart in free agency. Hart was a former New York Giant and frankly, he was never a good player, but he is an improvement for their line. They also drafted offensive guard/center Billy Price from Ohio State in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He was injured at the combine but will be ready for the season and is a lock to start. They also signed free agent linebacker, Preston Brown, from Buffalo. Preston Brown is a really nice signing for the Bengals. Brown was tied for the league lead in tackles in the regular season last year and he will fit in very nicely. They added another linebacker in the draft, Malik Jefferson, from Texas. Jefferson was at one point a projected first-round pick, but he didn’t really show any technique at Texas. They also improved their secondary by drafting safety Jessie Bates III from Wake Forest. He should also jump in and start this year. An underrated signing for the Bengals was undrafted free agent wide receiver, Auden Tate. Tate had a few red flags at Florida State but he has shown out at training camp and should definitely make the team. The Bengals are heading in the right direction, but this year won’t be the year.

Subtractions/Regressions

The Bengals lost a couple starters in the offseason. Linebacker Kevin Minter’s contract was up and couldn’t reach a deal with the Bengals. Minter signed with the Jets, which was a pretty big loss for the Bengals, although he was replaced by Preston Brown. They also lost their backup quarterback, AJ McCarron, signed with the Buffalo Bills in the offseason. Now, this might not seem like a huge loss, but if Andy Dalton were to get hurt or severely underperform, what are they going to do? Start Matt Barkley? Sure, Barkley has been alright in the past but he’s the same kind of quarterback as Dalton in the same bad system. They lost their offensive tackle, Andre Smith, as well. Smith signed with Arizona but I don’t think this loss was a big deal for Cincy because the line was atrocious last year and he didn’t do much. They also lost one of the worst centers in the league, Russell Bodine. Bodine is all strength, no blocking or technique. This was an improvement for the Bengals! Brandon LaFell had his contract terminated, making him a free agent. This was a loss because he was a starter in this receiving core, whether good or not. Just recently, a surprising move was made in which the Bengals released starting safety George Iloka. Iloka is getting old and they want to bring in the young blood with Jessie Bates III, but this still shocked football fans. I don’t think the Bengals lost anything critical that will make or break this team, especially since we’re not looking at a playoff team.

Prediction

The Bengals will win between three and six games this season. I think they will split the season series with Baltimore and Cleveland as well as a win against Miami. My actual prediction is 3-13 but I think if they reach their max potential, they can win six games. They have a tough schedule this year, playing the NFC South and the AFC West which are two tough divisions especially for a team like the Bengals. I think that Andy Dalton will have another below-average season and Bengals fans will get tired of him quickly. I will bet money that Marvin Lewis is fired after this season, and if he’s not, the Bengals upper management is absolutely delusional. I think William Jackson will break out this season and possibly clinch a pro bowl. The Bengals should have a top 15 defense this year as well. On paper, they look like a really solid defense. Bengals fans, brace for the bad year but look on the bright side. It might be Marvin Lewis’s last year and the Bengals might draft a new quarterback.

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