Gregory Blakley | Aug 17th, 2019
After another disappointing season that saw the Bengals start 4-1 just to end up 6-10. The Cincinnati Bengals finally moved on from Marvin Lewis after a long tenure that saw zero playoff wins in 15 years.
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The Cincinnati Bengals are heading into a new era under rookie head coach Zac Taylor and the fans couldn’t be more excited. Everyone knows Cincinnati isn’t a popular market for free agents so Taylor and the team have to build through the draft. They did so by drafting the best offensive linemen in the draft in Jonah Williams with the 11th pick. Cincinnati then followed up by picking Drew Sample out of the University of Washington. Sample and Williams both possess the skills and traits Taylor wants this team to have moving forward. Williams and Sample are very talented blockers and will help Joe Mixon find more holes and opportunities this season in a new offense that will make him the workhorse. Cincinnati also drafted Ryan Finley and Germaine Pratt who could both continue to grow and earn bigger roles.
What to Expect from the Offense
Taylor is the former quarterback’s coach of the Los Angeles Rams and he learned a lot from Sean McVay in his tenure there. The Bengals will look to replicate the success of McVay and the Rams by using mostly the same offensive scheme and playbook. Cincinnati definitely has the talent to have an elite offense that features weapons in Mixon, Giovani Bernard, Tyler Boyd, John Ross and of course future Hall of Famer A.J. Green. The Bengals’ biggest weakness on offense will be the offensive line especially after losing their first-round pick Williams to injury for the season. Taylor will have to establish a new starting five that will hopefully provide consistency and protection for both the passing and running game. Even with a weak offensive line, the Bengals will still use Mixon as a workhorse while opening up the passing game with intermediate routes and play-action passes. I expect the Bengals to have a top 15 offense in Taylor’s first year.
What to expect from the Defense
Under new defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo the Bengals will look to their young defensive prospects to step up and help the veterans. Guys like Jordan Willis, Carl Lawson, William Jackson, and Jessie Bates will have to continue to grow and take some of the load off Carlos Dunlap, Shawn Williams, and Geno Atkins. Cincinnati’s biggest weakness on defense will once again be the linebacker core that is still very young and unproven. Preston Brown is coming back from injury but he and Nick Vigil are the best linebackers on the team. With guys like Pratt, Malik Jefferson, and Jordan Evans the Bengals will need someone to step up and solidify this linebacker core or they will have huge problems against tight ends and elite running backs.
Predicting the 53 Man Roster
Dalton will be heading into his 9th NFL season but his first with head coach Taylor. Taylor and the staff believe Dalton is their guy and they can get the best out of him. That is why they didn’t draft Dwayne Haskins, Drew Lock or other top quarterback prospects in the 2019 draft. The Bengals did, however, trade up in the fourth round to pick Finley who could grow into a starter one day. Driskel will be the third quarterback while being utilized on special teams and sometimes lining up at wide receiver thanks to his 6’5 232 lb build and his athleticism.
Mixon is ready to take another leap this year in a new offense that will make him the top priority. Mixon was the fourth-leading rusher in the NFL last season and could definitely win the rushing title this year. Bernard will continue to be utilized on third down and as a receiving back. It will be interesting to see if the rookies Williams and/or Anderson play a role in their first year.
The first four are set in stone at this point but the last two spots are up for grabs between three or four guys. Stanley Morgan and Malone have both looked good during training camp but with the size, potential and hands that Tate possesses I believe he should be the fourth or fifth wide receiver. After the great idea of utilizing Driskel’s athletic ability at wide receiver, I believe he could be a potential Taysom Hill type of X-factor. I expect to see Driskel utilized in a wildcat formation, on wide receiver reverses and other potential trick plays.
Sample will be the starter after being drafted in the second round. He’s a great blocker with the potential to grow as a receiving option. Sample will really help open some holes for Mixon and the running game. Uzomah and Eifert will be utilized on passing downs if they can stay healthy, they could also play big roles in the new offense.
After losing Williams, the Bengals will have to run with what they got. Start the best five offensive linemen at this point and hope they can grow chemistry and play well together. With every starter set in stone besides the left guard position, it will be interesting to see who will start. This group could potentially make or break the Bengals this year so its a huge decision.
This group already has two stars in Dunlap and Atkins. If the young guys can all continue to take steps forward the Bengals will have a scary defensive line. The backups could also play a role in goal-line situations and when being rotated.
This is one of the weakest position groups for Cincinnati but with a healthy Brown, Vigil, and some other guys the Bengals will hope to get by with what they have. If they want to have a good defense one of Pratt, Davis or Evans will have to step up tremendously. This is a weak position but maybe they can work it out.
This group is very talented and has plenty of potential to get even better. Willis, Lawson, and Hubbard are all very young and could be huge difference makers moving forward.
The cornerbacks have talent but will need to put it all together to be consistent, Jackson has the potential to be a top-five corner if he continues to grow and the addition of Webb gives them more depth in the slot. I expect Jackson and Dennard to have big seasons.
This group had a fantastic year last season with Bates and Williams both racking up 110+ tackles, Williams also had five interceptions while Bates picked off three of his own. The backups will play a big role also with Fejedelem being a special teams captain and Wilson playing on some downs. I expect another big year from this group.
This is pretty set in stone considering the veterans at the kicker, punter, and long snapper position. Bullock will look to have another good season after hitting 19/23 last season.
Some are expecting the Bengals to rebuild and go 3-13 or 4-12. I do not agree with those projections because the Bengals went 6-10 in 2018 with less talent and more injuries. While Taylor is also from the Rams coaching pyramid and I believe he can replicate the success of Sean McVay in his first year. With a veteran quarterback in Dalton, star running back in Mixon and the star wideout duo of Boyd and Green, the Bengals will be dangerous. If the defense can make plays and not give up 25+ points a game, I expect young guys like Bates, Willis, Lawson, Sample, and Ross to have big seasons.
2019 Record Prediction- I predict the Bengals will go 9-7 and make the playoffs clinching a wild card spot in Taylor’s first year. This will surprise a lot of people but not me.
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