Cincinnati Bengals’ offense on the prowl

After the Cincinnati Bengals’ 2013 minicamp, there are a lot of new additions to the team via the draft that look to be major contributors for the team’s third consecutive playoff run in 2013.

Today, we will take a look at the Bengals offense which was subject to a lot of discussion following the early exit in the 2012 playoff. Is this the year where they finally put it all together to win their first playoff game since ’91? Is the offense enough to complement a stout defense, or will it need to be carried again like in 2012?

Those who recall last year’s disappointing loss to Houston in the first game of the AFC division playoffs, may remember it as the game that could’ve shed the awful Bengal reputation as one of the worst franchises in football. However, the pass from quarterback Andy Dalton to pro bowl receiver A.J. Green in the end zone, with the Bengals down 10-16 and less than three minutes in the fourth quarter, consummated the team’s misfortune in becoming a winner.

We all remember an outstretched A.J. Green and the football a few feet ahead, careening off the turf in Texas. It was a necessary failure.  A play that demonstrated how winners win and that the Bengal’s were so close, yet not quite ready.

That is until this year.

Coming off of another winning season and another winning draft, the Bengals look to dominate the AFC North in convincing fashion. The team expanded their offensive weaponry for third-year quarterback Andy Dalton and also filled in some key holes in their O-line to give him ample support to place the ball in the end zone and into the playoffs. Let’s get to it.

Offense:

There is no place for Dalton to hide this year. Not that he ever ran from criticism or called out others for the teams faults (he takes accountability for a lot), but he could’ve leaned on the team’s very average receiving corps that was short of any real down field attack save A.J. Green. Last season, the Bengals ranked 17th overall in receiving yards at 223.6 per game. They look to ramp up that number this year with the added depth at receiver from the draft. The team picked up TE Tyler Eifert in a somewhat surprise choice in the first round. The 6’ 5”, 250lb hybrid receiver out of Notre Dame represents another huge target for Dalton alongside incumbent TE Jermaine Gresham. Eifert not only brings another big TE to the table, but he has enough speed and experience in the slot at Notre Dame that he can be used as another wide out to get good one-on-one matchups. From minicamp practices, the team looks to run Eifert and Gresham in a double TE set, a formation that you may recall has worked out okay for another AFC team – the New England Patriots.

While both players represent big targets with soft hands for Dalton, they will also present a nightmare for defensive coordinators. Think Green, Eifert, Gresham, and second-year receiver Mohamed Sanu on the line and hopefully second-round pick Giovani Bernard, who is considered an exceptional receiving back, in the backfield. That would be a contortionist nightmare for defensive coordinators in the red zone.

Speaking of the rookie Bernard out of UNC, the quick and agile back looks to be the complement to the work horse BenJarvus Green-Ellis, a one-two punch duo that many NFL teams are adopting to keep opposing defenses off balance. With the very capable Cedric Peerman slotted as the third back, the Bengals once again have a legitimate ground game that was lackluster last year, gaining roughly 109 yards a game (18th in the NFL), and should help open up the air game.

Cincinnati Bengals

Giovanni Bernard adds an agile receiving threat in the backfield for the Bengals.

 

While the Bengals certainly upped the ante at receiver and running back, they still have a shaky offensive line. OT Andre Smith was absent from minicamp, as well as the teams mandatory OTA’s. Not something you want to see from a player who just got rewarded with a 3-year, 18$-million contract a few months ago. Hopefully for the Bengals and Smith, this isn’t déjà vu with Smith’s health and weight issues after his hold out before his 2009 rookie season.

Besides Smith, the Bengals are relying on center Kyle Cook and eight-year veteran tackle Andrew Whitworth to keep the Bengals’ offense in top gear. While Whitworth has been the offensive line’s most dependable corner stone, Cook missed a lot of the 2012 season with injuries. Coming off an exceptional rookie season, offensive guard Kevin Zeitler adds youth and a consistent pass blocker (only four sacks during the season) for Andy Dalton. With an influx of tackles Tanner Hawkinson and Reid Fragel out of the late rounds in the draft, look for the Bengals to have one of the top offensive lines in the league.

With improvements to the receiving corps, a truly dynamic backfield, and an offensive line that can keep his jersey clean, Andy Dalton’s year to prove his critics wrong and that he is a capable top-tier NFL quarterback is in his hands. The AFC North’s powerhouse teams Baltimore and Pittsburgh are aging and porous, which gives Dalton an opportune time to seek some revenge and rewrite Bengal’s history. If he can run away with this offense, look for the Bengals to run away with the division.

  • kf

    “they still have a shaky offensive line” or “look for the Bengals to have one of the top offensive lines in the league” …..keep up the decisive commentary Brett

    • Brett Witterstaetter

      From the 2012 season, the Bengals ranked fourth in sacks given up at 46; however, they ranked third to last in QB hurries at 65 and fell in the middle in rushing yards.

      A good amount of that was from lack of depth after starters went down which has been addressed via the draft. So while the offensive line was subpar last year, if healthy this year, they do have a chance to be top of the class

      • Nancy Renken

        they WILL be top of the class this year!

      • Dwight Hedrick

        Let us know what you think about how the Bengals did in free agency or their lack of pursuit. Is it smart to stand pat and sign your own???

  • Pdog1000

    dam hell yea benglas

  • Korey Crampton

    Sounds good! But we will see how it all works out. I have a lot of faith in the Bengals this season. Still a Niners Fan for life.

  • Nancy Renken

    Brett-What an interesting article you wrote, sounds like you truly have followed the Bengal’s over the years. We need more people like you in Cincinnati who continue to have a positive outlook for their team even though they have had some tough losses over the years.

    We are fortunate to live in a city that has good sporting events to attend or watch at home.

    With that said, Who-Dey!!

  • Daniel

    Outstanding article young man, keep it up lil bro and who dey all day… That is of course after #cowboysnation

  • Shelly Gillespie

    Well written article. Who-Dey!!!

  • ndawgpizzle

    like to see an article on our #1 pick eifert and how he is adjusting to the NFL speed of play. I think we should have addressed other needs besides TE… btw tight article

  • Bob Johnson

    Good article Brett.

  • Joe Wichmann

    Great job Brett, your article hits the nail on the head! It is good to have a new view on the Bengals and it shows that you have done your homework as what is going on and what to expect.
    Keep up the good work!

  • Luke

    Great article. Along with Eifert and Gresham, I think Charles who is making the move to fullback will improve our pass attack. He might not be the best blocker we could put back there, but as another big receiver to go along with the other guys opposing DCs are going to have matchup nightmares with all these big guys who can move.