The Cincinnati Bengals are working on finding new ways to get things done with the same faces.
As Jay Gruden heads to Washington as the new head coach for the Redskins, the Bengals are hoping that former running backs coach Hue Jackson can take the offense to the next level that is needed to get this team its first playoff victory since ’90.
Jackson’s plan for getting the Bengals past the playoff ticket booth is a strong running game to take the big-game pressure off of Dalton.
“We’re not going to shy away from having to throw it when we need to,” Jackson told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “In order to win and be a very good offensive football team, you have to be able to run the ball, and that’s going to be a starting point for us,” Jackson said.
For Dalton, who tends to become worse the more he passes, this is a good thing; whether or not it will prove beneficial in the pass-heavy NFL remains to be determined. The Bengals were 2-4 when Dalton threw more than 40 times this season, and that number is likely to decrease in 2014. Dalton had eight touchdowns against eight interceptions and an average quarterback rating of 73.3 during those games.
Meanwhile, the Bengals’ ground game finished 19th in the league with an average of 109.7 yards a game, according to nfl.com. For the first time since ’96, the 2013 Bengals didn’t have a single rusher with a 100-yard game. Giovanni Bernard went beyond his high expectations with 1,209 yards from scrimmage for the second-most by a Bengals’ rookie, while BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran for 756 yards and seven touchdowns with a 3.4 ypc average.
Although Jackson has had impressive seasons as an offensive coach for teams like the 2001 and 2002 Washington Redskins who had a record season from RB Stephen Davis, and the Bengals from 2004-2006, Jackson’s time spent as an offensive coordinator haven’t been as productive outside of the 2010 Oakland Raiders.
The 2003 Washington Redskins finished 22nd in points scored and a 5-11 record with Jackson as the OC, and the 2007 Atlanta Falcons finished 29th with a 4-12 record.
I have faith in Jackson taking the Bengals’ offense further than Jay Gruden, whose schemes were unbalanced at times – why Dalton threw 51 times against the Chargers last Sunday while Green-Ellis was gaining 5.3 yards a carry and Bernard was running his tail off is beyond me.
However, this will not be the “it” factor for the 2014 Bengals to make noise in the playoffs.
In total, since the last Bengals’ playoff win in 1990, there has been five playoff appearances, with five first round losses. This most recent against the San Diego Chargers put the Bengals in prestigious loser territory, tying seven other teams for most consecutive early exits in the playoffs.
This team had by far the most talent on both sides of the ball than any other since the ’80s, and somehow, against one of the worst ranking defenses in the league, the offense musters one lousy touchdown. Not just that, but this was the only offensive touchdown in three playoff appearances.
Whether or not it’s Jay Gruden, Hue Jackson, or the resurrected Paul Brown himself as the Bengals’ OC, this team needs more than a strategist to win the playoffs.
If the Bengals want to make some serious strides in 2014, just running the ball more often won’t do it. The offensive line will need to have better pass protection in 2014 because Dalton is not a good enough quarterback yet to deal with pressure like the kind that was engulfing him Sunday. With Andrew Whitworth not getting any younger, and the most likely departure of free agent Anthony Collins, the left side of the line is getting weaker and this team needs a better center than Kyle Cook.
Sure Hue Jackson is a good coach, and if you saw HBO’s Hard Knocks over the summer, you caught glimpses of his boisterous personality that is well received by players. But this team needs a little more of a shake up to right the wrongs of the past 20 years.