Ever since Andy Dalton proved in his rookie season in 2011 that he has what it takes to be the franchise quarterback of the Bengals, expectations and hopes have been high each season in Cincinnati. AJ Green has been his go to guy each year since they were drafted together in 2011 and ever since the Bengals have added tools to their offense to help Dalton be successful and get points on the board. So in 2014, with an explosive offense and a top tier defense, what are 5 reasons the Cincinnati Bengals can win it all?
1. New offensive coordinator- Hue Jackson took over as offensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals this offseason when Jay Gruden left the club to take the head coaching position with the Washington Redskins. Jackson has implemented a quick paced, no huddle offense and has been working with Dalton to make sure that 2014, Dalton’s fourth year in the league, is Dalton’s break out season. Dalton showed during the preseason that his hard work has paid off this offseason and looks like he is making better decisions, and making them quicker. Jackson also has said that he wants to have a hard hitting run game, and after the Bengals drafted running back Jeremy Hill in the second round of the 2014 draft it was obvious Jackson planned to keep his word. Hill has also been impressive during the 2014 preseason, and in his most recent showing rushed for 90 yards on 20 carries. A new offense is the breath of fresh air this club needed to take it to the next level.
2. Upgrades and veterans on defense- The only big piece on the defensive side of the ball the Bengals lost during the offseason was defensive lineman Michael Johnson, but this line has enough depth and talent that almost anyone that steps in Johnson’s spot has what it takes to play at or above his level. This defensive line is one of the best in football and has been the past few seasons and I don’t see that changing this year. They upgraded at cornerback when they drafted Darqueze Dennard in the first round this year and he is someone who can step in and have an immediate impact. This defense finished third best in the NFL last year and they’ll be able to match if not exceed that again this year.
3. Emergence of running game- Like I said earlier, Jackson wants to use the running game more and the Bengals have a dual headed monster in their backfield that can be deadly this year. Second year back Giovani Bernard and rookie Jeremy Hill are both hard hitting, quick, strong guys who can take the Bengals running game to the next level. They clearly have confidence in these two to carry the load of the ground game, as they cut veteran work horse BenJarvus Green-Ellis on Friday. Hill and Bernard will run all over defenses this season.
4. Tough schedule- Normally a tough schedule would be why most teams wouldn’t make the post season, but the Bengals always seem to play well during the regular season against teams that they aren’t supposed to beat, like New England or Green Bay last season. They play the Patriots, Colts, Ravens, Steelers, and Broncos during the regular season and I would imagine most of them will be in the post season this year. Already playing these teams in the regular season will give the Bengals an advantage to know what to look for come playoff time.
5. Andy Dalton- After signing his huge contract extension, the Bengals’ fate is in Andy Dalton’s hands. Or arm, I should say. Dalton worked with quarterback guru Tom House this offseason and it seems to have worked. From the small sample size we’ve seen in the preseason, Dalton looks more accurate and smarter and faster with his decisions. Dalton has all the talent he could possibly want surrounding him, and I think this is the year he takes his game to the next level and leads this franchise to its first playoff win in 23 years.
Hopes and expectations are yet again high in Cincinnati, but this is the year that I think they live up to it.