While watching Senior Bowl practice on Thursday, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis talked a little about the Bengals' offense and the obvious need to improve. The team's offense was, once again, a liability. While the defense led the team to the playoffs for the second straight season, the offense struggled against tough defenses and was unable to help the team get their first playoff win in over 15 years.
Lewis discussed the fact that the Bengals offense needs to figure out a way to make first downs other than throwing the ball into coverage down the field.
"Earlier in the year we got a lot of those single looks. Later in the year we didn't get as many," Lewis said. "We have to make first downs and build those opportunities. You don't just chuck it down the field into coverage. You have to do other things to get first downs, which gives you other opportunities."
The Bengals' only big-play threat in 2012 was wide receiver A.J. Green. As one of the NFL's premier receivers, he has the speed and ability to get behind most defenses and the hands to catch most passes that are near him. Even though quarterback Andy Dalton and Green have only been together in the league for two seasons, they connected several times on deep passes. Green has 35 catches over 20 yards and 14 over 40 in the two years he has been in the league, and many of these catches came when Dalton threw the ball into coverage and Green was just athletic enough to go up and grab it at its highest point.
However, as year went on in 2012, defenses began to catch on, double teaming Green on almost every play. Without a No. 2 receiver, and especially after Mohamed Sanu lost for the year, defenses knew that Green was Dalton's best hope for a first down or a big play. The offense sputtered more often than not in the last few games of the season due to the fact that Green was often taken away by the defense.
To fix the problem, the Bengals not only need to not only figure out the No. 2 receiver situation, but they need to find a way to have a more dependable run game. BenJarvus Green-Ellis had a decent season in 2012, but the Bengals have expressed their desire to possibly select a game-changing back in the upcoming draft.
If the Bengals can get a run game that demands more respect from defenses and if they add another threat or two in the passing game, their offense can rank up their with their defense in 2013. When that happens, they should be able to get their first postseason win since 1990.