The Bengals are having issues on offense, and the biggest one is identity -- or lack thereof. "I think we’re carving out an identity," in Marvin Lewis’ own confidence-inspiring words earlier this week. I’m sure I’m not alone in demanding to know: why has this team not established some sort of identity on offense heading into the second quarter of the season? It would seem easiest to point to the abundance of weapons and young players that are still being figured out how best to be utilized, but Giovanni Bernard and Tyler Eifert were drafted to bring several explosive plays per game, and that is exactly what they’ve contributed thus far after a solid preseason. Aside from the two rookies, we’ve had the same offensive coordinator, quarterback, wide receiver, tight end, and majority of the linemen playing together and making Pro Bowls for going into three years now. Yet the offense can’t decide if it runs the ball down your throat or passes it over your head. Andy Dalton, who has looked more confused with each passing season, is still not on the same page with and AJ Green when by this point they should be communicating through telepathy. And for a team that has, according to coaches and players, mostly won its one-on-one matchups, there sure are a lot of broken plays due to miscommunication and confusion. Maybe it’s time sit Jay Gruden down in the hot seat.
One playoff loss ago, AJ Green didn’t see his first target until the second half because Jermaine Gresham’s number was called again and again in an unsuccessful attempt to exploit his "favorable" matchup -- fast forward to last week and Green is targeted 15 times on a day the Browns are successfully limiting his damage, while the run is all but abandoned after some discouraging stops/penalties. We see these examples where Gruden forces the ball to players as an attempt to get them "going" and the plan backfiring. The Bengals are a talented squad that can create a variety of mismatches and attack from every part of the field, forcing defenses to make tough decisions and pick their poison. So why, then, does it seem that too often Gruden does the picking for them? Defenses are able to key in and remove what "advantage" the Bengals assumed to have as the offense fails to adjust. The problem isn’t the lack weapons to exploit an opponent; rather the Bengals too often are the ones allowing the other team’s defense to dictate the terms of the game. We enter a game with a plan of attack using versatile, interchangeable pieces and we’re able to, in theory, throw with the best of them or run with the toughest. And right there is your identity crisis: the offense has not decided who it is or what it does best, it has not built confidence or swagger in its attack, and it certainly doesn’t impose its will upon opposing defenses. So who are the 2013 Bengals?
"The key is that we’re going to have to get stubborn and either stick with the run game or throw it more," per Andrew Whitworth, de facto captain of the Bengals. What an intelligent man. Listen to anything Whitworth has to say about the team, and then tell me that pride, self motivation, or camaraderie are issues among the players. Marvin Lewis has built a strong football empire in Cincy. The defense requires no comment. The playmakers and linemen on offense are tough, explosive, versatile, and dripping with talent. Dalton just needs to prove he still has the iron balls and ice water veins we saw his rookie season and sporadically since. Figuring out an identity on offense should not be a concern by this point. That is what training camp was for. Inexperience and continuity are no longer excuses. I’m looking at you, Jay Gruden.