Ever since Andy Dalton and A.J. Green joined the team in 2011, the Bengals offensive game-plan could be simplified into two scenarios; pound the football for a 3-4 yard/average or throw the ball deep to A.J. Green. Not much else has risen for Cincinnati's offense to branch out into a more dynamic unit, despite the obvious redirection the Bengals could use with Green.
The Bengals offense hasn't ranked higher than 20th since 2008, including the Jay Gruden era which has finished 20th and 22nd respectively in the past two years.
Yet, when the pieces finally came together midway through the year, the Bengals went from a 3-5 record with a four-game losing streak, to a juggernaut crew that scored 30 points or more three times during a six-game stretch that largely bounced Cincinnati back into the postseason. This offense was extremely tough to contain with BenJarvus Green-Ellis eating chunks of yards on the ground and Mohamed Sanu's red zone production. But ultimately opposing defenses focused on Green and challenged the Bengals offense to beat them through other means and it was the offense that struggled against better defenses down the stretch.
"The Bengals lacked the players to take advantage of what Green brings to an offense, besides bombs: a defense with its lid taken off," the crew at Football Outsiders told us this weekend. "Second receiver was a revolving door, Gresham can only be expected to do so much, and the running game was pretty lame for a team that could take the safeties out of the equation."
Cincinnati posted 1,745 yards rushing in 2012, 33 yards less than 2011 but the third highest total dating back to 2006. Yet it was a pound-and-done running game that generated a 4.1 yards/rush average, grossly favoring an offense that generates third and short conversions but struggled to eat chunks on the preceding downs.
So we wonder how the Bengals offense expands with the acquisition of tight end Tyler Eifert and running back Giovani Bernard from the 2013 NFL draft.
"The Eifert-Gresham combination gives Gruden the two-tight end look I think he wanted last season. The Bengals can go with a spread look or a power look with the same personnel, and either tight end can serve as the de facto possession receiver if the Sanu Crew still needs sorting out.
"As for Bernard, the Bengals have lacked a dangerous receiving threat in the backfield for years: they tended to use Brian Leonard types, who were more like blockers and safety valves. A receiving back forces the linebackers to stay "level" near the line of scrimmage, just as Green forces the secondary deep. You can see just how stretched a defense will be to cover anyone."
And that benefits the coverage against Green. We figure that opposing defenses will focus early on Green, forcing the Bengals to go beyond the chuck-and-good-luck deep throws or run-and-done early downs that forced Cincinnati into lengthy third down opportunities at times. +
Adding to the pool of exotic play-calling is Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones entering their second year, with Orson Charles figuring into a more dynamic role as the team's H-Back. The evolution of this offense may finally be realized with the personnel that Cincinnati is bringing to the table this year.
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