This one is easier than some may make it.
Hue Jackson says that the O will become better by committing to the run and lowering Andy Dalton's average pass attempts per game. Sounds good, huh? Did you know that the Bengals ranked 10th in the NFL in 2013 in running attempts per game? So how much higher in the rankings does a team have to go in order to be considered a "run focused" team? With that said, were we a successful running team in 2013? We didn't have a 1,000 yard runner or a player who could take over a game as a running threat. So, if we stay "as is" in the running game with respect to personnel and our draft picks, can we really expect to carry out Hue Jackson's plan? Is Jackson's plan dependent on personnel, or is it a coaching and will issue?
Lots of questions to answer there. I'll argue that coaching is a big part of success in the NFL and that personnel is important too. It's tough to be successful without a lot of each. I think Hue Jackson can make such a difference on the coaching end, but what about the personnel?
At RBs do we think that our running game can be better with the same four RBs on the roster that we carried in 2013? Gio isn't going anywhere, and Peerman is a core STs guy who probably is a near roster lock too. So we're talking about whether we can get better in the run game in 2014 without replacing Rex Burkhead and/or the Law Firm.
On the OL we know that our spring losses include 2013 starters at LT (Anthony Collins) and C (Kyle Cook). Further, OG Clint Boling will likely miss the first half of 2014 rehabbing his late 2013 season knee injury. Whit, of course, rolls back to LT from his temp LG assignment, and Mike Pollak goes to either C or LG....which leaves a hole at one interior OL starting spot and an overall three veteran player depth reduction. Can we get better in the running game with these changes and losses?
So in keepin' it real here, I'm going to say "No way, Jose" to these rhetorical questions. I'm going to say that we have to bring in new blood to each of these two units in order to change our brand of offensive football. The talk is nice. The commitment to the run might be a good idea. But let's get some guns to take to the battle. PS Marshall Newhouse and TJ Johnson do not count as "new blood."
So maybe a last question to ask is what we'll actually acquire to make that difference. At RB many have been arguing that we need to replace BJGE with another power back. But how about if we just replace Burkhead with the best RB we can find in a mid-round BPA selection? That allows us to replace the Law Firm in 2015 when his contract runs out and maybe even keep Burkhead on the PS (he remains eligible) for when the inevitable mid-season RB injury occurs. Moving onto the OL, I say that we just grab the best BPA OL we can get in the 1st three rounds. It could be OT, OG or C. Doesn't matter. The OG could start if he has the talent as could the Center. Maybe the OT could start at OG -- Pollak plays the missing interior spot in any scenario. However, the guy we select MUST make a difference in the run game - he must be a road grader.
In wrapping up this exercise I emphasize that it is folly to think that we'll change to a run team with the same (or less) personnel as 2013 just because we willed it to be so. It's going to take more manpower, and we now only have one real avenue for that before the summer roster is relatively set for 2014.