The annual NFL owner's meetings have recently provided a lot of excitement and annoyances, given all of the changes to rules and the like. On one hand, upping the level of competition and increasing on-field action is always a plus to an already-exciting sport. On the other hand, why fix what isn't broken?
Digressing from that sentiment, one such change instituted that will take place this season surrounds the Point-After-Touchdown (PAT). Bengals players and coaches recently weighed in on what these changes could mean for the special teams unit going forward. While going over those quotes, our own Josh Kirkendall also provided some stats on Bengals kicking in certain situations--particularly in weather.
It remains to be seen what the overall effect of the changes will be throughout the league, and the full scope of the effects might not be totally seen for a year or two. Still, the expectation is that teams will most likely "go for two" more frequently than in years prior.
Increased Two-Point Conversion Attempts Make Sense:
The Bengals tend to play in poor weather at the end of the season, both in home and away games. With the league emphasizing end-of-the-year divisional showdowns, each AFC North team has outdoor stadiums in cities that have harsh Novembers, Decembers and Januarys. While Bengals kicker Mike Nugent has had solid results with shorter kicks since joining Cincinnati, 33-yarders still aren't anywhere near the gimmes that came with the previous rule.
If you want to channel the old-school coach mantra, if your offense can't get two yards when it absolutely needs it, then you likely don't deserve to win. Obviously there are caveats and differences with certain situations, but with the rules favoring the offense in today's NFL, the more aggressive coaches will likely go for the two points more often. Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis is known as being a bit more conservative, but even he might look to go for two more frequently.
How The Bengals Offense Could Look in Goal Line and Two-Point Tries:
Lewis should have confidence trying to go for two more often because of his offensive talent. There is talent aplenty, whether they decide to spread it out or pound it down the defense's throat. With one of the best offensive lines and two high picks in this year's draft to use as "tackle-eligibles", they should be able to impose their will with the big boys at their discretion.
When healthy, the receiver group is very talented and their top-three players on the depth chart (A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu) have all proven to make plays when the field shortens. Additionally, most of the running backs on the roster have the ability to catch the ball. Giovani Bernard has the best hands of anyone at the position, but Rex Burkhead has shown the knack to catch and Jeremy Hill catches well for someone known as "the big back".
Really, what makes sense is the potential combination of size and talent when the Bengals offense is sniffing the goal line. If they employ a two tight end set, Tyler Eifert and Tyler Kroft both stand at 6'6" and will be effective targets in the short area. Green stands at 6'4" and H-back Ryan Hewitt (who has the ability to block and catch) also stands at 6'4" coming from the backfield. Throw in one of those aforementioned backs who can run and catch and it's lethal.
If they would rather slam it in, keep the tight ends out there, add in either Cedric Ogbuehi (if he's healthy) or Jake Fisher as an additional lineman and throw Domata Peko in there at fullback (props to my colleague Scott Bantel for this idea). That formation would have to bring a smile to Bernard or Hill, no?