It's been a bit of a crazy offseason for the Bengals so far. To kick things off, offensive coordinator Hue Jackson left to be the head coach of the Cleveland Browns less than a week after the season ended. Later on, wide receivers Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu left the Bengals for huge contracts with the Lions and Falcons, respectively. Finally, long-time starting right tackle Andre Smith left for Mike Zimmer and the Minnesota Vikings.
However, the team has done a very good job of filling these holes. You could probably say that, overall, the offensive unit has improved with all of the new additions, despite losing people who made the Bengals' offense so potent in 2015. They even improved so much that NFL.com recently ranked them as the unit that improved on offense fifth most via the 2016 Draft.
The quality of their haul puts the Bengals on this list. We already know Cincinnati is set at running back, tight end and quarterback, and they have one of the top receivers in the game in A.J. Green. However, I think the Bengals finally landed exactly what they were looking for as the book-end receiver to Green with Tyler Boyd. Boyd is physical and a reliable possession receiver who should challenge for starter's reps fairly quickly. Christian Westerman is technically savvy and a workout machine in the weight room. My comparison for Westerman was Alex Mack (high praise), and I would certainly entertain the idea of Westerman competing for a center spot if he doesn't win a guard job right away.
But, they've improved in so many more aspects than just the draft. Here's just a few examples:
Re-tooling the wide receivers
Everyone knew that the Bengals were looking at improving the wide receiver position this offseason. It was pretty much a guarantee that they would lose either Jones or Sanu due to their projected value in the open market. But, when the team ended up losing both players, things started to look bleak for the position.
In response, the Bengals stocked up. On top of returning talents like Brandon Tate, James Wright, and Jake Kumerow, they brought plenty of highly talented new players in to create competition. Former Panthers and Patriots WR Brandon LaFell joined the team in free agency and then, the Bengals drafted Tyler Boyd in the second round, and Cody Core in the sixth round. They also picked up some talented undrafted free agents in Alex Erickson, Antwane Grant, and Alonzo Russell.
You can go ahead and pencil A.J. Green in for the top receiver spot. But, the next five spots on the roster are all up for grabs. At the moment, LaFell, Boyd, Core, Tate, Wright, Kumerow, Erickson, Russell, Grant, Mario Alford, and Michael Bennett are all competing for five spots.
From where we stand right now, I would project that Boyd, LaFell, Tate, Wright, and Alford end up making the final cuts with Kumerow and Core sticking around on the practice squad. But, the great thing about this group is that any player could very well surprise and make enough of an impact to make the final roster.
Unlike the defense, the offense didn't have to deal with multiple coach departures. To fill the void left by Jackson, they promoted their quarterbacks coach of 12 years, Ken Zampese, to the role of offensive coordinator.
If you recognize that name from something other than training quarterbacks like Jon Kitna, Carson Palmer, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Andy Dalton, it's probably because he's the son of legendary Air Coryell offensive coordinator, Ernie Zampese. The elder Zampese helped to create a potent Chargers offense that fostered the careers of Hall of Famers Dan Fouts and Charlie Joiner. The offense's nickname came from head coach, Don Coryell, but Zampese is often seen as the mastermind behind the curtain.
As we should probably know from the failed Dave Shula experiment, being the son of a legendary coach doesn't necessarily mean anything positive will happen. But, the younger Zampese has a history of success everywhere he's been. Most notably, he helped to maintain a run of offensive dominance with the St. Louis Rams from 2000 - 2001. 'The Greatest Show on Turf' was Mike Martz's baby, but once again, it was a Zampese who was helping to make everything click behind the curtain.
It seems like Zampese has all of the tools necessary to succeed as the team's offensive coordinator. But, the Bengals are losing an extremely talented and successful quarterbacks coach in the process. Luckily, the Miami Dolphins had just fired Bill Lazor as their offensive coordinator when these changes were happening. Lazor is probably most notable for his work with Nick Foles in 2013, a season in which Foles received his first Pro Bowl honor, despite not starting until Week 7. The Bengals took the opportunity to add his experience to their coaching staff and Lazor will be the team's new quarterbacks coach after 13 years with Zampese in the role.
Upgrading the offensive line
Last year, the Bengals had one of the better offensive lines in the NFL. But, despite having three very talented and productive linemen in Andrew Whitworth, Kevin Zeitler, and Clint Boling, the unit was held down by the less than stellar performances of Andre Smith and Russell Bodine.
In response, the Bengals let Smith walk in free agency, allowing last year's talented early round tackles in Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher to get a chance to compete for the starting spot. They weren't as direct with finding a replacement for Russell Bodine at the center position, but they did draft Christian Westerman in the fifth round. His experience is at offensive guard, but his body type and football intelligence make you think that he'd be a good fit at center, too.
The changes at offensive line haven't been talked about at length like coaching and wide receiver changes, but they could prove to be just as, if not more, important for the team's continued success going forward. Filling these two major holes on the offensive line could not only help keep Dalton off the ground more often, but it could lead to a resurgence in the running game. Having two incredibly talented running backs doesn't matter much when 300-pound defensive linemen are all over them in the backfield.
Admittedly, some of these changes could take a while to bear fruit. But, overall, the Bengals have upgraded their offense following the losses they suffered early in the offseason.