clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Comprehensive Bengals 2016 Offseason Recap

Everything from the 2015-2016 season until now, put into one convenient place.

NFL: Preseason-Cincinnati Bengals at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The past few season I’ve been tasked with doing Bengals offseason reviews on Reddit. Hopefully in the future I can bring this exclusively to Cincy Jungle, but in an effort to make you aware of it, I’ve re-purposed it here. Hopefully this can get all fans, even those out of the loop, up to speed before Week 1 of the regular season.

2015 Season Recap

The Bengals met my expectations from last year by going 12-4. However I predicted they would be the second seed when they were the third seed behind Super Bowl Champ Denver and New England.

And as tradition would seem to suggest the Bengals once again lost in the Wild Card round - this time in an absolute heartbreaker to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The game itself single-handedly deflated Cincinnati like nothing I've ever seen. However, many positives came from that season. Andy Dalton played the best season of his life obliterating the "Dalton Line" in the process. AJ McCarron proved to be more than capable as the No. 2 QB by putting the team in a position to win every week as a starter. Tyler Eifert also had his breakout year finishing fourth in receiving touchdowns with 13.

AFC North 2015 Standings:

  1. Cincinnati Bengals (12-4)
  2. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6)
  3. Baltimore Ravens (5-11)
  4. Cleveland Browns (3-13)

Offseason Headlines

  • The emergence of Andy Dalton cannot be understated. And I think because he wasn't able to get the playoff win this year a lot of people tend to forget about the contributions he made this year. Andy played lights out football and was arguably in conversation (though not as a leading candidate) for MVP consideration through his injury. He was just THAT good.
  • The Bengals again lost in the playoffs making Marvin Lewis the worst postseason coach in the history of the NFL with a record of 0-7. While the postseason win has continued to elude the franchise it's tough to let a guy go who turned the NFL's doormat franchise into one of the AFC's best teams in the last few years.
  • There's also the rise, fall, and rise of Jeremy Hill. With a solid rookie year Jeremy Hill seemed poised for a breakout in 2015. It just didn't happen. He got the majority of goal line carries so he had a respectable touchdown number, but Giovani Bernard was the best back on the field last year. After his giveaway fumble in the Wild Card round the formerly vocal Hill has become much more silent - diligently working to become the back he thinks he should be. That new work ethic could prove wonders for Hill.

Free Agency

Retained Free Agents

George Iloka - S

Adam Jones - CB

Vincent Rey - LB

Eric Winston - OT

Brandon Thompson - DT (Now on PUP)

Brandon Tate - WR (Since cut)

Pat Sims - DT

T.J. Johnson - C

Departed Free Agents

Marvin Jones - WR

Reggie Nelson - S

Mohamed Sanu - WR

Leon Hall - CB

Andre Smith - OT

Emmanuel Lamur - LB

Wallace Gilberry - DE

AJ Hawk - LB (Cut)

Notable Acquired Free Agents

Karlos Dansby - LB (Cut by Cleveland)

Brandon LaFell - WR (Cut by New England)

Notable Departures

  • I don't think any Bengals loss is more high profile than the departure of Mohame Sanu and Marvin Jones to the Falcons and Lions respectively. The Falcons paid a high price that the Bengals were not willing to match. Bengals brass expected to keep Marvin Jones in fact matching the deal he was given by Detroit. However, the sudden retirement of Calvin Johnson opened a No. 1 role in the Motor City and that was too tempting for Marvin to pass up. He should be in competition for the No. 1 spot with Golden Tate.
  • Reggie Nelson is an interesting scenario. Nelson would most likely still be a Bengal if not for his agent. The contract offered to George Iloka was first offered to Nelson. However, Nelson's agent thought he deserved more than the $6 million per year he was offered. After talks stalled they gave the deal to Iloka. Nelson will be a solid contributor to Oakland, however only on a 2 year, $8.5 million dollar deal. A great value for the Raiders.

Notable Arrivals

  • Karlos Dansby coming to Cincinnati is a huge deal especially when considering the early season suspension of Vontaze Burfict. Dansby is up there in age, but the guy can still move. One of the main issues with our linebacking core in the last few years has been speed and the ability to cover. Dansby still has that in spades. He should be a welcome locker room leader as well as a leader on the field.
  • Brandon LaFell is a somewhat unknown commodity at the receiver position. He's had such an up and down career that I can't say for certain what version of LaFell we'll be getting. At his best he can be the perfect #2 to complement A.J. Green. At his worst he could be an overpaid player on the roster bubble.

Coaching Changes

Some significant changes were made to the Bengals coaching staff this season. This includes the departure of some much loved coaches as well as some additions of familiar faces and some with great experience.

  • Hue Jackson left the Bengals to join the Browns as their next head coach. Hue's no nonsense approach will be a nice change of pace from the Manziel circus that originally plagued the team. He commands the respect of his players and it will be interesting to see how he does.
  • Ken Zampese, the Bengals long-time quarterback coach is taking over as offensive coordinator. With a track record of coaching quarterbacks like Carson Palmer, Andy Dalton, and recently AJ McCarron he's certainly gotten the most out of his talent. More on his scheme later on in the article.
  • Former Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator Bill Lazor will be joining the Bengals as our new Quarterback coach. While he might not have had the success he wanted in Miami he'll be an asset as a positional coach working with Zampese.
  • Former New Orleans head coach Jim Haslett joined the Bengals as linebackers coach.
  • Former Miami defensive coordinator and Cincinnati defensive backs coach Kevin Coyle returned to take his role coaching the secondary.
  • Finally, Jacob Burney comes in as the team’s new defensive line coach. He has 11 years of NFL experience dating back to 1994 when he joined the Browns.

BENGALS 2015 Draft

William Jackson III

  • When it comes to ball skills there's not a better corner in this class. He's already comfortable in the man to man press scheme that the Bengals and Paul Guenther like to run. Unfortunately, Jackson got hurt early in camp and will likely start the year on Injured Reserve, but he's got insane upside. You can never have too many corners in this league and this guy has a shot at being a great one.

Tyler Boyd

  • Tyler Boyd is the definition of a route running machine. He doesn't have amazing physical skills, but he's got some of the best fundamentals I've seen in a while from a rookie. He's not going to burn you deep or fly by you, but he's smart, versatile, and is very much a Mohamed Sanu replacement.

Nick Vigil

  • Probably the biggest reach that was made by the Bengals in this draft class, a lot of teams had a fourth or fifth round grade on Vigil. He's a good character guy who has decent measurables, but doesn't really excel at any one thing. It will be interesting to see what Guenther and Haslett are able to get out of him. They obviously see something special in him to take him this early. So far that gamble has paid off, as Vigil has played really well in the preseason games to set and is firmly set in the linebacker rotation.

Andrew Billings

  • Following the biggest reach is certainly the biggest steal of their draft in Andrew Billings. A guy who was projected in some mock drafts as a late first rounder, getting him in the fourth round was an absolute monster steal. He's a true nose tackle that's going to use power and agility to hold the point and command and break double teams. Peko is getting old and Billings is the future. Unfortunately, we won’t see the future this year as Billings was placed on IR due to a meniscus tear suffered early during camp.

Christian Westerman

  • Westerman is just a flat out big guy. He's got the bully mentality that all good interior offensive lineman have. He's listed typically as a guard and was likely brought in to bring quality depth behind starters Clint Boling and Kevin Zeitler, but with some lackluster play from center Russell Bodine, it could be plausible to see him take snaps at center at some point.

Cody Core

  • Cody Core is a beast of an athlete who has tremendous straight line speed and can beat guys over the top. He's not a complete receiver in that he's sloppy with fundamentals and can have trouble beating strong corners off the initial jam when pressed. He could develop into a quality deep threat.

Clayton Fejedelem

  • Fejedelem was a team leader for the Illini and has character attributes off the charts. However, he probably doesn't have much upside as a football player beyond special teams and depth behind more physically gifted safeties. He seems likely to make the roster this year nonetheless.

Projected Starting Lineup


QB - Andy Dalton

  • Dalton showed his best body of work in 2015. He made much better decisions, moved well in the pocket, made plays when it seemed like none were there, and became the vocal leader the team needs at the position. The only questions is how does he follow it up?

RB - Jeremy Hill

  • Make no mistake, Giovani Bernard is going to get plenty of carries especially after signing a contract extension. However, Hill is the more complete back and I think with him in a more reserved and intense state of mind after his Wild Card fumble he will have his best season to date.

FB/H-Back - Ryan Hewitt

  • Jeremy Hill's success is dependent on the heath and play of Hewitt. One of fan's gripes against Hue Jackson last year was his insistence on putting Jeremy in single back sets. Statistically Hill is much better running behind a fullback and Hewitt has proved to get the job done for years now. Hewitt also got a nice contract extension this offseason.

TE - Tyler Eifert and Tyler Kroft

  • CJ Uzomah will also see time but Eifert is still the difference maker in the passing game for the Bengals. I doubt he'll match his 2015 13 TD performance, but I would say he's going to be top-3 among receiving touchdowns for tight ends. Kroft is developing but has also proved to be a solid No. 2 behind Eifert. Unfortunately for the Bengals both of these gentlemen are hurt so Uzomah will see plenty of time the first four weeks of the season, at which point Eifert is expected to return.

WR - AJ Green, Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd

  • The receiving group isn't as dynamic as it was last year, but the drop off may not be as bad as a lot of people are making it out to be. After Green, the group is an unproven commodity. LaFell is boom or bust, Boyd and Core are rookies and while Wright is going to make the roster, too, he’s more of an asset of special teams, though he’ll be used on offense, too.

LT - Andrew Whitworth

  • The seasoned Bengal has finally started garnering national attention in the past few seasons and it's easy to see why. He's one of the most dependable players at a key position in the NFL. Not to mention he's versatile. Whitworth is as good of a guard as he is a tackle. Expect more of the same from Big Whit in 2016.

LG - Clint Boling

  • Clint Boling is an interesting story. He's a great guard but like many good, young offensive lineman he goes unnoticed. When he hit free agency last offseason he was a hot commodity, but turned down more money from other teams to stay with Cincinnati. Paul Alexander has developed him wonderfully and hopefully he spends his career a Bengal.

C - Russell Bodine

  • The weak link in an otherwise stout offensive line is Bodine. That's not to say Bodine is awful, the man is smart and as strong as an ox, but is often out of position and has poor pad level. If any Bengal on the offensive line is to be replaced during 2016 my money is on Bodine. 2015 second rounder Jake Fisher and 2016 pick Christian Westerman are possible replacements.

RG - Kevin Zeitler

  • Wisconsin has a history of turning out good offensive lineman and Zeitler is no different. I expect Zeitler to have a Pro Bowl season in 2016. He was extremely close to making it in 2015 so it's not a stretch to say he gets it this time around. Strong, large, smart, aggressive, and a blue collar guy in every sense of the word. Zeitler is the prototype interior lineman.

RT - Cedric Ogbuehi

  • With the Bengals letting the often unmotivated Andre Smith walk in Free Agency, in comes 2015 first rounder Ogbuehi. This is not Ced's natural position and he could eventually replace Whitworth at left tackle. However, he should be more than serviceable in the role. Ogbuehi is not a power tackle, rather using technique and good hand technique to win. That could hurt him at the "power tackle" position, but that remains to be seen. He could be interchanged at some point with 2016 second rounder Jake Fisher who is a more typical right tackle. However, both are currently injured, but Ogbuehi should be healthy for Week 1.


LE - Carlos Dunlap

  • The recent Florida master's degree recipient holds the left edge of the Bengals defensive line. Often overshadowed but more marquee names Dunlap is a steady contributor who is one of the less vocal Bengals on the team. He had 13.5 sacks in 2015 and I would expect another 10+ sack season this year.

DT - Geno Atkins

  • I'm sure everyone in the NFL is now familiar with the silent assassin that is Geno Atkins. Perhaps the most talented 3-technique in the league, Atkins uses low pad level, unmatched strength, and deceptive speed in order to decimate NFL guards. He's the key to the Bengals defensive line. You sleep on Atkins and your QB will likely be going down in the next few seconds. I'd expect 7+ sacks and 15 TFL from Atkins in 2016.

NT - Domata Peko

  • I think in 4-3 defenses the most underrated position is the nose tackle. Being able to consistently demand double teams and free up one-on-ones for the other defenders is such an important task. Peko has done that job for years and that won’t change this year. Billings would likely have worked in rotation here but his season is now over.

RE - Michael Johnson

  • Johnson had an okay year in his return from Tampa Bay, generating a lot of pressure but only coming away with 5 sacks. He'll be looking for a double digit season again and it's a good possibility. Teams in 2016 may start paying more attention to Carlos Dunlap after the 13.5 sack season he racked up in 2015.

WILL - Vontaze Burfict or Vincent Rey

  • Burfict is the undisputed leader of the Bengals linebacking corps and while he might not be loved around the NFL, I can definitely say he has a faithful following in Cincinnati. While he's going to need to work on his all too common ability to lose his cool, he's still a dynamic player. During his three game absence, Rey will be filling in on the weak side. With a dependable veteran in that spot there shouldn't be a big lack in production.

MLB - Rey Maualuga

  • While Maualuga never developed into the game changing linebacker he was thought to be when drafted by the Bengals, he has been a solid and dependable building block for the team. He's not a great pass-rusher and not quick enough to be effective in the passing game, but he's a hell of a run stuffer and can get everyone lined up and shifted. In a 4-3 that's the most important thing.

SAM - Karlos Dansby

  • It’s looking like Karlos Dansby will be the starter for the Bengals at SAM linebacker. This isn’t really surprising as the SAM is more geared toward being able to cover and that’s something Dansby excels at. He needs just one more interception to have 40 for his impressive career.

CB - Adam Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Darqueze Dennard

  • With the new addition of draft pick William Jackson the Bengals secondary, once the oldest in the NFL, is becoming one of the youngest. Adam Jones is extremely consistent, Kirkpatrick is growing into a dependable corner, and Dennard was having a good season up until his season-ending shoulder injury in 2015. Josh Shaw will be competing with Chris Lewis-Harris for time as the fourth corner.

FS - Shawn Williams

  • Williams came into his own in 2015, which is why the Bengals coaching staff feel so good about starting him in 2016. Shawn also signed a $21.5 million extension through 2020. He's perhaps best known in 2015 for his game changing interception in Pittsburgh which allowed Cincinnati to secure a win. I'm not sure he'll prove to be an all-star but he should have an above average season in 2016.

SS - George Iloka

  • With Iloka taking the 5 year $30 million extension that Reggie turned down he's solidified himself as the new captain of the back end of the defense. I expected 2016 to be another good year for him as his unique combination of speed and height (6' 4") make him troubling for quarterbacks to deal with.

Special Teams

K - Mike Nugent

  • It seems like Mike Nugent has been a Bengals for 10 years now (it’s actually been six, going on seven), and while he's been mostly consistent his misses are starting to become more frequent. I'm imagining that 2016 may be the last year Nugent spends in Cincinnati, but he'll be around the middle of the pack for NFL kickers. Fans have been clamoring for a replacement kicker after Nugent’s rough start, but expect Marvin Lewis to give Nugent some time to get his composure back together.

P - Kevin Huber

  • The Cincinnati native, Huber has done great ever since being drafted by the Bengals. I expect this year to be no different as Huber will have another year in the top 10 for net yards.

KR - Alex Erickson and Rex Burkhead

PR - Alex Erickson and Adam Jones

  • Erickson will take on the load of kick returns duties with Jones taking one or two per game (usually in crucial situations) to provide a spark, but age and starting at corner limit his return snaps.

2016 Schedule Prediction

Week 1 @ NYJ - WIN

On September 11th the Jets will certainly be coming to play in the season opener and the Jets faithful will be as passionate as ever. However, the Bengals will be fresh and boast just too much talent for New York to handle right now. I'm giving the Bengals the edge in this one.

Week 2 @ PIT - WIN

Bengals fans seem to think this is a destined loss as it will be a divisional game without Burfict against the Steelers. However, I think with both sides perfectly healthy and with Martavis Bryant and Le’Veon Bell suspended I think the Bengals get the edge. Yes Pittsburgh fans, I know you have the killer B's. I don't care. You get your revenge later anyway.

Week 3 VS DEN - WIN

The Broncos undoubtedly have one of the best defenses in the NFL. However, the problem therein lies in the offense. I really don't expect to see any good quarterback play from the Broncos this year and a one dimensional team won't beat the Bengals. Plus this is a 1:00pm game so there's that to bode well for us.

Week 4 VS MIA - WIN

I thought last year the Dolphins would be a team on the rise, but that didn't exactly pan out. I still think Ryan Tannehill is a good QB for them and can make all the throws, but I don't think it's enough for them to win this one. They'll bait him into making some bad decision.

Week 5 @ DAL - WIN

A healthy Dallas team is scary. There's no denying that. So I wouldn't be surprised if this ends up being an L. However, I think the Bengals are on a roll at this point and don't have any injuries themselves. I think this is a game of the week type of contest that regulation can't decide. And, Tony Romo won’t be playing.

Week 6 @ NE - LOSS

New England is never an easy game. We've beaten them before, but those wins are rare and I don't expect to get another one here. Tom Brady is and seems like forever will be a weapon. He's just on his own other level playing the game. Normally I don't think a single player can beat your team, but Brady is an exception and he’ll be returning from his four game suspension in Week 5 before playing his first home game of the year against the Bengals in Week 6.

Week 7 VS CLE - WIN

The Bengals will be pumped up for their first game against Hue Jackson, and I'm sure Jackson will be the same way. I don't think Cleveland has enough this year talent wise to beat the Bengals when they're this focused and fired up.

Week 8 VS WAS (London game) - WIN

The Bengals are taking their first trip to Wembley stadium to face the Redskins. Redskins coach and former Bengals OC Jay Gruden certainly got the most out of his team in 2015. But I think the Redskins overachieved in 2015 and won't be able to have the same success this year. I know Kirk Cousins won't like that, but it's how I feel.

Week 9 Bye Week

The Bye Week wins again

Week 10 @ NYG - WIN

The Bengals come off a well deserved bye week following the London game and should be fresh for this Giants showdown. I think Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. will give the defense everything they can handle, but the Bengals will avoid a slow start after the bye week once again.

Week 11 VS BUF - WIN

Last year when we played Buffalo we didn't get to play Tyrod Taylor. He had a pretty great year and he's proven to be a very nice player for the Bills and I believe he'll be even better next year. However, I just don't think Rex Ryan is going to be able to make things work in Buffalo. They have some really nice talent there, but I don't see him being able to make the most of it.

Week 12 @ BAL - WIN

The first showdown with the Ravens doesn't come until week 12 this year. Both teams will probably be slightly banged up until then. I've heard stories of a ghost named Breshad Perriman that will appear when the planets align in a certain way. Maybe we'll see him. Baltimore will certainly be better than they were in 2015, but I don't know if it's enough to win.

Week 13 VS PHI - WIN

With a first year head coach it will be interesting to see how the Eagles play during this season. I'm expecting them to have some first year bumps with the coaching staff trying to figure out how they want to do things. They've got a lot of good talent as well, but I think 2017 is more likely to be their year. Still, at home, the Bengals should win.

Week 14 @ CLE - LOSS

And this is where I believe the trap part of our schedule starts. The Bengals will be looking forward to next week's big game vs PIT and Hue will still be looking for that first win vs Marvin. The Browns probably won't be a great team this year, but they just might squeeze out an upset here.

Week 15 VS PIT - LOSS

With the Bengals coming off a loss vs CLE I expect them to be somewhat reeling and overly emotional. This plays to the downfall of the Bengals more often than not. I expect the veteran and more cerebral Steelers players to take advantage of this to avoid the sweep.

Week 16 @ HOU - LOSS

So two losses in a row toward the end of the year. Things couldn't go worse right? Wrong. Playing the Texans in primetime is like having Superman eat a bowl of kryptonite for breakfast - it just never ends well. I also 100 percent guarantee this is a loss if they sign and play TJ Yates specifically for this game. Damn you to hell TJ.

Week 17 VS BAL - WIN

Three consecutive losses and one week to go till playoffs. The Bengals will likely have a lot to play for this week. Most likely a division title with either Pittsburgh or Baltimore as the competition. Either way, Lewis will get control of his team and the troops will rally around the veterans like Whitworth. They end the losing streak and avoid backing into the playoffs.

Season result: 12-4

Once in the playoffs, I expect the Bengals (with a healthy Andy Dalton) to get a Wild Card round win against the Raiders (who I believe will fall just behind the Chiefs in the AFC West). And then promptly lose in the Divisional round. Cincinnati will win a Super Bowl in spirit by getting the curse off their backs, but the celebration will be short lived.

As a range to follow, I believe it's safe to put the Bengals anywhere between 10-6 and 13-3. This is very much still a playoff team but team health will determine how far they get. My estimations by the breakdowns above would put them at 12-4.

Coaching Schemes


New OC Ken Zampese's scheme is a bit of a mystery. He's been a quarterbacks coach his entire time with the Bengals and served under 3 different offensive coordinators: Bob Bratkowski (Vertical Passing), Jay Gruden (West Coast), and Hue Jackson (Shifting Balanced Offense).

He has stated that the majority of his playbook is influenced by Hue Jackson. It remains to be seen what elements of Jackson's scheme like shifting, moving personnel to obscure positions (tackle Jake Fisher played some H-back and TE last year), etc. It will also be interesting to see if he uses some of Bratkowski's vertical offense to try and stretch defenses.

He has plans to move around and use Boyd in various positions and could also use Core in a similar role to how Jay Gruden utilized Andrew Hawkins while he was in Cincinnati. So far what we’ve seen of Zampese’s offense is extremely similar to Hue Jackson in terms of shifting and general scheme, but as the season progresses we should have a better idea of what kind of a play caller Zampese is, as well as what his tendencies are.


Paul Guenther's defense is very similar to Mike Zimmer's 4-3 in Minnesota. It relies on the majority of the pressure on the quarterback coming from the four down lineman without any additional pass rush. Rarely you'll see Guenther blitz one or two but more often than not he's either bringing everyone or noone at all.

Guenther came into his role of defensive coordinator after previously being the team's linebacker coach. He's turned some relatively unknown players like Emmanuel Lamur and Vinny Rey into some solid linebackers. People also credit him with making Vontaze Burfict into a success story in the NFL, but I believe in the case that talent was already there.

Alignment wise, Guenther likes to employ multiple fronts with the same personnel. He likes to move around his defensive lineman so you can see different lineman in different spots to see what the better matchup is.

Now, let’s get to the 2016 season!