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Bengals midseason awards 2017: Goat of the first 5 games

Who is to blame for the Bengals’ slow start and struggles this season?

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals started off the season 0-3, and it was a pretty ugly first three weeks of the season. Since then the Bengals have won two straight games There are still issues with the team, but which issue has been the most glaring? There is only one goat of the first five games, but first a few honorable mentions.

Honorable Mentions

Receivers not named A.J. Green: So much of the blame for the Bengals offensive struggles fell on Andy Dalton more deservedly the offensive line. Still, the Bengals have a serious issue with receivers not named Green. Ever since Marvin Jones Jr. and Mohamed Sanu left via free agency, the Bengals have struggled to fill the void.

This year Brandon LaFell has 15 catches for 108 yards, and Tyler Boyd has six catches for 43 yards. Boyd was also a healthy scratch during Week 2. These are just bad. Neither player is helping Dalton out enough. It also hurts that the Bengals first round pick John Ross has only been healthy for one game this season. Hopefully, he helps solve the problem, because, without Tyler Eifert, Green is going to need someone to take some attention off of him.

Offensive line: The offensive line has bee bad all season long. That isn’t a secret. Still, it has gotten better with Andre Smith being added in as a rotation with Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher. The tackles may have been the most glaring problem, but the interior offensive line has been bad as well. Trey Hopkins is returning from injury, so it may help not having T.J. Johnson out there at guard as he has been for most of the season now.

The pressure this offensive line has allowed forced the Bengals to change offensive coordinators after Week 2 because Ken Zampese couldn’t play call around such horrible protection. Bill Lazor has found ways to make it look better than it is, but it is something this team will have to overcome all season long.

Goat of the first five games

The coaching staff and front office: For as much as the honorable mentions are to blame for the Bengals' struggles, the coaching staff and front office deserves a standing ovation for their screw job so far this season.

It is hard to pick just one thing they’ve royally screwed up this offseason and season, but it is easy to start with the most obvious. They let Andrew Whitworth walk in free agency, which has been more egregious than letting Kevin Zeitler who signed a monster deal with Cleveland. Whitworth was the rock of this offensive line, and to let him go after watching Ogbuehi struggle for an entire season is mind-boggling. Even more, mind boggling they decided Smith was the only offensive tackle that the team brought in this offseason. Why didn't they bring in a veteran just in case Ogbuehi worked out? Your guess is as good as mine.

The front office, essentially Mike Brown, did do one thing right this offseason. He didn’t give Marvin Lewis an extension on his contract. He put some real presser on Lewis, and changes happened quickly this season. After two awful offensive performances, the team parted ways with Zampese. They also started playing the young guys in Week 3 after starting 0-2.

Why did it take so long to play these players who have obviously been better than their veteran counterparts? The Bengals spent a second-round pick on Joe Mixon, but it took them until Week 3 to actually play him more than Jeremy Hill.

The team also sat Ross in Week 2 after he fumbled early in the game on a huge end-a-round play. The coaching staff decided this was okay to do the same week that they didn’t dress Boyd forcing them to play Alex Erickson. Considering the Bengals lost to the Texans 9-13, it is hard to imagine Ross couldn’t have helped. It doesn’t help that the team still refuses to allow Cody Core or Josh Malone to have some playing time over LaFell who has just been average. Maybe Core and Malone aren’t better, but what is LaFell adding to the offense right now that he is playing almost every snap at receiver?

The Bengals got off to a terrible start, and it is even more frustrating seeing how easily it could’ve been avoided.