Marvin Lewis talked about quite a few things Monday after the Cincinnati Bengals lost 29-14 to the Steelers. One of the major things he hit on was how the rest of the offense has to start becoming a threat.
“Yes, they have to keep emerging. We have to connect with them, and when we do that, things will be fine,” Lewis said during his Monday press conference. “Brandon LaFell did a nice job yesterday, had a few opportunities. Tyler Kroft has taken advantage of the opportunities. Alex Erickson had a great third down conversion in the middle of the field. All those things have to happen to keep us going.
“As we know, we had the opportunity in the first series in the third quarter, and we miss over there to Cody (Core). We have to connect on those, and that’s (means) everybody involved. We have to make sure that the protection and everything matches. All those things have to fit when you throw the football, and we know we have a really good player in A.J. Green, but we have to make sure everybody else is where they need to be when they need to be there, all the time.”
One of the obvious positions that need to emerge are the receivers not named A.J. Green. This was probably the best week for a receiver who wasn’t Green. LaFell caught four passes including the Bengals first touchdown of the game. That was LaFell’s first touchdown of the season, and also the only touchdown scored by another receiver.
Looking at receiving stats from other receivers is just sickening. Giovani Bernard is currently the second leading receiver on the team (163 yards) followed by Kroft (162 yards). LaFell currently has 132 yards, but no other receiver has over 100 yards on the season.
Tyler Boyd missed last week due to injury, and he was a healthy scratch in Week 2. Still, Boyd should be producing more in his second season. Cody Core also didn’t do much last game despite playing close to half of the offensive snaps. Josh Malone also saw his first action this week.
The next best receiver on the list after LaFell is Erickson who has 96 yards on six catches this season, and I think it's time we start seeing more of him on the field. He hardly played on Sunday, but he managed to get open for a huge third-down conversion and gain 22 yards. The team should also have John Ross back next week after he practiced fully on Friday, but the team is making sure he is fully healthy and ready when he returns.
Another group that needs to step up is the offensive line. We can pick on these receivers for not producing, and they deserve blame. However, the offensive line isn’t giving the receivers time to get open.
The Bengals have done the best to try and cover their mistake of relying on Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher this season by rotating in Andre Smith, but it clearly doesn’t work against a team that has an actual pass rush like the Steelers.
The one bright spot from all of this is Tyler Kroft really has played quite well in relief of Tyler Eifert. He caught a touchdown last week, which ties him with Green for three touchdowns on the season. He has also been a reliable run blocker, but he has always been that during his time with Cincinnati.
Lewis mentions how also these positions need to come together to get the passing game to work, but here is some free advice for the coach. Having a successful run game helps all of this run smoother.
When the defense doesn’t know whether a pass or run is coming, it helps the offensive line with protection. When the run game is going, it forces the defense to try and adjust to that, which opens up lanes to throw the ball.
If you give your rookie running back who was averaging 6.9 yards per carry the ball, it cuts down the chances of your quarterback throwing a turnover against the best pass defense in the NFL.
These position groups need to step up, but the coaches aren’t doing them any favors by calling the game the way they did against the Steelers.