If you were the Bengals’ general manager, and remember, the Bengals don’t actually have a general manager, how would you improve the team in 2017?
The Ringer’s Michael Lombardi took a crack at addressing the Bengals’ biggest issues and how to fix those issues in 2017, but, he made it pretty clear that he doesn’t know much about the Bengals in the process.
Update the offensive line
The Bengals most definitely need to add reinforcements along the offensive line after a down year for the unit in 2016. But, the biggest problem with at the right tackle position, which saw Cedric Ogbuehi, Eric Winston and Jake Fisher start games at the position. But, Lombardi suggests it’s the left tackle position that needs fixing and that the Bengals need an upgrade over veteran left tackle Andrew Whitworth, one of the best left tackles in the NFL. Hopefully, the Bengals bring Whitworth back in free agency, and no upgrade will be needed at left tackle, just right tackle. If Whitworth isn’t re-signed, then, yes, the Bengals will have a serious need at left tackle as Ogbuehi cannot be trusted to start there in 2017.
Improve pass rush at linebacker position
Yes. This one is correct. The Bengals need athletic linebackers who can matchup with the NFL’s elite tight ends and who can get to opposing quarterbacks. Rey Maualuga should be cut and the Bengals need to utilize Nick Vigil and hopefully add a new athletic linebacker to join the corps. But, it’s not just the linebacker group that needs to be upgraded when it comes to pass rushing. The Bengals need a defensive end to replace Michael Johnson after a lackluster season in which his starting role was not deserved. The team has made it clear it will be doing that in the draft.
Establish a strong wide receiver group
The Bengals are en-route to having a dominant wide receiver group, headlined by A.J. Green and rounded out by Tyler Boyd, Cody Core and Alex Erickson. But, the Bengals need a receiver who can stretch the field and the team will be looking for that in the NFL Draft, and maybe in free agency, too. Lombardi doesn’t think Brandon LaFell is that guy.
Invest in your cornerbacks
For some reason, Lombardi doesn’t think the Bengals have invested in the cornerback position, even though the 2016 roster had four first round cornerbacks and the 2017 roster has three first round cornerbacks, with the potential for four once again depending on whether Dre Kirkpatrick re-signs with the team in free agency. The Bengals re-signed Adam Jones in 2016, even though that proved to be a bad decision. Still, that was an investment in the position. The Bengals are in a pretty good spot with their cornerback unit in 2017, even if much of the talent on the roster is young. Further investment here isn’t among my priority list for Cincinnati.
Upgrade at kicker
Now, I would rank this higher than the fifth most important way for the Bengals to improve and Lombardi admitted he could have ranked it higher, too. My problem here is that Lombardi says the reason the Bengals need a good kicker is because Andy Dalton is unable to throw touchdown passes. Dalton has proven that’s far from the truth. His passing touchdowns were down in 2016, but that was largely due to Green and Tyler Eifert missing about half the season each and the other receivers being in their first year in Cincinnati. It took some time for Dalton to develop chemistry with LaFell, Boyd and Core and next season should see improvement from the group and a rise in Dalton’s touchdown numbers. The reason the Bengals need a good kicker is because it’s unacceptable to miss multiple extra points in a game and fail to make any field goals from a distance greater than 50 yards. Mike Nugent did both of those things in 2016 and contributed heavily to many Bengals losses. The Bengals need a kicker who can contribute heavily to wins, while never (or very, very rarely) being the cause of a loss. Has Justin Tucker lost the Ravens any games? Or even contributed negatively to a game? The Bengals have made it clear the team will do everything it can to improve this position in 2017.
What do you think are the five most important things the Bengals need to do to improve in 2017?