The Bengals made a concerted effort to improve their offensive potency this offseason, drafting John Ross and Joe Mixon with their first and second round picks in the 2017 NFL Draft, respectively. Both players were hugely productive weapons in college and are expected to bring a missing element back to Cincinnati, according to Peter Schrager of NFL.com, to the Bengals’ offense.
Schrager thought the Bengals could win the Super Bowl last year and he’s still all-in on Cincinnati after the team drafted Ross and Mixon.
“Last year, they combined for 35 touchdowns, Ross and Mixon,” Schrager said on Good Morning Football. “Mixon might be awesome this year. You’ve got Gio Bernard and you’ve got Jeremy Hill. Where does Mixon fit in? Don’t worry. They’ll find a way to use him. Then, John Ross is this burner.”
One of the Bengals’ biggest problems in 2016 was the lack of potency on offense. In the passing game, the team rarely found much trouble moving the ball down the field as Andy Dalton topped 4,000 yards for just the second time in his career (4,206), although his 18 touchdown passes were the lowest of his career. The Bengals had high expectations after recording a franchise best 12-4 record in 2015. However, the team failed to meet those expectations, partly due to losing two of their top three wide receivers in the 2016 offseason.
“Last year, I thought they were going to the Super Bowl,” Schrager continued. “Sure enough, they missed the playoffs all together. I think they missed Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu a whole bunch. I feel like they wanted Boyd, out of Pitt, to be the guy. We thought there were going to be some other players who would step up. LaFell had some moments, but there wasn’t that No. 2 or No. 3 receiver. Last year, these guys had big years.”
With Ross and Mixon bringing their particular talents to the table, restoring the roar to the Bengals’ offense could be as simple as getting these two players involved as much as possible. With Ross’ blazing speed and proficiency on the deep ball, he should restore the competitive element the Bengals missed in the deep passing game, freeing up A.J. Green to do what he does best, make defenders pay in all areas of the field.
Mixon should help the Bengals restore some bite to their running game, which has been declining in the past two years as Jeremy Hill has consistently failed to live up to his rookie form. Mixon is expected to contribute in all areas of the offense, as opposed to just the running game, and should add new dimensions to the offense, forcing defenses to pay more attention to every potential offensive angle the Bengals can muster, rather than simply focusing on making sure Andy Dalton can’t find the endzone.
“The Bengals have long been the team where it’s like: ‘Alright, they’re gonna be okay. They’ll maybe go to the playoffs. They’ll lose in the first round. Is this the year the Bengals shock everyone and be like ‘no, no, last year wasn’t our team,” Schrager asked. “This is the year, with Ross and Mixon, we’re going to make that push?’”
Ultimately, the Bengals’ results in 2017 are going to hinge on how quickly their offensive rebuild can be effective. Selecting two top offensive prospects in the draft is one thing, but it is another thing entirely to make sure they are used correctly and to their full potential in the Bengals’ system.
With a more potent offense, the Bengals could have potentially been a playoff competitor last year. The defense allowed the eighth least points per game in the NFL last year (19.7), and the offense recorded the 13th most yards per game (359.6). Unfortunately, scoring was a huge problem, and one the team is counting on Mixon and Ross to help rectify.