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Bengals passing game receives little love in PFF ranking

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Expect the Bengals’ passing game to be a top-10 unit at some point in the 2017 season, even if it’s not thought of that way before the season begins.

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NFL: Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no denying the Cincinnati Bengals have a world of potential on offense.

However, potential is merely the possibility that something can go well, not a reality. The reality is the Bengals finished 15th in passing offense and 26th in passing scores last season. The team has the potential to be much better this season, but until they prove so, they won’t get much love in preseason rankings.

The Pro Football Focus gang just put out their rankings of the best passing games in the NFL this season. You would think the Bengals would be getting a little more love than the 14th spot that PFF put them in, but the analytics service does think Cincinnati’s group of pass-catchers could outshine this ranking.

14. Cincinnati Bengals

Highlighting the Bengals at No. 14 is obviously WR A.J. Green, whose 116.3 passer rating when targeted was good enough for 12th best in the league. Brandon LaFell saw the 25th highest at 106.1 and Tyler Boyd hauled in the 12th most yards from the slot. In addition to Green, LaFell and Boyd, RB Giovani Bernard finished with the 15th highest yards per route run among running backs while fielding the 10th highest receiving grade out of the backfield. QB Andy Dalton had success throwing at his onslaught of targets, fielding the 11th highest adjusted completion percentage, and factoring in TE Tyler Eifert with the rookie combination of speedy-John Ross, big-bodied Josh Malone and the all-around talents of RB Joe Mixon, and don’t be surprised if the Bengals don’t rise from No. 14.

In terms of sheer talent and depth, the Bengals have one of the best groups of offensive talent any NFL team will field in 2017.

Green and Eifert are among the best players at their respective positions across the league. Mixon was arguably the most talented running back in this year’s NFL Draft. Ross is a burner who will upgrade any offense. And of course, as any great offense requires, Andy Dalton is a franchise quarterback.

The hope is the combination of these players will develop into an offense that will strike fear into opposing defenses. The problem is, that hope relies heavily on rookies like Ross and Mixon making a big impact, something that is far from a sure thing for any rookie entering the NFL.

Then there’s the durability of Eifert, who has yet to show he can make it through a full season as a full-time starter. The Bengals are very dangerous when he’s on the field, but the best ability an athlete can possess is availability, and that’s something Eifert has been severely lacking.

And as much talent as the skill-position players possess, there’s reason to think they’ll have trouble showcasing that behind an offensive line considered one of the league’s worst by PFF. A bad offensive line can ruin even the most talented offense, and there’s a real concern — at least from a national perspective — that will play out in Cincinnati this season.

With that said, there’s plenty of reason to believe in Dalton, Green, Eifert and the rest of this offense finding a way to make it work this season. I feel very good about this passing game finishing as a top-10 unit when all is said and done. Let’s just hope that translates to more wins than we saw in 2016 and a return to the postseason.