Don’t tell Cincinnati Bengals safety George Iloka that his team’s season is over. And new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor will undoubtedly do everything he can to see to it that his grossly-underperforming offense answers the bell this week, as Cincinnati tries to claw its way out of the hole it has dug for itself.
Those are among the main topics discussed in this week’s version of The Flying Pigskin podcast, which is hosted by Tanya O’Rourke and features panelists Scott Kyser and Keenan Singleton. I will be a weekly feature on the program, as well.
In case you missed this week’s show, you can access the podcast by clicking here or listening below:
A.J. Green’s frustration boiled over after Sunday’s ugly loss to the Houston Texans when he noted that the Bengals needed to get their playmakers more involved in the game. Green’s version of “Give me the damn ball” seemed to be a factor in the switch from Ken Zampese to Bill Lazor as offensive coordinator.
But Green is not the only player who needs to become more heavily involved in this offense if the Bengals hope to salvage their season. Tyler Eifert, is he can stay healthy, can help open up the middle of the field and be a red-zone threat. Cincinnati also needs to get its running game figured out in a hurry. And John Ross needs to see more time on the field in whatever capacity.
But all of that may not make a lot of difference unless and until the offensive line woes are addressed. Because if the offensive line cannot block, not even Joe Montana would find success in this offense. It all starts up front.
And the easiest way to take the pressure off of Andy Dalton is to find a way to get the running game going. The Bengals have to be a threat to run the ball, which means that the guys up front have to find a way to block better. Or, we have to find other guys who can.
But the solution, at least at this point, is not to replace Dalton. Despite one of the worst games of his career in the opener, Dalton was better on Thursday night, although he still missed a lot of easy throws. Dalton is good enough to win games in this league, as his first six years have demonstrated, he just needs protection.
Iloka is confident that the Bengals can turn it around.
“We have a talented group of receivers, a talented group of running backs and a good quarterback,” Iloka said. “I know we have the talent and they’ll figure it out.”
Sunday’s game in Green Bay is going to present Cincinnati’s defense with a much bigger challenge that it has faced so far, especially for Iloka and his fellow defensive backs.
“[Aaron] Rodgers is a great passer and he does a good job extending plays with his feet,” Iloka noted. “We’re going to have to latch on to these guys.”
Iloka talked about his recent extension with the Bengals, and why he chose Cincinnati over other teams that had extended him offers. He also got engaged to his long-time girlfriend Gaby Barcelo during the summer, and produced his own music video to celebrate that fact.
No matter how good Iloka and his backfield mates are on Sunday, the Bengals will need to find their way into the end zone if they hope to avoid an 0-3 start. Lazor has his own challenges ahead in his first game as offensive coordinator. Will he be up to the task?
Lazor, who was offensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins throughout the 2014 season and into 2015, oversaw a Dolphins’ attack that produced a 4,000-yard passer in Ryan Tannehill and a 1,000-yard rusher in Lamar Miller in his first year at the helm.
But he was fired by Miami on November 30, 2015, after a loss to the New York Jets in which the Dolphins threw the ball 58 times while running it just nine times for a total of 12 yards. Interim head coach Dan Campbell described Lazor’s offense as “anemic.”
Lazor certainly has the pedigree to succeed. He worked under coaching legend Dan Reeves, as well as Hall of Fame head coach Joe Gibbs. He was the quarterbacks coach for Mike Holmgren and Jim Mora, Jr. in Seattle before leaving the NFL ranks to become the offensive coordinator at the University of Virginia in 2010.
In 2013, Lazor joined Chip Kelly as quarterbacks coach with the Philadelphia Eagles, and helped direct Nick Foles to a breakout season that saw him post the best TD-to-interception ratio in NFL history with 27 touchdowns and only two interceptions. Foles also led the NFL with a passer rating of 119.0, the third-best passer rating in history. Lazor left Philadelphia to join the Dolphins the very next season.
No one knows what lessons, if any, Lazor learned from his time with the Dolphins and whether he can overcome his old tendencies to be a pass-first, run-second offense. But, after an 0-2 start, it may already be too late to turn things around.
Do you think that Lazor can make a difference, or is the Bengals’ season already over? Check out the Flying Pigskin on twitter and let us know your thoughts
Be sure to tune in to The Flying Pigskin podcast this week, and every week hereafter. The show airs live every Monday afternoon.
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