The only thing good about the loss the Bengals suffered on Thursday night is that they got essentially a mini bye week to prepare for their Week 3 matchup. The Bengals started as poorly as any team could start a season, and they needed all the time possible to do some soul searching. The Bengals also had time to make some subtle changes to the offense as Bill Lazor takes command as offensive coordinator after Ken Zampese was shown the door.
The Bengals have a tall task ahead of them on Sunday. It is their first road game, and it is at Lambeau Field against the Packers. The Packers are also coming off an embarrassing loss on primetime television, so maybe they are feeling a little down on themselves. They are also incredibly banged up. The Packers have 13 players on their injury report. They also just placed rookie tackle Jason Spriggs on Injured Reserve, which is a huge blow to their offensive line. Nick Perry is also scheduled to have surgery on his injured hand, which opens the door for former Bengals’ linebacker Ahmad Brooks to play against his former team.
Despite all of this, it will still be an uphill battle for the Bengals to prove this season isn’t over already, but here are the five players who need to perform well to turn this season around:
UPDATE: ROSS HAS BEEN RULED OUT AND WILL NOT PLAY ON SUNDAY.
Ross had a disappointing debut, but it wasn’t entirely his fault. Ross finished the night with one rush attempt for 12 yards and zero targets. He fumbled on his only touch of the game and was benched. It is frustrating how that was handled considering the struggles the Bengals were having on offense. Still, Ross needs to show up in this game. Having him on the field changes how the defense plays. It prevents teams from essentially triple covering A.J. Green because they have to provide safety help to that side of the field. We need to see something from Ross to show us he was worth that ninth overall pick. Unfortunately, Ross was a non-participant on Thursday in practice with a knee injury. It’s unclear if that’s something new, or related to his preseason injury. But either way, it could limit or keep him out on Sunday. Keep an eye on the injury reports coming Friday afternoon and the inactives list on Sunday morning.
Playing against Aaron Rodgers is never easy. He has the ability to throw the ball anywhere on the field, and he has an impressive ability to extend a play. That means coverage has to hold up longer than usual.
Iloka will be tasked with making sure there aren’t any huge plays that the Packers offense thrives on. He will also have to make sure the rest of the secondary knows what they’re doing because one miscommunication could lead to a touchdown pretty quickly.
Green was very vocal after the Bengals’ loss on Thursday night, and he demanded that he and the other play makers need to get the ball more. Well, he is going against a secondary that is coming off a fresh roasting in Atlanta, and without Tyler Eifert, Green becomes the main target of Andy Dalton’s focus.
Green needs to have a huge game in order for the Bengals to come away with this upset. He is going to have to make plays in coverage that we are use to him making. It is more on the offense to get the ball his way more, but Green should expect a healthy amount of targets. It is up to him to do something with them.
If not now, then when? At what point do the Bengals trot Mixon out there and give him 20 carries to show us if he is capable of taking over a game? Do we wait until the season is too far gone?
Lazor should make it a point of emphasis to get Mixon going while sprinkling in Giovani Bernard. The Bengals can’t afford to keep giving Jeremy Hill non-goal line touches that only get the offense off schedule. If the Bengals are going to turn this season around they need a productive running game, and that is something Mixon has the ability to provide.
No matter what, this game will likely be decided by Dalton. All other players need to perform when it is their time to shine, but Dalton needs to get the ball to his play makers and move his team down field. Dumb mistakes aren’t an option when facing the Packers because Rodgers can score with ease.
Dalton improved last week by avoiding turning over the ball, but he has still failed to throw a touchdown this season. The problem is bigger than that because the Bengals failed to even score a touchdown this season, period. Nine points in two games is unacceptable for any team.
Lazor may be the answer in getting Dalton into rhythm with this offense, but at the end of the day, Dalton can’t be missing on crucial throws. Dalton isn’t innocent from the Bengals’ struggles, but this is his opportunity to get it right with an upset against the Packers.