Week 1 of the NFL season is one of the best times of the year. Hopes are high, expectations are higher and the excitement is plentiful. “This is our year” is a phrase heard from fans across the nation.
Can the Bengals make it to the Super Bowl? Why should we have hopes for Cincinnati this season? With opening weekend in the NFL upon us, we gathered our staff to offer their thoughts on what makes them most excited about the Bengals this season.
Share your thoughts in the comments on what you’re most excited to see from the Bengals in 2017!
I'm most excited about all the young players making contributions to the team this year. I can't remember a recent year where I felt so good about the Bengals’ depth across the board than I do right now. I think in years past the injury bug has been what's hindered the Bengals and the team hasn’t had the right talent to step up and replace those guys. This year I feel pretty confident that a lot of young players are capable of getting the job done if called upon. Particularly defensively, I think the additions of Chris Smith, Jordan Willis, Jordan Evans and Carl Lawson will be a huge down the stretch to the front seven.
The No. 1 reason I am excited about the Bengals this year is the young guns on the defensive line. With Lawson, Willis and even Smith providing the push up front, I could easily see the Bengals returning to a top-5 defense in the NFL, and not just in scoring.
I'm excited because there's been a shift in some positions and we have young players like Willis, Lawson and Smith offer something to look forward to. I'm also excited because of Joe Mixon; it's been a few years since the Bengals last had an electric running back who could make things happen. No disrespect to Giovani Bernard, but he's never been their horseback, and there's a chance Mixon can become that.
I'm excited because this roster is essentially the same or better at almost every position from the one that went 12-4 in 2015. If the offensive linemen can hold up and the team can stay healthy, we could see another run like the Bengals had just a couple seasons ago.
My excitement is always ramped up each season simply because I love football and I am a massive Bengals fan like the rest of us. If I had to choose one reason in particular that has the utmost influence on my excitement, it would probably have to be the versatility, speed and potential the team has this season. The offensive line may bring some angst, but it is far outweighed by one of the best running back units in the league with the new addition of Mixon. There’s also the top 10 receiver corps with the addition of John Ross, and a lot of extra speed on defense. By Week 6, I want to see the rhythm of the team rolling like a well-running train that cannot be brought to a halt without the help of Hulk himself. As long as the team can stay healthy, the sky is the limit.
I'm particularly excited about the amount of young talent ready to produce this year. Guys like John Ross, Joe Mixon, Carl Lawson, and Jordan Willis might be new, but they already look like they're on pace to be huge contributors. They should be a big part of the difference between the struggles we saw in 2016, and the success we anticipate in 2017.
In short, I'm excited about the speed and youth the team injected into the roster this offseason. While the team had talent in a lot of spots last year, we saw age, injuries and a lack of speed catch up at the linebacker, defensive end and wide receiver positions.
Cincinnati's staff made a number of additions in the draft and free agency and improvements were seen this preseason. Willis, Lawson, Evans and Kevin Minter should all be upgrades on defense, while Ross, Josh Malone and Mixon provide some extra sizzle on offense.
It might take some of these guys a little bit to truly contribute, but the ceiling looks high. Because of these new players, we should see a more exciting brand of football than the often-bland version we saw from the 6-9-1 club last year.
I'm excited about the young defensive line. We've seen glimpses of what Smith, Andrew Billings, Willis, Lawson and Ryan Glasgow can do in the preseason. Now, we'll get to see all of them playing together with Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap on a regular basis, making this a scary unit with a ton of potential. Watching the pass rush last year was painful, but this year, it has the potential to be the most enjoyable part of this team to watch.
I'm excited about the intriguing injection of youth on both sides of the ball. Guys like Evans, Lawson and Willis appear to be young athletic players that the defense craved in 2016. Also, guys like Billings and William Jackson are set to make an impact on the defense as well. Then on offense guys like Mixon and Ross certainly look the part. I'm very excited to see how these young guys play when the game counts.
I'm most excited to see this younger product on the field finally. I want to see how quickly guys like Lawson and Willis can make an impact rushing the passer. It’s also time to see two of the most exciting picks from last year, Jackson and Billings, show if they were worth the wait after they both missed last season due to injury.
I’m going in a different direction than all of the above. I’m excited to see if the Bengals truly are in win-now mode with Marvin Lewis entering a contract year. Will we see a difference from the conservative tendencies Lewis has typically employed in Cincinnati? Will rookies truly play early and often this season? Will under-performing players take a seat on the bench? I’m excited to see Dalton, A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert on the field at the same time and can’t wait to see how Dunlap and Atkins do with heightened talent around them. How can the mix of young and veteran players combine to create a team that’s clicking on all cylinders and able to beat the league’s best teams? I can’t wait to see Ken Zampese improve in his second year as a coodinator and how the Bengals create a winning rotation at running back.
It’s Week 1 and anything can happen. Will the Bengals bounce-back from last year’s mess? We can only hope so and look for the Bengals to prove it starting on Sunday.