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Is the 2018 Bengals coaching staff better than the 2015 group?

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The Bengals’ last good season was 2015. Can this group of coaches recapture that success?

Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns

While Marvin Lewis is still the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, after 15 seasons, it has only taken three years for the Bengals to turn over nearly their entire group of assistant coaches from their last successful season, which occurred in 2015.

On the offensive side of the ball, the offensive coordinator has changed twice - from Hue Jackson, to Ken Zampese, and most recently to Bill Lazor. Three of the five top offensive assistants have changed from 2015 to 2018.

Two of the changes are happening for the 2018 season (replacing Paul Alexander as offensive line coach, and James Urban as the wide receiver coach), and the third change happened last year with Ken Zampese no longer the quarterback coach, as he was in 2015.

On the defensive side of the ball, every defensive assistant has changed from the successful 2015 group which had the second best scoring defense in the NFL. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther is being replaced for the 2018 season with Teryl Austin. Both the defensive line coach and linebacker coaches were replaced last season, while the defensive backs coaches will be new for 2018.

Overall, the changes from the successful 2015 season to the upcoming 2018 season can be seen in the table below:

Bengals coaching changes from 2015 to 2018

Asst Coach 2015 2018
Asst Coach 2015 2018
Head Coach Marvin Lewis Marvin Lewis
Offensive Coordinator Hue Jackson Bill Lazor
Quarterback Ken Zampese Alex Van Pelt
O Line Paul Alexander Frank Pollack
Running Back Kyle Caskey Kyle Caskey
Wide Receiver James Urban Bob Bicknell
Tight End Jonathan Hayes Jonathan Hayes
Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther Teryl Austin
D Line Jay Hayes Jacob Buney
Linebackers Matt Burke Jim Haslett
Defensive Back Vance Joseph Robert Livingston
Defensive Back Mark Carrier Daronte Jones
Special Teams Darrin Simmons Darrin Simmons

So the big question is what to expect from the most recent group of coaches as the Bengals continue plugging away with changes. Can they get as much out of this team as we saw from the 2015 team that started out 8-0 with a 10-2 record before Andy Dalton got injured? Can they overcome Marvin Lewis and get that elusive playoff victory?

Offensively the biggest is change is from Jackson to Lazor at offensive coordinator. In Jackson’s last three seasons as an offensive coordinator, before his ugly 1-31 stretch in Cleveland, his offenses finished 6th, 15th, and 7th in point scored. This measures up favorably with Lazor, who has seen his offenses finish 11th, 27th, and 26th in his three years as an NFL offensive coordinator.

That seems to favor Jackson, although one bright spot for 2018 is that the Bengals’ offense seemed to figure things out after Lazor had a couple months with the offense. The Bengals ran for at least 130 yards in four of their last six games, which easily topped the 68.0 rushing yardage average they sported before that final stretch.

It’s difficult to make any definitive comparisons between the old and new quarterback coaches, since the new one is not yet in place. Under Ken Zampese Dalton only took limited steps forward from his first few seasons in the league and never really improved beyond league-average.

His deep ball inaccuracy and Han Solo tendency when facing any sort of pass rush still exist. Dalton is akin to a space-faring smuggler who dumps his load at the first sign of an imperial cruiser, throwing the ball away at the first sign of trouble. So this is probably a wash, unless the Bengals can grab a quarterback whisperer of sorts.

On the offensive line it would seem that just about any offensive line coach would be an upgrade over Alexander, who seemed to have a knack for poorly evaluating offensive line talent in the draft and on the roster. So, while any warm body would seem like an upgrade, the Bengals did much better than that with the hiring of Frank Pollack.

Since 2011 the Cowboys three highest drafted linemen have been Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zach Martin (with five All Pro awards and 13 Pro Bowl trips). In that same span the Bengals have drafted Kevin Zeitler, Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher as their three highest drafted linemen (with zero post season awards). The change from Alexander to Pollack seems like a positive one.

Defensively everybody has changed. At the top, both Austin and Guenther have been defensive coordinators for the past four seasons. Guenther has had better results, but has also had a better roster of players. Over the past few years, the Bengals have had slightly better drafts on the defensive side of the ball, but there is no guarantee how much input Austin and Guenther had in who their teams selected.

In 2015, the Bengals only allowed 1,477 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns. Austin will have some work to do in order to reach that target, given that last year’s team gave up over 2,000 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns.

At linebacker, it doesn’t seem the change from Burke to Haslett has made anything better, or worse. The linebackers still have troubles covering tight ends and running backs, and outside of Vontaze Burfict, who struggles to stay on the field, neither coach has been able to get too much out of their other linebackers, be it Rey Maualuga, Vincent Rey, or Nick Vigil.

The defensive backs coaches will be changing from the tandem of Vance Joseph and Mark Carrier to a yet to be named coordinator, with Kevin Coyle bridging the gap. Last year Dre Kirkpatrick seemed to take a step backwards, and the team still needs to develop Darqueze Dennard into a starting caliber cornerback. Adam Jones’ best days seem to be in the past, and the team needs to get a little better play from the safeties, so the new coordinator will have some work to do.

Although he will inherit a young William Jackson who had a phenomenal breakout season. Both Carrier and Joseph were highly thought of, and that 2015 team only gave up 18 passing touchdowns to 21 interceptions, so it may be difficult to recapture what they were able to do with the secondary.

What do you think, can the coaching staff that is shaping up for the 2018 season achieve the same level of success as the 2015 coaching staff was able to accomplish?