This week, Bengals fans are walking that fine line that comes with losing to the rival Pittsburgh Steelers. Talk about it to vet possible improvements, or just gloss over it and move on?
Regardless, Cincinnati faces a huge test against the Kansas City Chiefs this Sunday night. On a variety of different platforms, we received a number of great questions this week.
On this week’s Orange and Black Insider episode, one of our regular callers gave us a ring and asked us a couple of interesting questions. The first was about John Ross and the possibility of trading him.
We understand his underwhelming year and a half with the team, but you have to stick with the No. 9 overall pick. If you hadn’t noticed, things haven’t quite been the same on offense since Ross left the lineup after the Week 4 game against the Falcons. With Cody Core’s issues on Sunday, as well as the injuries to Tyler Eifert and Tyler Kroft, Ross is a necessary commodity for now.
The second part of the question resided in an updated look at what the Bengals could do in the 2019 NFL Draft. Seeing as how we don’t expect Mike Brown to make a last-minute trade move to improve the roster this year, we have an idea as to what this Bengals team needs going forward.
It looks something like this: linebacker, offensive linemen, tight end, linebacker, defensive tackle and linebacker.
Did I mention linebacker?
I don’t want to rake the guys in Jim Haslett’s group over the coals, but it’s been a unit that has been neglected, hit by injury and stockpiled with players who aren’t that effective in today’s NFL.
The debates at defensive tackle and linebacker are particularly intriguing. Cincinnati has never spent anything higher than a second round pick on an interior defensive lineman in the Marvin Lewis era, though rumors persisted that they wanted Sedrick Ellis in 2008.
Meanwhile, Lewis built his reputation as a linebacker guru with both the Steelers and the Ravens, yet that hasn’t really been the case in Cincinnati. Guys like Rey Maualuga and Vontaze Burfict have been leaned upon, but other rental deals and fizzle-outs have plagued the group over the past 15 years.
Because of the trend of NFL offenses, in a weird way, we can kind of see why the Bengals were obsessed with the Taylor Mays experiment for so long. Teams are fixated on athletic guys who can not only tackle, but also guard either tight ends and/or quick guys out of the slot.
The problem is that those players are few and far between. So, when you identify them, you have to go get them.
So what’s the problem? Well, Mike Brown and Marvin Lewis don’t like to sacrifice draft capital to move up for potential franchise-changing players—in almost any scenario.
This unfortunately goes back to a number of different posts on Cincy Jungle and other arguments we’ve had over the years. Because of the Bengals’ preference to rely on the draft, their designated placements in the spring activities is good enough for them.
Sure, this offseason was a bit of an anomaly, as Cincinnati swapped their first round pick with the Bills for tackle Cordy Glenn. But, this was still a move back and we all still wonder about the team’s actual preference of Billy Price versus Frank Ragnow.
Unfortunately, for the Bengals, what this means for them in the draft is that they essentially need to strike gold more often than other teams. That’s just the case when you don’t go after top-tier free agents and fail to maneuver regularly in the draft.
It’s funny how one game, or even one half can change perceptions of things. Because the Bengals lost to the rival Steelers in a very tight game, the decisions the 16-year Bengals head coach made in the game have rightfully come under scrutiny.
The most egregious of short-term decisions came in the early portion of the third quarter. The Bengals had some big momentum coming out of the halftime gun, as they had just scored a touchdown to tie the game right before the break.
Cincinnati used just 48 seconds at the end of the second quarter, as Andy Dalton hit Tyler Boyd to culminate a solid first half. It’s no coincidence that a very similar drive occurred towards the end of the game.
To start the third quarter, Alex Erickson had his second great kickoff return in the game to set the Bengals up at midfield. Cincinnati was in great position to get points once again, yet squandered the opportunity because of a specific decision.
Facing a 4th-and-1, Cincinnati opted to punt the ball at the Steelers’ 40-yard line. Obviously, in the rain, a 57-yard field goal attempt wasn’t in the cards. Yet, in Lewis’ infinite wisdom, an offense with Joe Mixon, A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd was deemed unable to net one yard in a critical matchup—at home.
Frankly, the decision is a microcosm of the entire Steelers/Bengals “rivalry”. Oftentimes, as many Bengals fans have been quick to point out over the past few days, Lewis plays “not to lose” instead of going for the throat.
Of course, hindsight is 20-20, and at the time, there was logic to Lewis’ decision. In a tie game at home with rough weather, Lewis wanted to play what he felt were some of the old school odds.
However, what he failed to realize was that momentum was largely already on the Bengals’ side at the time. Cincinnati had the Pittsburgh defense on the ropes because of what happened at the end of the second quarter, and, quite frankly, if you can’t gain a yard with those skill position players at home in opponents’ territory, I’m not sure you’re deserving of a win anyway.
For years, fans have always pinned Lewis to the wall for his laissez-faire approach to minimal clock time before the half, etc. Yet, in an interesting twist of fate, Lewis got uber-conservative in the third quarter, instead of continuing to unleash the offense.
This was after the team decided to get aggressive before the halftime gun. Huh? And, if you’re wondering about Lewis’ regrets, his quotes won’t ever reflect an atonement.
Marv on 4rth and 1 and punting: I'm not going to give them the ball there— Geoff Hobson (@GeoffHobsonCin) October 15, 2018
But, you did just that, Marv...
When we recorded this week’s Orange and Black Insider, fans were wondering about the future of seventh round pick, Auden Tate. Core dropped two critical passes on Sunday against the Steelers and fans began clamoring for Tate to be activated thanks to his strong offseason.
Hey, guys! Of all the things regarding the loss. Don't you think they should've activated Tate? One could argue that he isn't prepared, but c'mon worst than Core (who didn't catch a pass for almost 2 years) I bet he isn't.— Carlos André (@CarlosAndre31) October 17, 2018
The activation of Tate also would have made sense, given the idea that the Bengals may want to experiment with him in a tight end-like role. Eifert is done for the year again and Kroft won’t be back until later this season, so getting more able pass-catchers in the fold couldn’t hurt.
After we took the air on Wednesday night, Cincinnati promptly dropped Tate from the roster to bring up KeiVarae Russell from the practice squad. The team has since brought back Tate on the practice squad after he cleared waivers, and it’s been a mixed bag of opinions from everyone in Bengaldom since the news hit.
I’m a little surprised by it myself, but in taking a step back from things, I can see the logic. And, by “logic”, I mean both from an outsider’s perspective as well as from within the organization.
First, for the short term, Cincinnati has issues in the secondary. Whether it’s in their trio of former first round corners being banged up to various degrees, their 28th ranking against the pass, or their upcoming matchups against Patrick Mahomes, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers, another able cornerback is needed.
And, for better or worse, Lewis loves guys who can contribute on special teams. Tate never showed the ability to do so, and it’s why Thomas Rawls was never activated before being released from the squad this year. Core may have had issues on offense last week, but he remains a valued gunner on Darrin Simmons’ unit.
When it’s all said done, for those who wished Tate would have given a chance on offense, you’re not wrong. But, even with Core’s drops Tate’s release makes overall sense—primarily because of the addition of Russell.
Our thanks to the OBI listeners and CJ followers for their great questions this week. Tune in to the Orange and Black Insider to have yours answered on air, or submit them via Twitter @BengalsOBI, @CJAnthonyCUI and/or @CincyJungle.
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