It’s been a tale of two seasons for the Cincinnati Bengals through their first seven contests. The past two losses have been particularly rough, for polar opposite reasons.
Still, at 4-3, they are alive in the division and AFC playoff picture. However, if they are to make a run to turn things around from two straight losing seasons, they will need to fix their focus on a number of areas on the team.
Here are a few friendly suggestions to Mike Brown and Marvin Lewis.
Don’t be afraid to make lineup changes and/or play other young players:
There are facets to the Bengals’ style of play that have been effective this year, but others that have been not so great. The easiest place to look is at the right side of the offensive line.
After letting up six more pressures on Sunday night, guard Alex Redmond is on pace to allow 73 this year. The most given up by any guard last season was 44.
Redmond is on pace for a not so nice 69 total pressures this year.— Goodberry (@JoeGoodberry) October 15, 2018
Last season's leader amongst guards gave up 44 total pressures.
2013: 48 https://t.co/XtuZ0Jr5HZ
Can Christian Westerman really be that much worse of an option, or is it simply something that points back to Lewis’ “practice the right way” mantra? Additionally, Bobby Hart seems to be good for killing about 1-2 drives a game with some sort of penalty or other issue.
There’s no doubt that the return of Billy Price will give the coaches some things to think about. Trey Hopkins hasn’t been outstanding at center, but he’s been capable, which is saying something because right guard is his primary position. Might a Price/Hopkins lineup help things?
Things haven’t been much better on the defensive line, either. Some of the better performances and big plays up front have come from heavy rotations of guys like Sam Hubbard, Jordan Willis and Carl Lawson.
However, Michael Johnson is still receiving more snaps than some of these youngsters and that’s tough to see. This is especially true, given the fact that he had some missed tackles on Kareem Hunt on Sunday night.
We don’t like to individually point out certain players, especially a great guy like Johnson, but similar issues keep recurring. And, at times when certain seasons have been lost under Lewis and he finally decided to give some young guys more chances, it’s led to some improbable wins.
Feed Joe Mixon at least 25 times a game:
Mixon was averaging a whopping 5.8 yards per carry against the Steelers and is currently at 4.6 on the year. It’s a big jump from his 3.5 average in 2017, and points to at some improvement up front on the offensive line, as well as his increased comfort level in the scheme.
He only had a 3.8 yard average against the Chiefs, but some gashing runs were still available. Mixon has also improved a bit as a receiver this season, making some difficult catches. Currently, Mixon is averaging 20 touches per contest (16.8 rushes, 3.2 catches).
With the injuries piling up at the pass-catching positions (Tyler Eifert, Tyler Kroft, John Ross, Giovani Bernard), and a lack of growth shown from Cody Core and Josh Malone, the need to rely on the run a bit more should be a priority. It will take some heat off of Andy Dalton and potentially keep the offense in more manageable third down situations.
Look for outside help before the trade deadline:
This one very well may be a pipe dream, given the conservative nature of this franchise, but it’s something definitely worth exploring. The Arizona Cardinals reportedly have a trio of talented defensive players on the trading block in Patrick Peterson, Haason Reddick and Deone Bucannon, which could immediately help Cincinnati’s beleaguered defensive unit.
Given who owner Mike Brown is and this team’s reluctance to spend big-time money on outside help, Peterson isn’t a reality. However, Reddick is on the second year of a manageable rookie deal, while Bucannon could potentially help the ever-lingering problem of covering tight ends.
That’s just scratching the surface of what’s out there, though. Help because of injuries (tight end) or ineffectiveness at certain positions (offensive line) seems to be needed in a big way. They definitely can make a move to improve their team down the stretch.
It’s really about organizational attitude here. If you really think you’re very close this year and one or two additions can push you back into being atop the AFC North, you do it.
However, seeing as how that’s been the perception about the team the past few seasons when free agency rolls around and Cincinnati remains relatively quiet on that front, we aren’t expecting much on this front—even it is an effective strategy.