As fans, we expected big changes this offseason after another losing season.
Even though the Bengals went 7-9 they looked down right bad all season. They lost plenty of games they should’ve won, and they got blown out more than a good team should. Mike Brown followed up the disappointing season by re-signing Marvin Lewis for two more years.
The only major changes to the coaching staff come via Paul Guenther being replaced By Teryl Austin and Frank Pollack replacing Paul Alexander.
How can they change the idea that we are getting a ticket for the same show?
Well, here are five ways that Patrick Carlisle thinks the Bengals can prove they are serious about winning in 2018.
Re-sign Tyler Eifert to a one-year deal
Sure, Tyler Kroft had a pretty good season filling in for Eifert. Kroft caught seven touchdowns on the season. The issue is how obvious it was that Andy Dalton and the Bengals offense missed Eifert. Kroft struggled to win one-on-one battles outside of the red zone, which is something Dalton relies on from his tight end when everything breaks down.
Eifert also drew a ton of attention from opposing defenses. When he was healthy, teams would have to make sure they were bracketing coverage on him, and when you combine that with having to double A.J. Green, either one of Dalton’s premiere targets were one-on-one or one of the supporting cast receivers had an easier time getting open.
Last season was filled with teams doubling Green and daring Dalton to beat them using the likes of Brandon LaFell and Tyler Boyd. There is the obvious injury risk with Eifert, but signing him to a one-year deal with incentives for being active could be something Eifert is forced to take in his situation.
Draft and play instant-impact rookies
Last year, the Bengals started to change this. When the team finally started playing guys like Joe Mixon and Carl Lawson, you saw a big difference in how well the team did. Both proved to be impact guys early on.
This is a rarity for the Bengals under Lewis. He likes to bring rookies along at a snail's pace. He comes from a time when it was better to let guys learn for most of a season before putting them out there, but times are changing. You see all over the league how many rookies are making instant impacts for their team, and it isn’t by accident either.
The first thing these teams do is draft players who are ready to play. The Bengals have been known for taking guys like Cedric Ogbuehi, who at the time fell in the draft because of his injury late during his college career. This meant that he had to sit and wait to heal, then rehab and then finally get his NFL legs under him.
That is all well and great when it works out, but when Ogbuehi failed to develop into an NFL tackle it looks really bad. This style of drafting also works when your team is deep with talent. Maybe you’re drafting an eventual replacement for a player in a couple of years, and you don’t have a glaring need at another position. The Bengals have several big needs that need to be filled before next season. They are going to have to fill a few of those early in the draft.
The next thing the Bengals will have to do is actually play those rookies. They will have rookie moments, but you have to believe they can learn from those and get better.
Get John Ross ready and involved
One of Bill Lazors’ most important tasks next season is to get Ross involved. Ross is still looking for his first career reception, and that is just unacceptable. The way the Bengals sat Ross in Week 2 after his fumble should be the example of what not to do next season.
This guy was a top 10 pick, and he needs to be able to show he can make an impact at a position the Bengals desperately need help at. Too often Lewis publicly criticized Ross for little mistakes that need to be worked through by actually playing in real games.
It is simple. The Bengals need someone who can beat one-on-one coverage created by Green, and the Bengals drafted Ross to be that guy. They should make sure he involved early and often during the offseason programs in order to get him and Dalton on the same page for the season.
Don’t be afraid of free agency
The Bengals are set to have roughly $35 million in cap space, and they could have more if they cut players like Adam Jones and Michael Johnson. By cutting those two, the Bengals could get $13 million more in cap space. They have also talked about extending Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap, which could be covered by easily by that $48 million. There would still be room for the Bengals to add some quality free agents.
Now we aren’t suggesting the Bengals go out and sign the top guys, but the Eagles showed you can bring in a number of second or third tier free agents and get a big return from them.
They will have to bring in some players to patch a few holes, so they aren’t drafting based solely on need.
Wheel and deal
They Bengals have been known for their low risk trades. Last season, they acquired Chris Smith from the Jaguars for a sixth round pick. He ended up being a great addition as he provided serious depth at pass rusher. They also traded away Marquis Flowers to the Patriots when it was clear that he was going to be cut.
They can expand this a little by getting rid of players that simply aren’t working for them. A great example of this would’ve been trading Jeremy Hill away last season. It was clear Mixon was going to be the guy as soon as the Bengals drafted him. It was also clear that Hill wasn’t going to be re-signed.
Considering Hill did have a period of success in this league, they probably could’ve turned him into a late draft pick instead of having to wait for a compensatory selection. That compensatory pick could end up being way lower than what the Bengals could’ve gotten.
The Bengals will also have to keep an ear open for cheap deals like they did with Smith this year. Last year the Eagles brought in Jay Ajayi for only a fourth-round pick, and he ended up being a a great addition to that run game. There may be a team looking to unload player like that at linebacker or offensive line this season.
A move like that could end up making a huge difference next season.