The Bengals offense was well behind what it should have been in 2017. Everybody knows that, and the organization has taken steps to fill in the gaps.
The good news is the Bengals offense already boasts real talent, including seven-time Pro Bowl selection A.J. Green. The offensive line had its problems, though, which hurt the whole unit. Andy Dalton also didn’t have the team’s best weapons at his disposal, since Tyler Eifert and John Ross both missed most of the season.
If you take those things into account, the Bengals offense should be pretty good this season, right?
Not if you ask ESPN’s Bill Barnwell. He ranked all 32 teams’ “offensive arsenals” and put the Bengals at 16.
Barnwell took every team’s offensive players into account, eliminating the offensive line and the quarterback. More weight was placed on receivers than running backs and tight ends, and high-end talent weighted more heavily than depth.
Basically, this was a list of how every team’s offense should be expected to run in 2018.
But why are the Bengals so low?
Here’s what Barnwell says:
If the Bengals could ever get all of their weapons on the field at the same time and protect Andy Dalton, they would be absolutely terrifying. Imagine a receiving corps with A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert, Tyler Boyd and 2017 ninth overall pick John Ross as the primary targets, and the duo of Gio Bernard and Joe Mixon working out of the backfield. Injuries limited several of those weapons in 2017, with Eifert and Ross combining for just five touches all season. Green’s impact was dulled by an offensive line that didn’t give Dalton enough time to find his star wideout. Investments in the line should help this group play up in 2018, although Eifert and Ross will perennially be question marks, given the injury histories.
Even though Barnwell says the Bengals offense should be “absolutely terrifying,” he has a hard time forgetting about 2017. He mentions the offense line and the injuries, and docks the Bengals accordingly.
There’s a few problems with that, though. First of all, the offensive line did hurt the team’s offensive production. Dalton had a hard time passing under pressure, and the running backs couldn’t find holes to run through.
However, the offensive line was not supposed to be taken into account. Barnwell treads on Green’s starpower by citing the offensive line, which is against the rules that he himself set.
Secondly, in an exercise that is supposed to be pretty much entirely theoretical, Eifert’s and Ross’ injury histories seem too realistic. This should be about evaluating talent alone, and history that has nothing to do with skill shouldn’t be included. Not to mention, its too early to say whether Ross will “perennially” be an injury question mark after one season.
All of that is to say, Barnwell should have stopped after “absolutely terrifying.”
At the end of the day, this is just one person’s opinion. But, if Barnwell’s opinion is that the Bengals will have the 16th-best skill-position unit next season, then that is fine. If your opinion is that he is wrong, then that is also fine.
What really matters isn’t anyone’s opinion at all. The thing that matters is how this team plays on the field come the start of the season.