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Coaching changes could define the Bengals’ 2018 season

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The change to Frank Pollack as offensive line coach has gotten a lot of attention, but a new defensive coordinator and other new assistant coaches may have just as much of an impact.

Bengals v Bills Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images

Marvin Lewis has led the Bengals to greater heights than they have reached since the 1980s.

The team has had the greatest success when Lewis has been able to assemble a dynamite coaching staff. Bringing in Frank Pollack to replace Paul Alexander as offensive line coach has been talked about a lot this off season, but the Bengals have made several changes that could have a major impact on the team moving forward.

Offensive Changes

Bill Lazor is not a new addition at offensive coordinator, but this season will define him as the Bengals’ play caller. He became the coordinator heading into the third game of the 2017 season and as a result was flying by the seat of his pants. Now with a full offseason and camp to implement his system, Lazor will be expected to produce a dynamic high-scoring offense.

Lazor’s promotion created the need for a quarterbacks coach. The Bengals brought in Alex Van Pelt who was a backup in the league and most recently was the quarterbacks coach for Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

While Andy Dalton has established himself as the Bengals’ signal caller, he has taken a step back in recent years. Van Pelt believes that Dalton can perform as a high level quarterback and will be tasked with getting him there.

Wide receivers coach James Urban left to become the quarterbacks coach for the Baltimore Ravens, but this could end up being a good thing for the Bengals. Urban failed to develop 2016 second-round pick Tyler Boyd into a stable producer for the team in his first two seasons, and when 2017 ninth overall pick John Ross was ready to play physically, Urban did not have him ready to play mentally.

Bob Bicknell steps into the role and will need to work with Ross, Boyd, and other young players like Alex Erickson, Josh Malone and Auden Tate to mold the young receivers into plug and play guys for Lazor’s offense.

The offensive line has had serious problems during the last two years, and Alexander was unable to develop first round pick Cedric Ogbuehi, while also only getting a couple good healthy years out of Andre Smith.

Now Pollack faces the challenge of rebuilding this unit. Clint Boling is a solid fixture at left guard and if Cordy Glenn can stay healthy and perform at the level he did two years ago for the Buffalo Bills, that side of the line should be fine. The pressure will be on getting first round pick Billy Price ready to make an immediate impact at center.

The right side of the line is a bit more complex. Trey Hopkins, Christian Westerman, and Alex Redmond are competing for the right guard position. Jake Fisher, Bobby Hart and Ogbuehi are all in the running for the right tackle position. Pollack will need to figure out how to get five guys on the field who can protect Dalton and help Joe Mixon become one of the league’s top backs. Week 1 of the preseason taught us Hopkins and Hart have the current lead at those respective position battles, but nothing is set yet as the players will continue to compete for the right to start.

Defensive Changes

The most overlooked addition has been defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, who was highly regarded for his work in the same position with the Detroit Lions.

“Oh man I love him. You know, besides Vance Joseph, this is the only coach I have a for real bond with,” Kirkpatrick said. “I talk to him, call him all the time, text all the time. He’s been to my house. No coach has ever been to my house. That just shows the relationship he wants to have with me and that I’m willing to have with him.”

Kirkpatrick also likes what he’s seen from Austin as the new defensive coordinator looks to leave his mark in Cincinnati.

“Change is sometimes good and sometimes bad and in this case I feel like it’s good,” Kirkpatrick said of Austin. “I love the things he’s doing. He’s keeping everything simple and not over-coaching things. He’s just letting everything play out the way it should and that’s one of the keys to a great coach for me. A great coach needs to be flexible and I feel he’s been very flexible with the guys in the room and the leaders on the team.”

Austin can will be tasked with helping to develop the young defensive talent including Carl Lawson, Jordan Willis, and Jordan Evans, not to mention 2018 draftees Jessie Bates III, Sam Hubbard, Malik Jefferson, Davontae Harris, Andrew Brown, and Darius Phillips. None of Jefferson, Harris, Brown or Phillips have stood out so far, for varying reasons, so Austin will need to keep working with them to get the rookies up to speed.

The Bengals made changes at both coordinator positions within the last year and subbed in position coaches at spots that have been recent problems for the team. With these major alterations in place, the Bengals will be looking for their new coaches to act fast to get young players ready for the 2018 season and beyond. How the new coaches do will play a big role on not only the upcoming season but the future of the franchise.