The Cincinnati Bengals have undergone quite the transition this offseason. However, the changes made weren’t necessarily some of the ones many expected.
After a very quiet first few days in January, the team announced that they were bringing back Marvin Lewis on yet another two-year contract. As it turns out two things will survive after a nuclear holocaust: cockroaches and Lewis in his job with the Bengals.
Tempers flared following the signing, but the 2018 Bengals began to take shape with the veteran coach staying in place. Lewis re-shaped much of the coaching staff, highlighted with Teryl Austin as his defensive coordinator and Frank Pollack heading up the offensive line.
Those two areas of the team were some of the weaker points from last year, so their arrivals are definitely welcomed. In terms of the roster, left tackle Cordy Glenn and center Billy Price were added, as was Preston Brown to shore up the tackling on defense. The adding of more playmakers in the draft should also help in all three phases this year.
Really though, the equation is pretty simple for the 2018 Bengals. Continuing to lean on reliable veterans, plus an influx of new talent, coaches and missed talent from 2017 should equal a nice bounce-back season. First they have to get through the preseason, and a formidable opponent tonight.
The last time the Bengals played the Cowboys was two years ago in “Jerry World”. They were embarrassed by then-rookie sensations Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, with the 28-14 loss not truly painting the picture of Dallas’ domination.
A lot has changed since then—Cincinnati’s 2018 switches notwithstanding. The Cowboys went 13-3 a couple of years ago, only to backslide to 9-7 and a non-playoff season in 2017. They now look poised for a run at the NFC East once again, but have a lot to prove.
As we all know, NFL preseason results mean little to nothing in the grand scheme of things. However, there are important takeaways to be had as teams finalize their respective rosters for the upcoming season.
In the last couple of seasons, the Cowboys and Bengals have gone in opposite directions. As Dallas has had two straight winning seasons, Cincinnati has compiled just a 13-17-1 from 2016-2017. What has made that stretch particularly disappointing was the preceding five playoff berths from 2011-2015.
Yet, as they meet in the middle of August, both are trying to make a substantial impression.
For the Bengals, it’s in the idea that the talent they have amassed over the past two offseasons is for real. John Ross, Auden Tate, and many others flashed their exciting abilities in real-game action last week, but growing pains have and will inevitably ensue.
And that’s what these seemingly-useless month’s worth of games are for. By now, guys like A.J. Green, Andy Dalton, Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap and other vested veterans are already in midseason stride.
But, as mentioned earlier, the summer months aren’t about these guys. It’s about getting young guys ready to play in an uber-pivotal 2018 season—which hasn’t always been a Lewis staple to his Bengals teams.
Usually, it’s preseason game No. 3 that gives the starters the most repetitions. Week 2 should give them about a quarter, but the Bengals, like many teams in today’s NFL, are in the business of rotating other niche players into their lineup. Being so, we’ll see a lot of those types of players this Saturday.
When I have traditionally written these previews over the years, it’s all about how a team can win and how important said victory is to the outlook of their season. Yet, in the preseason, win-loss records don’t matter.
Still, given the Bengals’ lack of success the past two seasons, the uncertainty going forward and the need to prove themselves: even preseason wins come with a sense of pride for the Bengals. Because of this, I think Cincinnati will not only look to further develop its young players, but also grab tangible victories when they can.
After so many losses, often-filled with last-minute heartbreak, the Bengals need any kind of confidence-builders going into the 2018 regular season. Grabbing a win in Dallas against the talented Cowboys, even if in the preseason, would be another step towards the right direction.
In terms of historical age, the Bengals and the Cowboys aren’t that far apart. Dallas received their franchise back in 1960, while Paul Brown began the Bengals in 1968. However, the disparity of Super Bowls between the teams (Cowboys’ five to the Bengals’ zero), is a huge chasm when describing both organizations.
Oddly enough, the two teams have only faced each other 12 times over the course of their respective inceptions in the regular season. Dallas has the the overall edge, to the tune of an 8-4 record, including the aforementioned trouncing of Cincinnati in 2016.
Guys like Ross, Tate, Tyler Eifert, Carl Lawson and others should be watched closely this Saturday evening. But, both teams’ offensive lines are the biggest storylines of the weekend.
The Cowboys and the Bengals swapped offensive line coaches this offseason. Paul Alexander, who spent the previous 24 years in Cincinnati coaching the offensive line, is now in charge of an uber-talented the Cowboys possess up front. He has three first-round picks to work with in the group, so he should find a semblance of success.
Meanwhile, Pollack, who Dallas opted to let loose and found a home with the Bengals, is in the reclamation business. Can he get the most out of Jake Fisher and Cedric Ogbuehi? What about his mining of talent in new additions Glenn and Price?
I think we’ll continue to see improvement from the Bengals, but as the preseason goes, the results of the backups will prove fickle. As we know, the lights shine bright when “America’s Team” takes the stage, regardless of their win-loss record. And, as we also know, the Bengals don’t always respond well to the big stages.
We’ll see more steps from Cincinnati on Saturday, but we’ll also get a but of a dose of reality this weekend, I’m afraid. I hope to be wrong.
Bengals 20, Cowboys 28
AC — Taking championship-like advice from Jerry Jones since 1996.