clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Bengals mailbag: O-line problems and the future at quarterback and receiver

What does the future hold at a couple of the most important positions on offense? Should we still be worried about the offensive line? We answer these and more this week.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

The Cincinnati Bengals are coming off of a nice 2018 debut, as they beat the Chicago Bears in the preseason opener. Though the victory margin was only three points and there were signs of sloppiness here and there, it was a good first game for a team looking to grasp onto any semblance of building blocks as they head into the regular season.

It’s been a while since we’ve done a mailbag, but we’re bringing them back on a regular basis as real football games are actually back. You can always tweet your questions to us @CincyJungle or @CJAnthonyCUI on Twitter, or by joining our Orange and Black Insider podcast and using those platforms to contact us.

*****

I’m surprised, but not wholly shocked.

On one hand, the Bengals did what they usually do in free agency: a handful of low-to-mid-tier signings to round out their roster before the draft. Though April’s haul is their primary offseason strategy, Cincinnati’s front office also uses free agency as a supplement, so as to try and not have many glaring holes before the selection festivities.

The first offseason signing the team made was Bobby Hart, which was shortly after the coaching staff was (re)assembled. Now, as we sit here six months after his arrival, big No. 68 is the team’s starting right tackle. It’s far from totally being settled, but if we take some snippets from Week 1, he still looks to have the inside track.

Add in the team already swinging a big offseason trade for another offensive tackle and using a first round pick yet another offensive lineman, and one can see why the usage of further big capital at the position may have been wasteful.

Oh, and despite the video above, new offensive line coach Frank Pollack was also sitting on previous first and second round picks at the position for molding.

Sure, I could have seen the team using one of two picks they had in either the third or fifth rounds this year on another tackle. Though the big-play abilities of Darius Phillips and Davontae Harris excite Teryl Austin and his new-look defense, it may have been better to look at a higher positional need at that point.

In that fifth round, Oregon’s Tyrell Crosby and Ohio State’s Jamarco Jones were available when the Bengals were on the clock. If you wanted to see them use one of their third-round picks on a tackle, the enigmatic Orlando Brown was available at the time the team selected Malik Jefferson and Sam Hubbard.

But, what’s done is done. Pollack is now charged with getting the most out of Hart, Fisher and Ogbuehi in an effort to put the best possible line on the field.

Trey Hopkins’ stint as another starter on the right side may also be in question, given Christian Westerman’s solid performance as a backup left guard against the Bears.

However, don’t be surprised if the Bengals scour the waiver wire around final cutdown day. They’ve swung deals late in the preseason in recent years (Brandon Tate, Reggie Nelson, Kelly Jennings), so if a fringe starting tackle ends up on the street and the trio they currently have vying for the opening on the right don’t instill confidence, they may pounce on an outsider.

*****

We have to go there again? It seems almost criminal to address this after a solid outing by Andy Dalton against Chicago, as well in a week where he announced both a new addition to his family and massive charity work.

I’m not going to go into crazy detail here, but it would take a massive implosion by the Bengals this year for that to happen. Like, we’re talking three or fewer wins this season.

And, truthfully, with the talent on this roster, if the team goes 3-13 or worse this year, heads deserve to roll.

But, as we know, Mike Brown is reluctant to institute major organizational changes. And after cycling through four coaches since he took the reins of the Bengals’ franchise (Sam Wyche, David Shula, Bruce Coslet, Dick LeBeau) and numerous quarterbacks in the pre-Marvin Lewis era, he has found stability at the two most important spots on his football team.

To boot, the team hasn’t brought in any semblance of competition for Dalton’s job. Matt Barkley and Jeff Driskel appear to be destined for career NFL backup duty, while Logan Woodside needs development—in more than one way.

If the Bengals were inclined to be moving away from Dalton’s services this year, one would believe they would have used a first-round pick on the position with so many talented guys in this year’s class. Instead, they opted to stick with what has always been the plan with No. 14: surround him with talent.

After seven seasons, we know who Dalton is as an NFL quarterback. He’s good enough to keep your team competitive and will thrive in the right system with talented players around him. Instead of relying on him to elevate the rest of his team’s play for a Super Bowl run, he’ll need to use his own talent and it be elevated with said complementary players.

He has three years left on his current deal, and as we’ll discuss in the next question, a variety of reasons make us believe he’ll at least see most of it through.

I get it: Andy has had the team frustratingly-close to greatness at times, pushing the fans’ patience. But, he’s also one of the most accomplished quarterbacks to ever play for the Bengals, statistically-speaking.

If you’re ready to shove him out of town and hope for a change, I see the logic. However, as a Bengals fan, there should be no one you’re pulling for more than Dalton.

He’s a great guy who does immense community work and turned this team around in what could have been another very bleak era of Bengals football. You know he wants to win and stick it to his many haters—though, he probably won’t put that satisfaction on display because it doesn’t seem to be in his good-natured personality.

*****

I think Adriel, AKA A.J. Green, does stay in Cincinnati for the long-term. Though frustrations boiled over last year for him (if you need a reminder, go ask Jalen Ramsey), he seems to be in a better place this offseason.

He recently talked about being a Hall of Fame inductee and wanting to be “the best ever”. While the latter probably won’t be the case, he has a good shot at the former. Additionally, if he stays healthy and productive, Green could very well own every significant historical Bengals receiving record.

But, he’ll need to stay with in Cincinnati to achieve that portion. His deal is set to expire after the 2019 season, which kicks off a significant era for the Bengals. Marvin Lewis’ current deal is set to expire that same offseason, while Dalton’s runs through 2020.

Aside from seeming to enjoy playing with Dalton and being excited about the additions to this year’s squad, there are other factors that play into Green’s likelihood of staying in Cincinnati. I’m referring to “the green” for Green.

Brown likes to pay his best skill position players, as evidenced by the historical contracts of Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson in the mid-aughts and Green’s own $60 million deal a few years back. And, as former Bengals receiver Andrew Hawkins recently noted, Brown is also uber-loyal when it comes to allowing a player to play out the length of their respective deal with the team.

I think the team extends Green either this summer or next, essentially tacking on two or three years to his tenure in Cincinnati. The deal might have a touch of the sense of overpayment, given that Green is already 30 years old this year, but he will still be incredibly valuable to the offense as the torch then gets passed to John Ross, Tyler Boyd and Josh Malone.

Call it a “Lifetime Achievement Award”, I guess.

What could also happen is that Green may not end his career with the Bengals, even if signing another deal. I do believe he’ll sign an extension, but after that deal expires, he may be a rental player for franchise’s looking to add a veteran for a Super Bowl run and/or to instill excitement in their fan base with a big name.

We’ve seen the Patriots, Eagles and others perform this signing practice to mixed results, and Green may have hopefully helped the Bengals to their own Lombardi Trophy, but his services, even if nearing his mid-30s will be coveted.

For now, though, I expect him to remain in Cincinnati for the next handful of years and be productive in the span.

*****

We also received a handful of questions on this week’s Orange and Black Insider podcast. Through our new phone line via call or text, as well as the live YouTube chat, Bengals fans wanted to know about what’s ahead for some of the teams’ better players.

Whether it was about Carl Lawson’s 2018 role, a potential breakout season for Joe Mixon and/or what’s ahead for Woodside, folks are curious as to what’s ahead for the Bengals. John Sheeran, Scott Schulze and myself answered these topics on our program, so check out the audio below and/or the above-embedded YouTube video for our takes!

If you’re unable to join us live here at Cincy Jungle or YouTube every episode, all Orange and Black Insider content is available here on CJ, as well as on our SoundCloud and YouTube channels, and on iTunes! You can tweet us @BengalsOBI or get in touch with us via email at theobinsider@gmail.com. Thanks for listening and go subscribe to our channels!