clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Why I’m excited about the Bengals this season

New, comments

Before the Kool-Aid is officially drunk, and optimism has no competition, we analyzed why we are watching the Bengals this year.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

This is not an easy write-up for me to produce. But some of the best work happens when you push yourself to do things in a way that may seem to go against the coding in your brain.

Getting *excited* for Bengals football, beyond simply anticipating watching my favorite football team play the sport, is something that requires far more effort from me now than it used to. Because we as fans don’t think about one game at a time, we’re wired to always think big picture. Winning The Super Bowl isn’t just the big picture, it’s the only picture that matters in this industry we share.

And sixteenth time’s the charm hasn’t quite captured my spirit for me consider this team capturing the big picture.

For as much as the Bengals have altered themselves this offseason, the underlying factors that have attributed to stability without meaningful success have remained in their respective places of influence. Same quarterback, same head coach, same ownership.

Same culture... maybe?

Expecting true change — the change that transforms perennial pretenders into contenders — is fruitless unless the aspects in question (the trio listed above) properly evolve from liabilities to assets. In most cases, heads traditionally roll so that new faces can provide what their predecessors did not.

But like nearly every year since the turn of the century, leadership in the most important spots has remained in place in Cincinnati.

The pessimist vibe that you’re feeling was intended despite what the title of this article reads. Because there are two kinds of fans: the homers and the realists. The homers have the most fun and the less stress, and the realists are booed at while they yell in the corner of the room. But if a realist still has reason to get even a little enlivened, then EVERYONE can as well.

So why am I excited about the Bengals this season? There are a few reasons:

Skill players galore

Good football at every skill level is enjoyable to watch, but watching talent absolutely takeover and turn the tides of games is so damn encapsulating.

The collection of skill players under the direction of offensive coordinator Bill Lazor can go toe-to-toe when compared to the 2015 squad that finished sixth in points per play and seventh in yards per play. On paper, this year’s group may be even better.

The names who were on the team back then are all a little more polished with their increased experience. Wide receiver A.J. Green is, well, you know. Running back Giovani Bernard bounced back from an injury-shortened 2016 last season and is as quick as ever. Tight ends Tyler Kroft and C.J. Uzomah are both putting raw talent to tangible use in their shared contract year.

And Tyler Eifert is healthy... for now.

The players who were brought in to handle the roster turnover following 2015 are also starting to put it all together. Receivers Tyler Boyd and John Ross look ready to emulate how Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones complimented Green so well. The release of veteran Brandon LaFell just confirms the confidence the team has in the young duo.

Running back Joe Mixon was the third tailback selected in the second round by the Bengals in five years, but he was also the most talented of the three. Running behind an improved offensive line with ten less pounds to carry as well, Mixon is primed to put a frustrating 2017 behind him.

Behind all of these ballcarriers consists of promising young depth. Receivers Josh Malone and Alex Erickson return with their varying skill sets from the boundary and the slot respectively. And two new faces in Mark Walton and of course Auden Tate plan to round out a group of backs and receivers that could make any quarterback look good. And that’s exactly the plan.

Putting past whiffs in the rear view mirror

If you want to know why the Bengals regressed from a division winner to a sub .500 team, look no further than the draft classes and free agency periods of 2014 and 2015, along with their 2016 free agency as well. One player from that 2014 draft class remains with the team five years later, and luckily he’s a good one in cornerback Darqueze Dennard. Besides him, just six of the 17 players that made up both classes remain.

Kroft and Uzomah, third and fifth-round picks from 2015, have shown to be useful, and Dennard is now an established starter. The other three in offensive tackles Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher and defensive back Josh Shaw are all nowhere near roster locks in year 4.

The embarrassments of those two classes combined with the utter inactivity in free agency diminished the quality of the team’s core. But this team doesn’t have to rely on them anymore (except maybe one of the tackles) because of the promising draft classes of 2016 and 2017, along with the expectations with the class of 2018 as well. The overall youth of this Bengals team is noticeable all over the roster, and now that youth is of quality instead of disappointment.

The promise of urgency

The common theme coming from the words of players and coaches inside Paul Brown Stadium has been a newfound sense of aggression.

New defensive coordinator Teryl Austin’s scheme has assured more turnovers and less conservatism. New offensive line coach Frank Pollack has implemented a more vigorous pass protection practicum that hopes to enhance the blocking scheme up front. Lazor has fully applied his personal vision for the offense that takes components from the classic Air Coryell system, which focuses on pushing the ball down the field.

Everything points to a more urgent team, and an urgent culture. For a franchise that has operated under vast complacency for well over a decade now, these changes are more than welcome to hear.

But we see better than we hear.

And that’s why it’s okay to have reserved optimism about this Bengals team, because we’re hearing all the right things. And some of visuals are starting to match the propaganda.

They may not have your trust, as they’ve rightfully not earned it back, but they have my attention. And they should have yours as well.