The Bengals finished their 2017 campaign with a 7-9 record, but it felt a lot worse than finishing one game below .500.
There were plenty of games the Bengals struggled to eventually win and plenty of either blowout losses or blown leads late in the game. Much in the way the difference in the final score doesn’t always tell you how close the game was, the Bengals record last season is really deceiving. They were a team that had obvious holes, and they needed a season filled with change.
You could easily argue that the Bengals have had that very offseason. They’ve changed coaches, added players at key positions and the team feels so much different from this same point last season. At least one analyst doesn’t feel that way though.
Elliott Harrison of NFL.com ranked the Bengals 27th in his preseason power rankings, and had some bold reasoning behind it.
So no one is excited about the Bengals. Speculation about Marvin Lewis’ future lingers on, and on and on. Can Cincy surprise and return to the postseason? Methinks it starts on the offensive line, with young guys on the right side and veteran newcomer Cordy Glenn on the left. Second question: Can this team get anything out of sophomore speedster John Ross and oft-injured tight end Tyler Eifert? Third: Who is the disruptive factor on the Bengals’ defense? They ranked 16th in points allowed. Nobody there scares OCs, though.
Some of these claims are obviously more outlandish than others, but it is probably just easier to start with the first point: Marvin Lewis’ future really isn’t in doubt by anyone other than the national media and hopeful fans. The Bengals would have to just bottom out to the Browns’ level of incompetence for any strain to be placed on Lewis’ job security. Apologies in advance for anyone who put money on him being the first coach fired this season.
Harrison then poses three questions, so why don’t we just go through and answer them? His first is about the offensive line, which is more than fair. The offensive line was the biggest weakness the team had last season, and they really only patched up two of the positions in left tackle and center, leaving right guard and right tackle up in the air. There wasn’t a whole lot else the Bengals could’ve done though. The task of fully rebuilding an offensive line in one offseason without ignoring other areas of need.
The Bengals also swapped out Paul Alexander for Frank Pollack as the offensive line coach. The overwhelming narrative from the team is that completely changed the culture of the group, a task that other Bengals’ coaches said needed to be done after the offensive line had gotten “soft.” The Bengals have put plenty of eggs in the having-coaching-fix-broken-players basket, but it is hard to believe that with those things combined that the offensive line could be as bad as last season.
Harrison’s second question is one we will also have to wait and see about. John Ross has done all the right things to make us believe he is in store to be a contributing member of the Bengals in 2018. As far as Tyler Eifert goes, we pretty much just have to ride with whatever happens; which unfortunately, has been an ongoing trend for the duration of his career. But you could argue this Bengals offense is better equipped to overcome the loss of Eifert if it happens.
Harrison, however, saves his worst question for last. Who is disruptive on defense? No one scares offensive coordinators? Ignoring the obvious answer, the Bengals have guys like Carl Lawson, who is looking like he could be even better than his rookie season. There is also Carlos Dunlap who is one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. I’ll let these guys finish answering Harrison’s final question.
Harrison has merit to his statement when it comes to the defense’s ineptness of creating turnovers and negative plays, which was the case last season. But no offensive coordinator is looking at the Bengals defense and saying: “Meh, no one too special we have to worry about.” And that’s just the truth.
Where would you rank the Bengals with the rest of the NFL?