Every week, I try to come up with new somethings that we can learn from the Bengals’ various performances. I try not to come up with the things that I didn’t talk about the week before so that these articles don’t become repetitive, but it gets harder and harder every week.
What did we learn from the loss against the Jaguars? The Bengals run game needs some work, since the team only rushed for 33 yards and 32 of those yards were off of Andy Dalton scrambling.
Preston Brown and Nick Vigil are having trouble covering from sideline to sideline, since the Jaguars rushed for 216 yards against the defense.
The offensive line is giving up too much pressure, which contributed to Dalton’s twenty percent completion percentage in the first quarter.
Zac Taylor needs to come up with some more creative schemes to minimize weaknesses and play to strengths, since the offense scored less than 20 points for the fifth time in seven games.
These are things that keep popping up, though, and that could be used every week and be just as applicable.
Like I said after the Week 5 loss to the Cardinals, “the Bengals don’t appear to be learning anything. As a result, the same things keep happening loss after loss.”
This week, I will try to come up with something new like I always do. But keep in mind, the things you think the Bengals should work on are also true, too. I just don’t include that so you don’t have to read the same article week after week.
The offense needs to get out of its own way—and the defense’s
The offense, in some strange way, took a step forward in the first three quarters of action on Sunday.
You’re probably thinking, that was a step forward? In many ways, no. Joe Mixon rushed for two yards, there was no passing game outside of Alex Erickson, and the Bobby Hart-Alex Redmond duo were holding and false starting again.
In the bigger picture, however, the offense looked good again. The Bengals were still in the game going into the fourth quarter, and every time they turned the ball over they were in a position to score.
But that’s just it. The Bengals offense turned the ball over four time in the second half, twice in Jacksonville territory and once on their own 47-yard line. They also saw penalties turn red zone possessions into field goals, and poorly executed running plays turn field goal opportunities into punts. Not to mention five straight drops in the first quarter really stalled the offense.
Silly mistakes aside, did this look like an offense that only scored seventeen points? Probably not. If they could just get it together, this offense could have done some damage.
But the offense couldn’t get out of their own way, causing them to resign to only 17 points.
Not only did the offense screw themselves, they also screwed the defense.
The defense performed admirably, only giving up 20 points. You would think an NFL offense could rise to score that much, but the Bengals have only done so twice all year.
If you don’t count the pick-six and the touchdown and field goal that the Jaguars scored off of turnovers, then the defense only gives up nine points.
Taylor needs to look at his defense and see that they’re fighting for their lives, and the offense is doing more harm than good. He has to take note that if his offense scores a few more times and takes better care of the ball, his team will be in a better position to win.
The 27 points given up to the Jaguars is the second-most this season. Other than the blowout by the 49ers, who look more and more like Super Bowl contenders as the weeks go by, the Bengals have been working with manageable deficits all season. The offense needs to give this team a chance to win.
The defense has nowhere to go but up
You might look at the Jaguars rushing stats and think that the Bengals defense did a bad job. The team rushed for 216 yards, and Leonard Fournette, who needed a 69-yard rush to net positive yardage in Week 3 against the Titans (who are also a dumpster fire), rushed for 131 yards. Looks like bad defense, right?
By football standards, you would be correct. But when you wear your Bengals specs, you realize that overall, the defense had one of its better games in Week 7. Sure, the Jaguars had to be stopped at the one-yard line to keep from scoring on their opening drive, but their next two drives totaled negative yards. Lou Anarumo showed that he can make adjustments, and kept the Jags out of the end zone for three quarters.
Again, the defense is only on the hook for 20 points conservatively, and if you don’t want to count the points the Jags scored off of turnovers, then it was only a nine-point day for the defense.
That said, the Jags don’t have an explosive offense by any means. The 27 points they put up in Paul Brown Stadium was their season-high. But if the Bengals’ defense starts to trend upwards and the offense cleans itself up, then the Bengals will at least be in a better position than they are right now.
Zac Taylor needs to ask himself some tough questions
At some point, Zac Taylor is going to have to do something dramatic.
Things are bad on defense, and it’s obvious every week when teams run at will against this unit. Does he need to fire Anarumo? Do they need to tweak their scheme? How can they make the most of what they have?
What about the offense? What can Taylor do to fix the run game? How can he take the pressure off of Dalton?
I think the Bengals also need to decide whether they are going to be buyers or sellers, if anything during the trade deadline. Taylor seems to think he win games with this team, but the simple truth is that he can’t. So do they want to add some talent to contend for a playoff spot? At this point, it seems like a fool’s errand, so do they want to acquire some draft capital for next year?
In fairness to Taylor, this job was a lot harder than he, and even most of us, thought it would be. But he has to realize now that the things he though would work aren’t going to cut it. Whatever he can do to change things, he needs to consider.
His job is safe for this season, but imagine how thin the ice will be in year two if he doesn’t win any games in year one.