In an attempt to salvage what’s left of the season, Zac Taylor announced that he would start Ryan Finley over Andy Dalton after the bye week.
This decision comes the heels of an 0-8 season in which the offense is desperately needs to turn things around. Clearly, the offense needs work, and starting Finely is a sign that Taylor won’t just sit back and watch the season spiral.
Starting Finley won’t magically transform the offense; it might not even pay off until next season. What are some other changes that the Bengals need to make coming out of the bye?
Get Drew Sample more involved
If what we’re doing now is figuring out where we stand for next year, then Finley shouldn’t be the only rookie in the starting lineup.
Sample was drafted a little sooner than most Bengals fans would have liked, but for a second-round pick, the Bengals aren’t quite getting the value out of him that they should be getting. Sample has time and time again played single-digit snaps in this offense. He only has five targets so far, and has had little impact in the running game.
Tyler Eifert is only on a one-year contract, and even though he looks great this season, the Bengals are going to start thinking about if they want to re-sign him again. The Bengals should use this as an opportunity to evaluate Sample, and see if they need Eifert back in the tight end room again next year.
Plus, they would like to have a role for Sample, since he hasn’t had an opportunity to carve one out for himself yet.
Get Germaine Pratt more snaps as well
All of that same logic goes for Pratt, their third-round pick from this year. Not only is he developmental prospect, but he may actually be the best linebacker on the team right now.
It’s obvious that Preston Brown and Nick Vigil can’t handle the jobs they’ve been assigned. They drafted Pratt to be their go-to guy in the middle of the field, but they’re bringing him along slowly.
Pratt’s looked good in his limited opportunities, but has also made some rookie mistakes. Overall, he has a higher upside than any other linebackers on the team. The Bengals should just let him get out there and make those mistakes now when the season’s already tubes.
Next year, when the Bengals are ready to compete, he’ll have half a season of experience under his belt and be closer to the player that they want him to eventually become.
Get more creative in play calling, both on offense and defense
One reason Cooper Kupp said he has a career day against the Bengals is that the defense did on the field what they showed they were going to do on film. The Bengals have been pretty vanilla on defense, hardly deviating from their base formations and schemes. Lou Anarumo’s defense has too many weak spots to keep operating the same way. The Bengals have to get more creative to try and cover up those deficiencies.
The same could be said about Taylor’s offense. They have acknowledged that the offense is not up to par, which is why they have decided to start Finley. But if they think that Finley will do better than Dalton under the exact same circumstances, then they are mistaken.
Knowing that the offensive line is battered and that the running game is faulty, Zac Taylor is going to have to come up some schemes to mitigate the negative impact of some of those things.
Whether or not the play callers are scared of messing up or if they just can’t figure out how to make things work, they need to seriously consider some changes to the playbook.