The Cincinnati Bengals keep finding new and creative ways to lose in 2019. Four turnovers and a lack of stopping the run were two key factors this week, as the Bengals fell to 0-7 at the hands of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Here are the best and worst facets of the Bengals’ 27-17 loss to the Jaguars:
A game within reach...again: At halftime, the Bengals had a 7-6 lead. Jacksonville isn’t an NFL powerhouse, but as has been the case in four other losses this year, Cincinnati had the opportunity to sneak away with a win. But, as has also been the case in those aforementioned contests, the team tripped over its own feet on the way to a winless start to the season.
Reserve players stepping up: At receiver, the Bengals are banged up, but a couple of backup players put their talents on display against Jacksonville. Auden Tate continued to dominate, racking up 65 yards on three catches, while also forcing pass interference penalties.
Alex Erickson had a crucial drop in the third quarter, but he also made a number of big plays. He had eight catches for 137 yards, while reserve safety Brandon Wilson nearly broke another kickoff return for a touchdown in consecutive weeks.
Geno is still Geno: The veteran defensive tackle had a quiet start to the year with just one sack in the first six games, but was a constant force on Sunday. He had six tackles and two sacks, which is saying something, given the absences of Carlos Dunlap, Kerry Wynn and Carl Lawson.
Continued regression of important veterans: Tyler Boyd has had a pretty solid 2019 campaign, but has also struggled in back-to-back weeks. After notching just three catches for 10 yards against the Ravens, Boyd had two drops and a lost fumble against the Jaguars.
Meanwhile, two of the best players from the 2018 team in safeties Jessie Bates III and Shawn Williams continue to be ghosts this year. Williams had two tackles-for-loss on Sunday, but both seem to be a step behind in the passing game, as evidenced by Dede Westbrook’s 100-yard receiving day (yes, Tony McRae was the primary culprit there). Where are the impact plays from those two?
Where are the tight ends?: We’ve said this before, but with the heavy investments the team made at the position this offseason, it’s hard to explain the lack of usage of C.J. Uzomah, Tyler Eifert and Drew Sample. The trio combined for three catches and 13 yards, with Uzomah being blanked.
Why spend the money on Uzomah and Eifert in free agency, if they aren’t being used in the red zone? Sample was viewed as a reach when selected in the second round and is continuing to be so with blocking issues, but the fact is that this group should be a much higher focal point in the offense—particularly with the injuries at receiver.
The running back stat lines: Over the past 20 years or so, Cincinnati has loved to collect highly-talented running backs in the second round of the draft. From Corey Dillon to Joe Mixon as recently as 2018, the Bengals have grabbed a glut of productive guys with value.
Unfortunately, Mixon and fellow second-rounder, Giovani Bernard, have not had success in Zac Taylor’s new system. They combined for 14 carries and two rushing yards. Two. It’s not an indictment of the two backs per se, but rather the ineffectiveness of the offensive line crew the team has thrown together this season.
Three consecutive drives with an interception—all in the fourth quarter and running the type gamut: Cincinnati took control of the ball in the fourth quarter down just seven points with under 13 minutes left in the contest. Andy Dalton drove the team down into the red zone, only to throw an interception from the Jaguars 15-yard line. It didn’t lead to any Jacksonville points, but took them off the board for Cincinnati.
On the next possession, Dalton floated a screen pass to no one, only to see it be returned for a touchdown. Then, the very next time Dalton dropped back for a pass, he threw a predictable ball towards Boyd, only to have it picked once again. All in all, the three picks essentially led to a 17-point swing, in favor of the Jaguars.
More missed opportunities and symbols of a bad team: Whether it was Erickson’s big drop at the beginning of the second half, Tyler Boyd’s myriad of mistakes, B.W. Webb’s inability to corral two would-be pick-sixes, or Dalton’s hat-trick of interceptions, this team deserves the 0-7 stench surrounding it. Some of these issues are standard physical mistakes that occur in every game by every NFL team, but many are of the mental/concentration variety, which is an indictment of coaching and other factors that plague consistently-poor teams.