The Cincinnati Bengals: An Important Offseason Ahead

The Cincinnati Bengals: An Important Offseason Ahead

by November 20, 2021 1 comment

With the NFL season just over half of the way complete and the Cincinnati Bengal’s record sitting at 5-4. It is time to start looking at the offseason. Sitting third in the division, it is hard to see them making a run in the playoffs or even to the playoffs. However, if they want to compete in the future, they will need to address specific areas in the offseason. To compete in the AFC North, they will need more weapons on both sides of the ball.

The Competition

The Bengals are in a great position in the division. As Joe Burrow finishes his sophomore season, he is proving to be a force in the division for the next decade. With the emergence of stud rookie receiver, Ja’Marr Chase, developing, it will be challenging to stop this young offense. Fifth-year player Joe Mixon, a top 10 back in the league, along with having a top-seven defense in the league, per DVOA, makes the Bengals an early favorite. 

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers are more than likely going to go into the mediocre abyss with Ben Roethlisberger probably retiring after the season. Mike Tomlin and that tough Pittsburg defense are too good to let the team go into the bottom third of the league. Additionally, the Steelers will be picking in the middle of the draft for a few years as they try and replace Ben as the signal-caller. The Steelers will likely be too bad to make deep playoff runs but too good to be drafting high. The team will be stuck in limbo. 

Cleveland Browns

Like the Steelers, the Browns are challenging since they are not entirely sold on their quarterback, Baker Mayfield. They have shown a reluctance to pay him. This is only supported by his subpar rankings among other quarterbacks in the league. If they pay him, the talent around Baker on both sides of the ball will disappear. Forcing Baker to carry the team more, which he does not have the skills to accomplish. If they do not pay him, the Browns will be stuck in another desperate search for a new guy at the helm. The Browns and Steelers are in tough spots considering that the Ravens and Bengals have clear advantages for the next few years.

It Only Get’s Worse

Looking at the New York Jets game in Week 8, the defense sat in the same formation most of the game while refusing to adjust the game plan. Backup Mike White lead the two-win Jets to a victory against the Bengals by completing 37-45 passes for 405 yards and three touchdowns. Now what you do not know is that he did this by checking it down the whole game. Letting the playmakers gain the yards after the catch.

White won the game with a completed air yard per pass of 3.2 yards on every throw he made. The receivers ran for an extra 6.6 yards per completion. The Bengal’s defense rejected the idea to cover the flats and the shallow middle of the field. This allowed the Jets to march down the field in the typical cover three defense.

Their Position

Who Should they Add?

The Bengals are in a prime position to set a precedent for the next few years, provided they make the necessary moves this offseason. It starts with building that offensive lineup to help protect Burrow. Entering the season, the Bengals were ranked at 25 out of 32 NFL teams by Pro Football Focus. To make matters worse, many fans and analysts were stunned with their fifth pick selection being Chase and not Penei Sewell. While the pick was not well received, the Bengals have found a gem in Chase. However, they still need a solid offensive lineman, and they need to address that this offseason. The need for the team to draft players who can help them protect Burrow is of the utmost importance. 

With players in the draft like Tyler Linderbaum out of Iowa, Kenyon Green out of Texas A&M, and Evan Neal out of Alabama, it is paramount that the Bengals take one if not multiple players to build up the offensive line depth and starting unit. Burrow has already been sacked 25 times this season.  He has been forced out of the pocket numerous times to avoid a sack too. The team needs to protect Burrow if they want a chance to compete in the division. With the strength of the defenses within their AFC North division, the Bengals cannot afford to have Burrow on the grass if they want to win those games.

The Defense Needs Work

In addition to the work needed on the offensive line, the defense needs to be upgraded as well. Specifically, the cornerbacks, the interior defensive line and strong safety positions. A few names that stand out in the upcoming free-agent class are defensive linemen including Akiem Hicks and Emmanuel Ogbah. At safety, Marcus Williams and Quandre Diggs would be great additions.

If the Bengals could somehow lure cornerback Kyle Fuller from Denver or Desmond King from the Houston Texans, that would strengthen their defense. Any combination of these players could help improve that defense. Making them a force for years to come, with the average age of 25 years old. If the Bengals can add one or more impact starters on the defensive side of the ball, it sets them up to have a high-level playoff defense. 

Coaching Struggles

Nobody wants to see players and coaches fired, but sometimes, it is necessary. Lou Anarumo has to go, and Zac Taylor is on the hot seat as well. Throughout this season, Anarumo and Taylor have cost their team wins with some late-game decisions and lack of halftime adjustments. Upon examination, it has been an up and down season. With wins against teams that were close that should not have been and losses that were potential wins. For example, in Week 4 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, they narrowly escaped the game with a 24-21 win. When looking at how the Jaguars and the Bengals played, it is evident that one team played so much better than the other but just made so many bad decisions on the coaching side.

The loss to the Green Bay Packers in week five should have been a win. A few coaching decisions, like settling for a field goal when your kicker is struggling on a 4th and one, could have been the difference. The numerous bad defensive formation decisions only compounded the coaching staff’s poor ability to adjust midgame. Putting players in the correct formations to succeed and changing midgame is the difference between bad and good coaches. Taylor and Anarumo have not done that. 

The Future

If they choose to address the coaching staff and the areas of need on their offensive and defensive lines, the Bengals could be in contention next year. They have so many strengths. With just a few solid moves this offseason, they could be the team to beat for years to come. 

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