The Bengals surprised many when it was confirmed that Marvin Lewis was to be retained as head coach. He needs to turn things around in 2018 after a dour 2017 which left many wondering if it was one season too long for Lewis.
Reasons to be cheerful?
On paper, I quite like the look of the Bengals offence. There’s no question that Andy Dalton took a step back last year, but he’s still got a top receiver to throw to in 2018 in AJ Green. 2017 first rounder John Ross has come back fit and there’s a lot of buzz about his performances in the off season. If he can become a foil to Green then the passing attack could zing again. There are concerns about the fitness of tight end Tyler Eifert, but again, if he’s fit that’s a big big weapon for Dalton.
The Bengals addressed the O-Line in the off-season as well by trading for Cordy Glenn from the Bills and acquiring one of my favourite prospects of the draft Billy Price from Ohio State. Price can play centre or guard but will be deployed at centre for the Bengals. Those two additions, whilst protecting Dalton will also help improve the running game. I have high hopes for Joe Mixon in 2018 and look forward to watching him.
On the other side of the ball, the defence also looks strong. Drafting Sam Hubbard provides depth on the defensive line alongside Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins. Dre Kirkpatrick and William Jackson III alongside new safety Jessie Bates could combine for a solid backfield.
Reasons to be fearful?
All this is good and well, it looks great on paper but I worry about Marvin Lewis’ ability to bring it all together. For the last few years, the Bengals have looked good on paper but not yet provided a playoff win.
The AFC North also looks a bit stronger this year. Traditional rivals the Steelers will start off as favourites but there’s a resurgence of confidence in both the Ravens and the Browns who have added a good level of talent as has been well documented!
How does the season shape up?
If the Bengals get off to a good start, then it could be a good year for them. If they don’t, and confidence is dented then it could be a long hard season for the fans from Cincinnati. With a good start they can put pressure on the rest of the division and challenge for a playoff spot, but I think it’ll be tough. Being relevant into December should be the aim.