Well, it’s finally over. Nail in the coffin, the fat lady sang, whichever analogy you want to use to confirm that the 6-9-1 Bengals football season is finally over. There’s a lot of blame to go around for the disappointing season, if you were to ask 9/10 Bengals fans they would tell you Marvin Lewis. Some would point to QB play, lack of running game, offensive line, secondary, etc. The bottom line is, they lost 9 games. Cincinnati lost 6 of their 9 games against playoff teams while only winning 1 game this season against a playoff team. To be the team, you gotta beat the teams. Something didn’t seem to be the same this season, whether it was the departures of Marvin Jones and Sanu, or Reggie Nelson… something was off.

Marvin Lewis

The most popular name in Cincinnati this time of year. Many fans in Cincinnati have been calling for his head on a platter for awhile now, most notably after the San Diego playoff loss (And the Houston playoff loss, another Houston playoff loss, an Indianapolis playoff loss, and a Pittsburgh playoff loss). Marvin Lewis is 0-7 in his playoff appearances. A staggering number considering he’s the second longest reigning head coach in the league, behind Bill Belichick who holds 4 super bowl rings.

Many reports came out stemming from a radio show hosted by Chris Cooley where he claimed Marvin Lewis was ready to retire after this season, and informed listeners he had sources in Cincy. Marvin Lewis notified the media and the fans that he will be back  to coach Cincinnati in 2017. An announcement that was welcomed with mixed emotions, expectedly.

As of today, it appears Marvin Lewis will  coach the Bengals in 2017 and will have another crack to get the boys back in the postseason and past that dreaded first round.

Andy Dalton

Did I say Marvin Lewis was the most popular name in Cincinnati this time of year? Sorry, totally forgot this guy. Andy Dalton. As soon the name is said, your immediate opinion of the guy floats to the forefront of your mind. Andy Dalton had a great 2015 season. Take a look at his numbers here. Andy was on his way to an MVP caliber season before sustaining a hand injury in week 14 last year against Pittsburgh. Throwing for 25 touchdowns in just 12 full games, the expectations for the franchise quarterback were sky high.

You gotta call it how it is. Given the eye test, Andy Dalton had underwhelming statistics this season. Starting all 16 games, throwing for 18 touchdowns.. which is 9 less than what he threw for in near 4 less games last season. However he did only throw 8 interceptions in 16 games, which comes as a surprise given the fact he threw for over 4,000 yards for only the second time in his career. The only other time he threw for over 4,000 was in 2013, he also threw 20 interceptions.

Dalton clearly had a limited number of weapons this season. Losing Jones and Sanu, gaining Boyd and Lafell was important but not having Eifert for a great chunk of the season is a big deal. Especially since Tyler caught 13 touchdown passes last season. Andy missed that red zone target when he was off the field and had some of his best weeks when Eifert was on the field. Dalton only had 4 games this season with more than 1 TD pass, 3 of those games were games Eifert played in. The other one was a washout in Dallas where Dalton threw the ball 41 times.

With a healthy receiving corps and a healthy running game, Dalton is almost certain to turn it around in 2017. This guy can play and we’ve seen it first hand.

Whether Bengals fans like it or not, this is the starting Quarterback of the present, and foreseeable future. And deservedly so.

The running game…

Oh Lord have mercy. I say the Bengals keep their nose out of Free Agency this offseason and see if they can invest in a time machine and go grab the 2014 model of Jeremy Hill, and trade it in for the 2015-2016 models. What happened? It’s an honest question, what really happened? Is it the offensive line? The same offensive line Rex Burkhead ran behind all season? Is it the play calling? What else can be done to maximize his value? He had an absolute attrocious season. If you look at his stats, you’ll see he finished the season at 3.8 YPC clip. If you dig a little deeper into it, you’ll see he rushed for over 100 yards this season only twice… both times coming against the 1-15 Cleveland Browns. Let’s have just a little fun with this and take away the 2 games against the worst team in the league and see where his numbers rank.

So for you math buffs, Jeremy hill had 222 rushing attempts for 839 yards. Coming in at 3.8 YPC roughly. For the sake of it, let’s remove the Cleveland games. He had 34 rushing attempts for 279 yards in both games combined. Subtracting that leaves us with 188 attempts and 560 yards. So 560/188 leaves us with… just under 3 yards per carry. There have been running backs cut from their roster  for better performances. Jeremy is a gifted athlete, I do believe however it’s time the coaching staff began to open their eyes a bit more when it comes to him. I am more than comfortable stating that Rex Burkhead is a better overall Running Back then Jeremy Hill.  

On to Giovani Bernard. Like Hill, Bernard’s best game came against Cleveland where he rushed for 80 yards. In limited time due to injury, he didn’t have a great running season. However, Giovani is more valuable than Hill because of his versatility and ability to create space in the open field. This guy is a problem with the ball in his hands and he can contribute in more ways than just between the tackles. Excited to see if his role changes at all in the upcoming season.

How about Sexy Rexy? No not Rex Ryan, I’m talking about the Nebraska football alum. Rex didn’t even receive a carry until week 6 in New England and has only played in 8 games this season. He has more than made himself known, especially with his New Years Day performance against the highly touted Baltimore defense. He rushed 27 times for 119 yards and 2 scores. It’s safe to say he has turned some heads and has earned playing time heading into next season.

The WR’s

AJ Green was well on his way to the best season of his career until a hamstring injury stood in the way of that. The week 11 matchup against the Bills would be the last time we would see AJ in 2016. He would eventually fall 36 yards short of 1,000 yards but also received another pro bowl bid, which he had already declined the option to play in the game. We are spoiled with this guy, nothing much you can really say. He’s special.

Lafell and Boyd saw the bulk of the targets especially after Eifert got hurt again late in the season. Lafell quietly put together a really solid season with a 64/862/6 statline. Some would argue he has earned a second contract with Cincinnati if that is something both sides would be interested in. Lafell showed up in Dallas where he caught 2 touchdowns and also had over 90 yards receiving in 4 games. Brandon also had an 86 yard touchdown play on Christmas Eve, marking the longest TD pass in Daltons career.

The rookie Tyler Boyd posted a 54/603/1 line. Not bad for the Pittsburgh product. We saw flashes of brilliance in week 2 and 6 and see how dangerous he can be with the ball in his hands. He should replace the hole left by Jones and Sanu and then some by next season. I really really like this kid.

Also can’t forget to mention the improvement we seen from players like James Wright and Cody Core. They both contributed big at times this season and seem to be making a home as legitimate backups.

OL

Let’s keep it short and sweet. The offensive line had toubke protecting Dalton. Ogbuehi was the disappointment of the season. Failing miserably at both left and right tackle. It’ll be interesting to see if the Bengals give the kid another big opportunity next season or if they are ready to move on and find improvements in the draft or free agency. Russell Bodine is another name on that offensive line that could be replaced. I think it’s clear the Bengals like the versatility of Jake fisher and plan on using him next season. Kevin Zeitler agreed to table extensions until this offseason and it’s going to be interesting to see if the Bengals are able to keep him around, assuming they obviously want to. And it’s another year of Whitworth, our ageless wonder. Still our best player on the line, it’s only normal to wonder when he will begin to decline. As of now, we’re lucky to have him.

Defense 

Starting off shaky, our Bengals defense finally put it together in the second half. They ranked 13th in the league I total defense allowing 365 yards per game. Geno Atkins had another pro bowl season with 9 sacks and Carlos Dunlap caused havoc in the passing game as usual. Vontaze Burfict came back from suspension and immediately made our defense noticeably better. This guy is thecornerstone  of the defense and a great piece to build around. Secondary at times was shaky but towards the latter half began to put it together. Defense kept then in nearly every game and will see players like Andrew Billings and William Jackson III next season.

Special Teams

Well… we’re gonna need a kicker. Mike Nugent was cut after literally squibbing a PAT in Cleveland and handed the reigns over temporarily to Randy Bullock. It’ll be interesting to see if they decide to get a kicker in the draft of free agency.

Anyone miss Brandon Tate? Yeah me either. Alex Erickson won the AFC kick return title and is only the 3rd Bengal to do so averaging 27.9 yards a return. Hopefully he will be the permanent option for us in the returns department.

Draft Targets

The Bengals will open up at number 9 in this years draft. Their earliest pick since drafting AJ Green number 4 overall in the 2011 draft. It’s really hard to get a feel for what this Bengals team needs. They could go OL and help protect Dalton, they could go safety or CB to padden the secondary depth. Easily can see them going LB to replace either Dansby or Rey. Possibly DL to strengthen an already tough part of the defense.  Or even WR to add on to the targets for Andy Dalton. Also look for a potential surprise by drafting a great all around back to maybe replace one of our 3 backs.

Not so Bold Prediction- Bengals go either side of the line, and help either pass protection or pass rush.

Bold prediction- The Bengals have drafted 2 WR’s in the first round since 2000. That number goes to 3 this season as the Bengals draft either Mike Williams or the newest WR to declare, John Ross from Washington.

Biggest question marks headed into 2017?

-Where do we go in the first round of draft?

-Do we resign Dre? Lafell?
-What do we do with Cedric Ogbuehi?

-Can Tyler Eifert play a full season?

-Is William Jackson immediate starter if Dre leaves?

-Who gets named starting RB?

2017 Predictions

-The Bengals draft well, get healthy, and find their way back into the playoffs going 11-5 and winning the division by a half game over our close friends in Pitttsburgh.

-Th world stops spinning as the Cincinnati Bengals win their first playoff game in 27 years!

-The Bengals are Super Bowl Cham…. okay I’m getting a little too far ahead.

Who Dey!!!

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