Cincinnati Bengals Midseason Report

I realize it’s technically the second half of the NFL season, but this is my first chance to discuss the Bengals to this point.

The Bengals currently sit at 6-3 with a 1.5 game lead over the Cleveland Browns in the AFC North. If the season ended today, the Bengals would host Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in a first round Wild Card game at Paul Brown Stadium.

Obviously there is a lot of football yet to be played and the playoff picture is sure to change between now and January.

The Good

The good news is the Bengals are in first place and control their own destiny for the remainder of the season. They have beat quality opponents in the likes of the Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, and Detroit Lions. They strung together a four game winning streak and played arguably their most complete game of the Marvin Lewis era by dismantling the New York Jets.

Andy Dalton has shown flashes of brilliance throughout the 2013 season. Dalton is the most scrutinized player on the Bengals roster by fans and analyst across the NFL. Many believe (myself included) that this team can go as far as Andy Dalton is physically able to take them. If Andy Dalton can consistently produce the statistics that earned him Offensive Player of the Month honors in October, the Bengals are a Super Bowl contender.

Andy Dalton is finding new weapons in Cincy

Andy Dalton is finding new weapons in Cincy

As expected, the defensive line has been outstanding. The depth at tackle and the end spots have accounted for 17.5 sacks and have proved pivotal against Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Matthew Stafford. The unit reminds me of the New York Giants Super Bowl teams of 2008 and 2012.

A good defensive line can mask other issues on the defensive side of the football and force great quarterbacks such as Rodgers and Brady to seem ordinary. The Bengals ability to pressure the quarterback and continually rotate players has made them one of the best units in the NFL.

The emergence of weapons surrounding Andy Dalton has made this offense fun to watch once again. We’ve seen Dalton utilize seven to eight guys on any given drive at times throughout this season. Opposing defenses are being exposed for doubling AJ Green and the Bengals are putting together lengthy and time consuming drives at the right times.

Also, Giovani Bernard and Tyler Eifert have been major contributors in the first season in the NFL. Bernard gave us the highlight of the 2013 season this past week in Miami.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Giovani Bernard be the feature back for the remainder of the season.

The Bad

Every team deals with injuries. They have become commonplace and accounted for the “next man up” mentality heard so many times by head coaches around the league. With that being said, losing Geno Atkins for the year with a torn ACL feels like a potential season altering injury.

The Bengals have lost arguably their two best defensive players in Atkins and Leon Hall for the season. Adam Jones has played good enough in the absence of Hall over the past few weeks, but it will be interesting to see how the defensive line responds to losing its best player and leader in Geno Atkins.

Although Andy Dalton has shown flashes this season, he’s been far too inconsistent to be considered an elite quarterback. It’s clear that Dalton can’t throw the deep ball, but the biggest concern has been his lack of accuracy on short and intermediate routes.

This past week in Miami saw Dalton throw a pick six in the red zone on a 10 yard out to Marvin jones. A ball that should have been thrown to the outside shoulder of Jones was under thrown and allowed the defensive back to make a play. The result was a 90 yard interception return for a touchdown and a dramatic shift in momentum.

It’s mistakes like these which have kept Dalton as a middle tier NFL quarterback and limited the Bengals offensive firepower.

Second Half Predictions

Despite the losses of Geno Atkins and Leon Hall, I think the Bengals still win the AFC North. Cleveland is underrated and will keep the AFC North somewhat competitive, but I think Cincinnati is a better team overall.

I have the Bengals going 5-2 down the stretch with losses at San Diego and Pittsburgh. With an 11-5 record, the Bengals will host a Wild Card game in Cincinnati.

Who Dey

Cincinnati Bengals Position Breakdown: Quarterback

We are nearly eight weeks away from the Cincinnati Bengals opening their regular season on the road in Chicago. To put things in perspective, the NFL Draft was just over ten weeks ago. Point being, the first meaningful game of 2013 will be here before you know it.

Over the next eight weeks, I will breakdown a different position group each week. Each week will contain my personal analysis along with tidbits and quotes from various sources around the NFL.

The eight position groups will be: Quarterback, Running Back, Wide Receiver/Tight End, Offensive Line, Defensive Line, Linebacker, Secondary, and Special Teams.

The first position for this new segment is Quarterback.

Andy Dalton arrived in Cincinnati during a tumultuous time for Bengals nation. Carson Palmer was demanding a trade and causing major distractions off the field. Marvin Lewis signed a new contract to keep him in Cincinnati despite minimal success during his previous eight seasons with the team. Wide receivers Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens were released by the Bengals. Finally, the Bengals fired Offensive Coordinator Bob Bratkowski and replaced him with Jay Gruden.

The odds were heavily stacked against Dalton during his first year in Cincinnati. The 2011 lockout meant no training camp or time to learn a new system and get comfortable with his surrounding cast.

Nationally respected writers such as Peter King from Sports Illustrated and Pete Prisco from CBS Sports predicted the Bengals would finish 3-13 and be in contention for the #1 pick in April of 2012.

Instead, Andy Dalton started all 16 games while throwing for 3,400 yards, 20 touchdowns, and leading the Bengals to a 9-7 record and trip to the playoffs via the wild card. Dalton joined fellow Bengals A.J. Green, Geno Atkins, and Jermaine Gresham on the 2012 Pro Bowl roster.

The time is now for Andy Dalton

The time is now for Andy Dalton

Despite losing convincingly to the Houston Texans in the first round of the playoffs, the 2011 season was considered a huge success and Andy Dalton had solidified himself as a legit NFL quarterback.

2012 was another successful season as Andy Dalton improved in nearly every statistical category. He threw for 3,600 yards, 27 touchdowns and once again led the Bengals to the playoffs via the wild card.

However, for the second consecutive year the Bengals were bounced in the first round of the playoffs by the Houston Texans. This time around, writers and analysts were critical of Dalton’s performance towards the end of the season and the wild card round.

Despite statistical improvements, there is no doubt Andy Dalton seemed hesitant during the 2012 season. There were too many errant throws and not enough game changing plays. Furthermore, Marvin Lewis challenged Dalton to become a better leader midway through the season.

There is no doubt Andy Dalton is capable of winning in the NFL. He has proven he can be a reliable and consistent quarterback in this league. The question is whether or not he can lead them to the Superbowl. The Cincinnati Bengals have enough talent and experience to be legitimate Superbowl contenders over the next three to four years.

Andy Dalton needs to become a more consistent quarterback and make more plays in the red zone for this team to take the next step. The third year is typically the measuring stick for NFL quarterbacks. Dalton has the experience and knowledge to excel at this level.

For the second year in a row, ESPN guru Ron Jaworski ranked Dalton #19 on his list of starting quarterbacks in the NFL.

“I felt there was a hesitancy to his play in the last half of the 2012 season. There were too many times he didn’t pull the trigger and too many poor reads for a quarterback whose arm strength limitations demand precise execution. This will be a critical year for Dalton. He’s a rock-solid NFL starting quarterback, but there’s too much inconsistency in his overall play.”

The Cincinnati Bengals have surrounded Dalton with even more weapons by adding Tyler Eifert and Giovani Bernard in the 2013 NFL draft. Expect some new formations and wrinkles in the offense to get the ball out of Dalton’s hands quicker and more effectively.

The majority of Dalton apologists point to the lack of weapons surrounding him over the past two seasons.

Dalton has all world wide receiver A.J. Green, Pro Bowl tight end Jermaine Gresham, slippery slot receiver Andrew Hawkins, and now a blend of running backs in Ben-Jarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard. Not to mention the return of Mohamed Sanu and addition of big time playmaker Tyler Eifert.

I believe Andy Dalton is good enough to lead the Cincinnati Bengals deep into the playoffs and possibly contend for a Superbowl with the right offensive scheme. I think he has the playmakers and coordinators around him to create that scheme. The only thing left is execution and consistency.

There are no more excuses for Andy Dalton.

Bengals Return to Hard Knocks

The Cincinnati Bengals return to "Hard Knocks" in August

The Cincinnati Bengals return to “Hard Knocks” in August


For the second time in the last five years, the Cincinnati Bengals will be featured on the HBO series “Hard Knocks.” “Hard Knocks” is a reality sports documentary which provides an in depth look at the training camp of one NFL team each year.

The Bengals were featured on the show in 2009 when big personalities such as Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens stole the spotlight.

Additionally, Carson Palmer was still the quarterback in Cincinnati and things were beginning to head south for him and the rest of the team. Within two years, Carson, Chad, and Terrell Owens were either traded or released by the Bengals and a new wave of talent and youth was on the way in.

The 2013 version of “Hard Knocks” figures to be a much different story. The Bengals are led by quiet superstars on both sides of the ball in A.J. Green and Geno Atkins. The team is a nice blend of experience and youth, a trait which has helped them reach the playoffs three of the past four seasons.

With loads of talent on both sides of the ball, there is no doubt the Bengals are a good choice to be featured on the award winning show. The progression of Andy Dalton and the impact of rookies Tyler Eifert and Giovani Bernard will be must see TV for fans and pundits alike.

The question is, will “Hard Knocks” help or hurt the Cincinnati Bengals?

Screen Shot 2013-06-19 at 10.01

In my opinion, there is a reason organizations like the Patriots and Steelers are never featured on “Hard Knocks.” Strong organizations don’t want the distraction that comes with cameras and film crews following their every move. Obviously, Mike Brown and Marvin Lewis feel differently when it comes to this type of distraction.

Marvin Lewis has earned the right to make the decision to appear on “Hard Knocks,” and I will enjoy watching every second of the show. However, it has the potential to become a distraction for a very young and talented team. Andy Dalton has a lot to prove in 2013. The defense is full of young talent. The majority of the playmakers on offense are still in their mid-20’s. How will they respond to the publicity and critique that comes with this show?

For now, I am cautiously optimistic.

What do you think?

Bengals Update


While the Reds have been busy winning 10 of their last 12, the Cincinnati Bengals kicked off OTA’s this week. OTA’s are a good opportunity to look at some rookies and get a feel for where the team stands in the health department. It also means the NFL offseason is technically over and we can begin to think about football season again.

A few items of note:

Adam Jones

Adam Jones

Adam Jones

Adam Jones suffered some sort of injury to his calf muscle on the first day of OTA’s and will be held out for the remainder of practice sessions. Jones seems poised for perhaps his best season in Cincinnati.

He has been of the most underrated Bengals over the past three seasons and has filled in nicely when called upon. Furthermore, he has added a dimension in the return game.

Andre Smith

Andre Smith is once again absent from OTA’s. Resigning Smith played a huge role in allowing the Bengals to draft Giovani Bernard and Margus Hunt in the second round, rather than using one of those picks to replace the right tackle.

Everybody seems pleased with having Smith back in the fold, but he certainly hasn’t been easy since being selected 6th overall in the 2009 NFL Draft. Hopefully he gets his act together and returns to OTA’s at a respectable weight.

Andy Dalton

This is a big season for Andy Dalton. The third year as a starter is traditionally a good measuring stick for NFL quarterbacks. With the addition of Giovani Bernard and Tyler Eifert, the Bengals have surrounded Dalton with plenty of fire power. Dalton and AJ Green have been vocal about wanting to improve on the long ball.

Perhaps this play is fueling the fire a bit.

James Harrison

OTA’s give coaches their first look at newly acquired linebacker, James Harrison. The former NFL Defensive Player of the Year brings a nastiness and edge to a young defensive unit. It will be interesting to see how Mike Zimmer uses Harrison and how much he will be called upon to defend tight ends across the middle, something he struggled with in years past. Harrison could become the x-factor of a very good defensive unit and possibly help take this team to the next tier.

James Harrison

James Harrison

It’s way too early to determine what this team will look like come September 8 for the season opener in Chicago. However, this team has weapons at nearly every position and there is reason to be optimistic going forward. The Bengals are building something special and it might be time for everyone to start paying attention.