1) One of our teams is going to feel better after next week's game. It is pretty doom and gloom around Broncos Country. What problems are there with the Bengals that have your team at 3 - 6 this year?
The Bengals primary issue has been the offense. The Bengals offense ranks dead last in the NFL in total yards, rushing yards, first downs, and plays per drive, and aren’t much better at 30th in points scored.
Andy Dalton has had his issues with inaccurate throws, his inability to function under pressure, and bad post-snap reads, but the primary culprit for the offensive ineptitude has been the offensive line.
Over the past decade, the Bengals have done a woeful job drafting and developing offensive linemen overall, and as a team who annually avoids dipping their toes into free agency until after all the quality players are scooped up, their roster is built via the draft, and failed draft picks have a resounding effect on the team’s success or failure.
The Bengals offensive line was a little below average last season, with two very good players (LT Andrew Whitworth and RG Kevin Zeitler), and three easily replaceable players. They let the two great players walk via free agency with little to no attempt to retain them. And, as expected, the offensive line went from below average, to just appalling.
A good example of how their offensive line is getting worse is to look at Andy Dalton’s sack percentage each year from 2014. It drops from 4.2% to 4.9%, to 6.8%, and to 8.4% this year.
2) Can you believe most of us envy your quarterback situation? What's the outlook for Dalton and McCarron over the next few years? Do you think your next QB of the future is already on the team?
Well, if I had a good answer to that question, I’d provide it, but the quarterback situation is about as comprehensible as Cincinnati-style chili.
As long as Marvin Lewis remains the head coach, Andy Dalton is this team’s quarterback. Lewis is a firm believer in playing veterans over younger players, regardless of ability.
Now that being said, many fans are hopeful that Lewis’ long-overdue tenure in Cincinnati will finally end after this season (if not sooner). Once Lewis goes, one would expect McCarron to get a shot at unseating Dalton. But there is no guarantee that McCarron will remain a Bengal in 2017.
McCarron missed his rookie season for an NFI (non football injury), which, per the CBA, means that after this season he will be a Restricted Free Agent. But McCarron’s camp has an argument to get the NFL to change his status to an unrestricted Free Agent after this season. To date, the issue is unresolved, and we really don’t know if McCarron will be a RFA or UFA after this season.
OK, so to make the waters as murky as the Ohio River, there were many reports that the Bengals third-string QB, Jeff Driskel, outplayed McCarron this year in training camp and preseason. And it’s reasonable to think that the Bengals tried to trade McCarron at the deadline because they felt Driskel was as good of an option going forward. But it’s hard to really speculate when Driskel has yet to play an NFL game, and we have no idea what the status of McCarron is.
Ultimately, I think McCarron is either traded or leaves as a UFA after this year. I’d also expect the next head coach to draft the QB of the future in the 2018 draft, to sit behind Dalton for a year or so, which means Driskel would likely be released after the draft.
3) I'm sorry, but how in the heck is Marvin Lewis still your coach? Have you at least seen any positive change with the new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor?
To get an understanding of how Lewis is still the Bengals coach, one has to look at the team’s history. In the decade before Marvin Lewis arrived in Cincinnati, the team was about as abysmal as an NFL organization could get. Bad teams, bad drafts, bad everything, and no winning records. Then Lewis arrived in 2003 and turned the team around from awful to good, going 121-109-3 with seven playoff trips in 14 seasons.
In the past, whenever the topic of moving on from Lewis was brought up, many fans were quick to defend him, afraid of returning to that horrible decade that preceded him, as if he were some sort of Moses figure who alone could bring the Bengals out of the ineptitude of the 1990s. This year he seems to have lost total control of the team, and I think enough fans are finally on board with making the long overdue coaching change.
Regarding Bill Lazor, the offense has been slightly better. Although, after scoring no offensive touchdowns in the first two weeks, it would have been really difficult to get worse. Lazor is faced with the same problems that faced his predecessor, which is a non-existent offensive line. Lazor seems to subscribe to Marvin Lewis theology of non-belief in halftime adjustments, because the Bengals offense generally looks like an NFL offense for the first 20 minutes or so of the game, but typically produce a steady stream of 3-and-out drives after that.
4) Tell us about two guys on your team that aren't well known out of your fan base but look like real plus players.
The first player who comes to mind is fourth round rookie pass rusher Carl Lawson. He has 5.5 sacks so far in his rookie season, despite only playing about 40% of our defensive snaps. Heading into last week PFF had him ranked first in the NFL for pass rush efficiency, based on the number of pressures he’s generating vs downs he’s played in, or something like that. He looked great in OTA and in training camp, and it’s good to see that has translated into actual NFL games.
For the other, I’ll go with our returner Alex Erickson. He joined the Bengals last year as a UDFA from Wisconsin. There were no expectations for him to make the roster, but he ran away with the returner role last year. And this year he has gotten more playing time at wide receiver, seeing more work there than our recent wide receiver draftees from 2016 Tyler Boyd (Rd 2) and Cody Core (Rd 6), and more than 2017 draftees John Ross (Rd 1) & Josh Malone (Rd 4).
5) Give us your keys to the game and score prediction.
To win the game, the Bengals need to claim an early lead. To do that, they need to change a couple fundamental things they do. First, they need to stop trying to run to set up the pass. The offensive line gives them no running lanes, and running plays only result in obvious passing plays on second-and-long, and third-and-long. They need to pass to set up the run, and they need to do this by remembering A.J. Green is on their roster (which is not as easy for them to do as one would expect). They also need to focus on the short and intermediate passing game since Dalton won’t have time to throw anything deep and his accuracy on deep routes just makes deep passes throw away plays.
If they can get a lead, I like the Bengals pass rush from their front four to get steady pressure on Osweiler. Also, the Bengals coaches have a disbelief in something called “halftime adjustments,” which limits their ability to perform well in the second half, so another reason to get that early lead.
The Bengals non-existent pass protection limits their ability to play catch-up, especially in obvious passing situations. So an early Broncos lead would probably mean a Broncos victory. I think the Bengals offensive line would have about as much success stopping Von Miller as a Ford Fiesta would have in stopping a yellow Union Pacific diesel electric engine pulling a line of inter-modal cars at full track speed. So whoever scores first probably wins.
I think the Bengals have a very good defense that is being thrown under the bus by an offense that can’t stay on the field, and is dead last in time of possession. I figure the situation in Denver is somewhat similar with a bad offense pulling down a good defense. So in a matchup of a pair of struggling offenses and good defenses, I’d be hard pressed to see either team score more than 14 points. So I’m going to guess 13-10. As far as who scores the 13 and who scores the 10, the Bengals best kicker is now kicking for the Eagles (long story), so I don’t trust their kicker in a close game. So I’d pick Denver over Cincinnati. Also, the Bengals best defensive player, Geno Atkins, has sickle cell trait, so I doubt he will be very active this Sunday in Denver, which opens up the middle of the line for the Broncos solid running game.
Long story short: Broncos 13 - Bengals 10, and probably neither offense reaches 250 total yards.
Which team’s terrible O-line will actually be best on Sunday?
This poll is closed
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