The Bengals have advanced to the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time in more than 30 years, a positive run mitigated by the fact that they’ve wound up losers to the Texans in the playoffs each year.
Those endings weren’t what the team would have liked, but the overall results of the last two years have left defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer with the impression that the team is close to being the kind of team they want to be.
“I think we’re really close,” Zimmer said on the NFL Network Tuesday. “The first year, we got thumped pretty good by Houston. This year was a lot closer. We’re right there. But we’re going to have to keep grinding and keep adding talent. We have a good nucleus of guys and I think we’re exactly where we need to be.”
It’s hard to argue too much with Zimmer’s take on the Bengals’ standing. The answers to two questions will go a long way toward determining whether they take another step forward.
The first is whether they’ll spend the money needed to keep free agents like Michael Johnson and Andre Smith while also upgrading elsewhere with their copious amounts of cap space. And the second is whether Andy Dalton’s going to prove to be the consistent franchise quarterback that they’ll need to make the leap into the elite of the AFC.