PFT preseason power rankings No. 21: Cincinnati Bengals

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The Bengals went 52-27-1 from 2011-15 with five consecutive playoff appearances. Not that anybody noticed. An 0-5 postseason record tends to make people disregard you as a contender.

After sinking to 6-9-1 last season, the Bengals truly are forgotten heading into this season. Cincinnati, though, doesn’t mind the role of underdog. Although they are young, the Bengals believe they have enough talent to rebound rather than rebuild.

The Bengals hope for better luck in the health department this year. Receiver A.J. Green missed six games last season, and tight end Tyler Eifert was out for six. They started only four games together. Andy Dalton missed his favorite targets, especially in the red zone, as he threw a career-low 18 touchdowns.

The Bengals lost five games by five points or less and arguably have as much talent as any other team in the division, so they might be closer to returning to the playoffs than most think.

Biggest positive change: The Bengals drafted speed, speed and more speed. Receiver John Ross’ 4.22 broke the combine record. Jordan Willis was the fastest defensive lineman, and Jordan Evans the fastest linebacker. Running back Joe Mixon and safety Brandon Wilson were the fastest among prospects at their positions, too. Ross and Mixon, the team’s top-two picks, give Andy Dalton two more weapons to go with A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert.

Biggest negative change: The Bengals offensive line wasn’t good last season, and it lost its two best players – Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler – in free agency. That leaves former first-round pick Cedric Ogbuehi, who was benched at right tackle last season, to start at left tackle, and Jake Fisher, a second-round pick in 2015, to start at right tackle. Andre Smith returns after a year in Minnesota but will move to right guard. If the line can’t protect Andy Dalton or open holes for Joe Mixon, the Bengals are going nowhere in 2017.

Coaching thermometer: It’s 212 degrees. Boiling. Marvin Lewis, the Bengals head coach since 2003, enters the final year of his contract for the first time since 2010. He has received a series of one-year extensions in recent years but not this year. It might be now or never for Lewis to win a playoff game in Cincinnati.

We’d like to crack a beer with . . . Geno Atkins. Did you know the defensive tackle has made five Pro Bowls in seven seasons.? That he’s a two-time All-Pro? That he has 52 career sacks? That Atkins, 29, could end up being one of the best ever at his position? Let’s get to know him better.

How they can prove us wrong: The offensive line is better than expected, allowing Joe Mixon to run for 1,000 yards. A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert stay healthy, allowing Andy Dalton to pass for his career averages of 3,700 yards and 24 touchdowns. The defense plays like it did in the second half of last season when it allowed 15.3 points per game, but gets more sacks (33) and takeaways (20) than last season. And rookie kicker Jake Elliott, whom the Bengals drafted in the fifth round, doesn’t miss six extra points and seven field goals like the team’s kickers did last season. All of that likely needs to happen for the Bengals to make the playoffs, but winning a playoff game for the first time since 1990 might be the only way Lewis earns an extension.

23 responses to “PFT preseason power rankings No. 21: Cincinnati Bengals

  1. This team is a waste of a playoff spot almost every year. They are like getting a ticket to a bad ass concert, but when they get there they realize they left their ticket at home.

  2. Dude if Mixon stays healthy and keeps his nose clean, he will rush for a lot more than 1k.

    Their toughest games out of division this year are against the Packers, Titans and Broncos.

    They should walk to a WC while competing for the division. Don’t sleep on this team, they could just put it all together one of these years. So much talent and so little attention paid to them after a down year.

  3. I think their wildcard is coaching. The OC is going into his second year. He’d been passed up numerous times for promotion to OC before, so you have to wonder what he came to the table with in his first year. The D had new coaches at all three levels last year. They got it together the latter half of the season.

    If the coaches perform, that’ll help.

  4. This offensive line DOES NOT look good… at all.

    The rookie receiving talent of 1st round John Ross and 4th round Josh Malone gives hope for the future… but… the fact is THEY ARE ROOKIES (Malone might have been a steal in the 4th round).

    Joe Mixon’s receiving ability will help keep opponent’s defense honest.

    PLEASE!!! PLEASE!!! Tyler Eifert don’t get injured.
    After starting in only one game in 2014 and 2 games in 2016).
    Maybe… he will do his ‘Bret Saberhagen’ thang.

    Sure… the PASS Defense was ranked 11th in NFL in 2016… but… they are average at best.

  5. Pretty much nailed it, although if the line keeps Dalton upright, he’ll far surpass 3700 yards and 24 TDs. 4300 yards and around 30 TDs sounds about right. He hit those numbers in 2013 and was on pace for that prior to injury in 2015. The line has to be decent and the receivers have to stay healthy though.

  6. Btw, thanks for giving Geno some attention. The guy would be a superstar in a bigger market. Sad that he gets ignored.

  7. Normally I’m in favor of coaching stability, but no playoff win since 2003? Time is up.

  8. I have another one for the How they can prove us wrong section. How about if Andy Dalton doesn’t choke in a big game for once. Oh, and that PacMan and Burfict and whoever else can not get arrested or suspended.

  9. This team is young, talented and fast, it will come down to one thing: can the o-line produce? From what I’ve see if fisher and oguebuei I have little faith. However, maybe they will be improved going into their 3rd year. Drafting Jeremy hill’s replacement was the smartest move they made this offseason, the dumbest was letting Andrew whitworth walk. The defense hopefully brings more heat will Willis and Lawson and we get to see what a healthy dennard and wjiii can do in the secondary. Anything other than nugent will be an upgrade at kicker, I’d really like to smack the front office upside their head for sticking with that ineffective stiff for so long.

  10. I think by the end of the season this team will have shown themselves to be better than #21. I predict a playoff spot for them, and maybe some post-season success for once.

  11. The 3rd-most dangerous team in the division year after year. And that kitty cat fearsomeness comes right from the top, with the league’s worst/cheapest owner not named Dan Snyder and a coach who should be selling grills at Cabelas.

    Roster wise, this team is a mix of true talent (Green, Atkins), criminal psychopathy (Burfict, Jones), and average niceguys who are there to sell jerseys as opposed to win playoffs games (Dalton).

    5 and 11

  12. Behind that OL, Andy Dalton will be running for his life
    if he holds the ball for more than 2 secs. This team will be
    very one-dimensional and going no where.
    Points will be hard to come by and the losses will pile up.
    Why let your 2 best O-Linemen go at a time where it’s
    so difficult to find able linemen?

    Cedric Ogbuehi, Boling, Center Russell Bodine, with
    Andre Smith playing out of position, then Jake Fisher.
    Good luck with that. Dalton will be lucky to survive the season.

    The Bengals once had a loaded young talented team
    but squandered their opportunities. The window
    is now closed. They will be battling the Browns
    for room in the basement of the AFC North.

  13. This team’s window of opportunity is getting smaller, just getting to the playoffs this year would be an accomplishment.

    We all know what would happen if they made the playoffs though.

  14. Young Bengal fanbois have forgotten Bengal history. The Brown family is repeating the same mistakes that plagued the 1990s. In that time, Mike Brown tried to favor skilled offense to draw people to the stands but failed to pay for a decent line. After a while, teams figured this out and blitzed every down, plugging running holes and stopping the deep passing game with a QB and receivers not suited for a short, quick hitting passing game.

    This year’s line is such an experiment with no proven backup in case the plan fails that Dalton may not make the mid-season before hitting IR, Cincy may need three QBs to finish the season.

    Until the O line can prove itself, AJ Green and Ross aren’t going to get any balls thrown down field.

    If Dalton gets hurt early, the team will finish last in the AFC North and will only win games 3-0, assuming the defense is up to it.

  15. I am of a mind that this team will underproduce, and being an AFC North fan, I believe that the entire Division, with the possible exception of the Steelers, will do so. I am a Browns fan (lifelong, even prior to the escape/expansion) and believe in more than a 1 win season with a revamped O-Line and a better DC. But I am not feeling the Ravens or the Bengals at all. I think this Division will be mired in mediocrity in 2017. Hope I am wrong.

  16. Not a big follower of the Bengals but getting rid of their kicker sounds like a huge addition by subtraction. If they can stay healthy and the offensive line holds up, they could take their division. Pittsburgh seems overrated and why is Baltimore getting so much love? They haven’t done a thing in 4 years.

    Mixon is a beast, he’ll be way better than that LSU guy and Giovanni should be back from injury, correct? Then there’s Ross in the other side of green, Eifert back… Cincy should be ranked much higher

  17. Baltimore has been regressing on offense ever since Flacco signed his big deal and they still don’t have a legit #1 RB/WR/TE, even Flacco is only a serviceable QB at this point. The offensive line is decent with Yanda and Staley but not deep. The defense keeps this team afloat and Suggs is an OLD 34 with really no other help. Jefferson is a versatile piece at safety but he is only successful if the rest of the front 7 does their job. Weddle, Smith and the rookie from Alabama don’t scare me in the least. I don’t usually like to say the but football writers are being lazy in saying Baltimore will get one of the wildcards as they are probably the most OVERATED team in the AFC. I think a team like the Chargers with how they have reloaded on offense with skill players and their o-line along with their defense that just seems to get better every week, will be a surprise team that snags a wild card berth. Also I might need to have my head examined but look at the Jag’s with their defense and new offensive philosophy that’s going to take the air out of the ball with Fournette and keep the turnover machine Bortles’ from sabotaging them. They can also contend and don’t forget Miami was a playoff team last year and Buffalo with Rick Dennison taking over the offense might get them over the top this year.

    Cleveland is doing a major rebuild job and I love what they have done so far. Hugh Jackson is a tremendous offensive mind and I really hope they give him the time to put his stamp on this team. I don’t think Keiser is the answer but the offensive line is looking really good and the talent they are drafting is evident. A nice mix of quality and quantity, Cleveland will be a real contender in a couple of years but not this season.

    Pittsburgh has the talent and this is their season. Their window slams shut the moment their season ends. Ben will retire and Dobbs will struggle to man the offense next season. The smart move would be to pay Bell as he is a stud at rb and ride him until Dobbs’ is ready.

    The Bengals will make the playoffs if the offensive line can protect Dalton and roadgrade for the Mixon. I think they will simplify the blocking scheme for the young players and make it very easy for Andre Smith as he transitions to RG. This will be a power blocking team that will throw a bunch of quick passes, bubble screens with Ross, dumps with Eiffert and Boyd and occasional deep shots with Green whenever they get one on one. The defense played really well the 2nd half of the season despite not generating much pressure. If they can get an additional 10 sacks and by a stroke of luck recover more than 3 flippin fumbles, they will be back in the top 10 this season.

    I have my doubts as I feel Ken Zampese is not the mind Gruden or Jackson was and this offense will suffer for it. Also, losing your top two lineman the same season is just soul crushing. Especially when you see the lowlights that Cedric has showed thus far. I will say I’m very happy that Hill will be on his way out this season and that he will be shamed as the backup to Mixon. He deserves this after all that he hasn’t done for this team. The staff has been ridiculously patient with him as he plods along for less than 4 yards per carry and having probably the worst turnover in franchise history. Even if the season is a disaster, I will at least enjoy booing Jeremy Hill out of town.

  18. @voyager6
    That’s semi-recent history. If you go farther back to Paul Brown, he was very much in favor of, and knew the importance of a strong o-line. I’m starting to wonder if football knowledge skips a generation. I hear Mike Brown’s kids do a decent job.

    I get letting the two o-line guys go. Don’t necessarily like it, but I get it. In a salary cap league, do you overpay an aging LT and potentially not be able to afford a younger guy going after his second contract? The young guard, that’s a tough one. When you consider the production and cost of an A-list guard vs a B-list guard and think about losing an A-list LB, corner, or QB, what’s the best decision for the team? It’d be nice if this were baseball and you just pay folks, but it isn’t. Paying one means another loses out. Who are they willing to lose or what position are they willing to sacrifice to pay a guard top money? These moves would be less risky if there were coaching you could believe in. Belichick, love him or hate him, would make it work.

    Regarding losing Dalton, I honestly am not convinced that replacing him with McCarron will be the source of losses. Once McCarron found his groove, he was good and made an argument for being a starter in the league. If not for The Fumble followed by The Meltdown, he would have gotten a playoff win and gotten the monkey off their back. The key to the losses will be why Dalton got hurt. If he got knocked out due to incompetence in coaching or o-line play, McCarron won’t be able to overcome that either.

    Can the Bengals coaches coach the talent they have?

  19. The Bengals Offensive Line was not good last year, and that was WITH an Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler. I think there were 40+ sacks last year. Granted, most probably came in the game against the Jets in the 1st game of the season, but how could it get worse. The O-Line was that bad and according to the article 5 losses were decided by 5 points or less. So, to me, I think there’s hope. A ranking between 13-18 would have been fair. I think they are least better than half the teams in the league.

  20. 9-7 will win this division. Sadly for the Bengals, they will more than likely finish around 6-10.

    Would not be surprised at all to see Cleveland finish ahead of both Cincinnati and Baltimore.

  21. As a Bengals fan I know this. In the Andy Dalton era, the team is much better when everyone expects them to suck. The minute they are expected to win is the minute they rip your heart out. They’ll surprise people this year and make the playoffs.

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