A once strong Cincinnati Bengals offense struggled this season as the team missed the playoffs. What do the Bengals need to do this off-season to improve on offense and get back into the playoff picture?
Looking Forward: The Cincinnati Bengals Offense
Andy Dalton will be the Bengals trigger man again next season, they question is who will be his backup. The Bengals would like to re-sign A.J. McCarron, but if another team sees a potential starter in him, they may make an offer the Bengals can’t match. If McCarron leaves, look for the Bengals to bring in an experienced backup.
The running back position is an interesting one for the Bengals. The question is not so much who will come, but who will go. Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard both under-performed last season. Hill has a contract through next season and Bernard has a contract through 2019. Free agent, Rex Burkhead came on very well late in the season when the others struggled with injury. There will definitely be a market for Burkhead. How this group pans out could be one of the more interesting stories of the off-season in Cincinnati. If the Bengals look to add to this position, it will likely be a bigger more physical back to replace Hill at some point.
Don’t expect the Bengals to make a big splash in this area. They have not placed much priority in having a second big-time threat opposite A.J. Green in the past, and they shouldn’t be expected to now. Tight end Tyler Eifert seems to fill that role. Brandon LaFell is a free agent this season, and don’t be surprised if the Bengals let him walk.
They may add a veteran if LaFell departs, but it is more likely that we see a youth movement. They feel strongly about 2016 second rounder Tyler Boyd who seems destined to move into the number two receiver position. Other young players such as Cody Core, James Wright, and Alex Erickson may also take on a larger role if LaFell departs.
Tyler Eifert is among the best in the league when he is healthy. In his absence early in the season, the Bengals utilized Tyler Kroft, Ryan Hewitt, and C.J. Uzomah who all played well. If the Bengals have concerns about Eifert’s durability, they may look to add a tight end, but that would be a surprise. The Bengals have depth at tight end; what they lack are weapons in the pass game. The Bengals making a big acquisition at wide receiver would be a clearer indication that they are not confident that Eifert can stay healthy for an entire season.
Both guard Kevin Zeitler and left tackle Andrew Whitworth enter free agency this off-season. As a guard, Zeitler will be cheaper to keep, but easier to replace as well. Whitworth is 35, though he has not shown signs of declining play. The Bengals have struggled to find a right tackle to play opposite Whitworth, so replacing him could be a herculean task. The Bengals would like Cedric Ogbuehi to be Whitworth’s replacement. Ogbuehi played left tackle at times this year when the Bengals would move Whitworth to guard. If Whitworth leaves and Ogbuehi takes his position that would leave Jake Fisher and Eric Winston to compete for the right tackle position.
With the departure of Zeitler as well, the Bengals would have question marks across the line and offensive line coach Paul Alexander would have his work cut out for him. It is unclear what the Bengals will do at this position, but they will certainly need to regain stability up front to make it back to the playoffs.
The Bengals will need to improve in many areas on offense in order to get back into the NFL playoffs. In order to be competitive next season, they will need to develop their current players and make wise acquisitions in the NFL draft and free agency. The Bengals already have stability at the quarterback position. Looking forward, what happens this off-season at the offensive line position will have the biggest impact on the 2017 season.