2015 NFL Season Preview- Cincinnati Bengals
For the fourth straight season, Cincinnati disappointed in the playoffs.
Quarterback Andy Dalton failed to make the jump the team had hoped he would after signing a six year, $96 million extension. He continues to struggle with decision making and deep ball accuracy but he is still the best option for at least one more year. Giovanni Bernard lost his starting running back job because of injury but still was a key factor in the offense. A.J. Green missed four games because of injury and most of two other games. The offensive line was a run blocking monster and left tackle Andrew Whitworth had his best season after allowing no sacks.
The defensive line was the weak link of the team. The defense had a league worst 20 sacks and defensive tackle Geno Atkins wasn't himself a year removed from a torn ACL. The linebackers were a mess due to injuries. Vontaze Burfict missed time with a concussion before a knee injury ended his season and Rey Maualuga missed four games with a hamstring injury. Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick finally lived up to expectations and became a starter in December. Leon Hall was clearly slower after suffering a second Achilles injury the year before. Adam Jones had his best season as he produced great on defense and special teams.
The rookie class produced some good talent for the future. Cornerback Darqueze Denard was rarely used but produced when called upon. Running back Jeremy Hill cemented Giovanni Bernard as the starter and led the league in rushing the second half of the year. Center Russell Bodine was a day one starter and had a solid first year.
Bengals 2014 Rankings
Opponent Passing Yards
Opponent Rushing Yards
NFL Rank- 21st
NFL Rank- 6th
NFL Rank- 20th
NFL Rank- 20th
NFL Rank- 15th
NFL Rank- 22nd
After finishing the year with a 10-5-1 record, head coach Marvin Lewis has to prove he's worth the extension he signed through 2016. He'll be entering his 13th season as head coach in Cincinnati, but he has an 0-6 record in the postseason. He has to win in the playoffs if he expects to make it to 2016.
Notable Additions- WR Denarius Moore, DE Michael Johnson, MLB A.J. Hawk
Notable Departures- QB Jason Campbell, TE Jermaine Gresham, CB Terrance Newman
Jeremy Hill Rookie Highlights
2015 NFL Draft
Going into the draft, Cincinnati held the 21st overall pick with several positions needing to be filled. Most notably at wide receiver, tackle, and linebacker.
When A.J. Green went down, the lack of depth at receiver was the big reason the Bengals lost in the playoffs for a fourth straight year. The team needs another wide receiver who can step up if A.J. Green gets injured again.
Andre Smith and Andrew Whitworth are getting up in age and Marshall New house struggled for much of the year. The team needs to groom a younger tackle to one day replace Smith and Whitworth.
Rey Maualuga was abled to be resigned but there is no guarantee that Vontaze Burfict will ever be the same after a second knee injury. The team needs a young linebacker who can play outside or inside.
Cincinnati ended up selecting Texas A&M offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi with the 21st pick. Ogbuehi was the quickest offensive tackle in the draft but his technique is concerning and he tore his ACL in the final game of the year so his readiness for the start of the season is in question.
The Bengals also notably drafted Oregon offensive tackle Jake Fisher in the second round, Rutgers tight end Tyler Kroft in the third, TCU linebacker Paul Dawson in the third, USC defensive back Josh Shaw in the fourth, and Fresno State safety Derron Smith in the sixth. Fisher has long arms and hands to latch on and control but he struggles to handle speed rushers. Kroft is a natural receiver with good hands but he saw a big drop in production in his final year in college. Dawson was the best tackling outside linebacker in the draft but has to build up strength to fight through blockers. Shaw has a nice size and speed combination to play cornerback or safety but he has a lot of questions to answer about an off the field incident he lied about and was suspended for. Smith was a four year starter for the Bulldogs but he lacks the ideal size for the safety position.
Paul Dawson Highlights
What to Expect
This season will be judged on Cincinnati winning in the postseason.
The last playoff lose wasn't Andy Dalton's fault, but he has to be more consistent and not put his team in bad situations. The offense has to build around Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard. With A.J. Green back healthy, the passing game should return to form, but the rest of the receiving corps is unproven. The offensive line now has a bounty of talent to build a strong force.
The defense has to prove themselves and get back to their form under Mike Zimmer. Geno Atkins needs get back to his pro bowl form and Michael Johnson needs to play like he did when he was first in Cincinnati and not the disappointing season he had in Tampa Bay last year. The linebacker corps is now stocked after the team acquired A.J. Hawk and Paul Dawson so there should be a lot of talented depth at position. The secondary is stacked to the point that it could rotate talented cornerbacks.
Based on how the run game looked down the stretch and the additions the team signed in the offseason, this team is still capable taking the final wildcard spot.
Best record they can hope for: 9-7