The Bengals Ahead of the Draft: Addition, Subtraction

The Draft is officially eight days away, so let’s talk some Bengals. Over the next week there will be a handful of writings and musings dealing with the Orange and Black.Today I’d like to introduce a guest poster to Frederick’s Folio: Kyle. This will be part one of a two-part piece that Kyle has written.

This has been the most exciting Bengals offseason in recent memory. In the next few paragraphs I will give a realistic fan view and breakdown of the offseason. I will try to keep my opinions as unbiased as possible.

In this first part, Kyle looks at who joined the Bengals, who left, and he gives an overall grade for the offseason, thus far.

Key Offseason Additions:

Cordy Glenn – LT – acquired via trade from Buffalo

Tyler Eifert – TE – retained FA

Preston Brown – MLB – signed FA

Matt Barkley – QB – signed FA

Chris Baker – DT – signed FA

Teryl Austin – Defensive Coordinator

Frank Pollack – Offensive Line Coach

Let’s start with the trade that brought us (when healthy) a top 15 starting LT in Cordy Glenn. Based off of team need and what was given up/exchanged in the trade I feel like the Bengals made a great deal. There are some concerns though as in the last few seasons Glenn has had some injury and durability issues. If Glenn can stay healthy and Ogbuehi can develop into a starting caliber RT, this line should move from the cellar to the top 10 in the NFL. Grade: A

I was happy that the Bengals were able to re-sign Tyler Eifert. When healthy he has the skills and ability to be an All-Pro. I believe the Bengals should only use Eifert in the red zone, on 3rd and longs, 4th downs and potential game winning drives in order to help keep him healthy for a whole season. I know that realistically this is a farfetched idea and they’re not paying close to $10 million this year to have him on a snap count. Grade: B

Preston Brown should help the defense tremendously. If you watched any Bengals game last year it was obvious that outside of Burfict, tackling was a major issue. Brown tied for the lead in tackles last year and has the most tackles by any player since joining the league in 2014. My concern with Brown is that I find myself wondering what kind of baggage he’s bringing. Based off of his production it’s fascinating that he wasn’t drawing more interest in the open market. Grade: B+

Matt Barkley brings some veteran experience with him but never lived up to his USC hype. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Barkley cut by the end of the preseason. Grade: C-

The Chris Baker signing could turn out to be a great under the radar signing if he can get back to the same form that he displayed in Washington. Or the rumors end up being true that he is now lazy and no longer able to play at a high level. The good news is that the Bengals could release him without taking a notable cap hit. Grade: C

I am extremely happy that the Bengals brought in a new defensive coordinator in Teryl Austin. Guenther’s play calling, decision making and scheme were overall terrible. He was never able to get the most of the skill players like Dunlap, Atkins and Burfict. Grade: B+

Frank Pollack might be the most underrated offseason acquisition by any team. He is the architect behind the dominant Dallas Cowboys offensive line of the past few years. I believe he will make Ogbuehi a starting caliber RT and groom a rookie C into a starter. Grade: A

Key Offseason Losses:

Adam Jones – CB – released

AJ McCarron – QB – signed with Buffalo

Jeremy Hill – RB – signed with New England

Russell Bodine – C – signed with Buffalo

Chris Smith – DE – signed with Cleveland

Adam Jones is a player that I still think can contribute to a team. His time in Cincinnati is up though due to the emergence of William Jackson. With Dennard having his best season in 2017 and the Bengals singing Kirkpatrick to a long term deal, the writing was on the wall for “Pacman”. Love him or hate him you can’t argue that Jones was a huge reason why the Bengals defense was able to play at such a high level for a few years. I think he would be best utilized in a defense that plays a lot of zone and he still has the ability to contribute on special teams. I like the fact that a hot head is now gone and we get younger at the position. Grade: B+

The AJ McCarron saga is one that perturbs many fans. A lot of people wanted AJ to get his shot while Dalton struggled heavily the last two seasons. As a Bengals fan the thing that makes me angry is the fact that McCarron walked in free agency without the Bengals getting some type of return on their investment. Clearly the coaching staff and front office weren’t committed to McCarron. In spite of this they weren’t able to get a trade done for a player that many teams considered to be a starter. Grade: F

In 2014, Jeremy Hill looked like he would be the franchise running back that the Bengals have been missing out on since Corey Dillon and to a lesser degree, Rudi Johnson (people easily forget how dominant Rudi was in 4 straight seasons from 2003-2006). Unfortunately Hill was never able to recapture his rookie season magic. He’s a player that I hope does well with his new team but I’m glad Cincinnati moved on from. Grade: B

Russell Bodine is a tough one to grade in terms of value to the Bengals. Many people considered him to be a weak link on the offensive line. Considering how poorly the line played as a whole in 2017, the fact that he was singled out as a weak link is really bad. PFF has Bodine ranked as the 25th best center in 2017 with an overall poor rating. Watching him over the past 4 seasons has always left something to be desired. He was serviceable but shouldn’t have been a regular starter. He did play in every game since being drafted and now the Bengals look to the draft or turn to the center that Bodine beat out to claim the starter spot. Grade: B+

Last year the Bengals made a trade with Jacksonville and brought in Chris Smith. Smith only had 3 sacks in 2017 but he was constantly collapsing the pocket and putting pressure on the QB. For the 2nd straight year Smith becomes the casualty of a deep depth chart at DE. The Bengals are going to give Lawson and Willis more reps and still have Dunlap and Johnson as starters. I personally would have liked to see the Bengals work out a 2 year deal with Smith and move on from Johnson. The worst part about this is the fact that the Bengals will now have to face Smith twice a year in the foreseeable future. Grade: C

Overall Offseason Grade: A-

Advertisements

How to Survive a Bad Football Game

I live in Cincinnati. I love my town, I love the awesome things there are to do, places to go, people to see. I love the sports teams. My Reds are nearer and dearer to my heart than any sports team, period, but the football teams have a bit carved out in my heart, too.

My Bengals and my Bearcats are loved, that must be posed before I continue.

But I am honest with my fandom, and I know that I root for some lousy football teams.

Now there have been good times, don’t get me wrong. Playoff games, top ten national rankings, high-stakes bowl games, those have happened. What has happened, however, in far more abundance is losing. And more losing. And some more…and even losing in games which a win would mean soooo much goodness and happiness….but no, still losing.

In order to remain sane and have nice things, you have to learn a few things. You’ve really got to pay attention and revel in the little things. Things so small, most blow-hards screaming their lungs out at yet another piss-poor pass attempt would have absolutely no knowledge of. A prime example Would be the game between UC and Marshall, a few weeks back.

Most folks were bolting at halftime when the score was 24-0 in favor of the visiting Thundering Herd. A crowd of 35k was reduced to 25k, then 20k, then 15k by the beginning of the 4th quarter. Here’s how you hang tight when the score isn’t:

1. You got to have a friend who is on your level. Someone who doesn’t get too hot, but also someone who is in to the game. Be sure you will yell. If you care somewhat about your team and they begin to play awful, it will cause a reaction inside you that beckons a loud noise emit from your mouth. If your buddy does not share that, or even may laugh at you for doing so, you will only get angrier and want to leave real quick. So you have to have someone with you that will join you in your angst, but do nothing to add to it.

2. You’ve got to have an awareness of things going on in the periphery of the field. That reporter that is dressed to the nines and just tripped over her cameraman’s cord, that’ll keep you grounded with a good laugh. The mascot conversing with the strength coach? Perfect opportunity for “What do you think they’re saying?” – “Probably talking about that reporter that just bought it.” Little side things make the difference.

3. Be aware of game day trends. What I mean here is this: is it a whiteout/blackout themed game? Saturday against Marshall was advertised as a “Red-out” game for UC. The band, the cheerleaders, the dance team, the student section, even the football team themselves were going to wear red….until the football team charged out of the locker room in black. Fun little thought to blame a poorly performed game on “They don’t even have the right uniforms on, how they going to call the right play?”

4. Have good seats. Now this has nothing to do with location and everything to do with material. Nippert Stadium is inundated with bleacher seats. They’re everywhere. So your toosh gets a little unhappy after about an hour. Enter bearcatseats.com. They let you rent chair-back attachments that you can slide on your little piece of bleacher. Now me and my friend did not pay to rent, we stumbled upon the generosity of a fellow fan. As one of the many making their way for the gates come halftime, the older couple directly to our left told us we could use their seat-enhancers for the remainder of the game. Without hesitation, we slid em down our way. The difference between bleacher and cushy-seat-thing is the difference between concrete and couch cushions. Not to mention the nice little attachment that supports your back. Something Nippert’s bleachers don’t do. Add in the people in front of me leaving, so I could put my feet up, and the game could continue as it pleased.

5. Last but definitely not least you need a snack and a drink. Now this can be a lot of different things, and it largely depends on the environment. When you’re standing shoulder to shoulder in the student section, may just want to keep it to a hot dog. When Johnny Jumps-a-lot is right next to you, it’s hard to justify holding a beer that may or may not get spilled on the people in front of you. Take a walk on the concourse if you got to have a tasty beverage. If you’re at home, though, loaD up on the nachos and get a drink with readily available refills. In that particular UC/Marshall game, I didn’t have a snack, but I had a pint of some German beer in my right hand while relaxing on my seat cushion and had my feet kicked up on the bleacher in front of me. One thing is good about going to the stadium of a bad team: lots of room to spread out.

It’s ultimately taken the better part of my sports fan-life to figure this out: sports are for enjoying, don’t let them frustrate you.

Of course, if you’re at home, you’ve likely changed the channel.

Heard it Here First, Change is Coming

Bengals fans, get ready: 2018 will bring a new head coach to Cincinnati AND a new starting quarterback.

I’m just telling you this now to get you ready. No, I am not from the future, but the pieces have been set on the board and the duo of Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton are in check.

The last offseason brought two dynamic playmakers to Cincinnati on the offensive side of the ball and two pass rushers on the defensive side, all via the Draft. It also saw the two most impactful offensive linemen in orange and black leave. It is currently labeled an overreaction, but in the coming weeks it will become clear, Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler going to different teams was the most important thing to happen to the Bengals in 2017. Important because it set them up for a much needed regime change.

“Well, didn’t the front office foresee this? Why didn’t they have a contingency plan?” you may ask. That is where my theory begins.

Knowing Mike Brown was comfortable with the current regime and would not make a change without overwhelming evidence (as proven by Marvin Lewis not being fired after a disappointing 2016 season), Katie Blackburn got her friend Duke Tobin together and hatched a plan.

The two stalwarts on the Bengals’ offensive line were coming to the end of their contracts. Zeitler was going to command a hefty pay raise, one the Bengals were not going to give due to their philosophy of not paying guards lucrative money. Whitworth, on the other hand, was a fan favorite and the unquestioned leader of the offensive line at left tackle. He was moving into the twilight of his career, though, meaning a lowball-type offer could be explained.

So, the front office moved to offer Whit a contract they knew he would turn down and failed to make a better offer once the Rams moved in to sign. They also neglected to even put forth an offer to Zeitler, letting both go. Duke Tobin proceeded to assure anyone wary of the situation that the necessary replacements were in-house, advising that the team, instead, focus on upgrading the skill positions.

They did not set the team up to fail, but they chose the path with success being the least likely outcome.

AJ Green, Tyler Eifert, Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd, and John Ross are all dynamic players…when they have the ball in their hands. AJ runs some of the best routes, and is able shake off any cornerback, in the game…but it doesn’t matter if Andy is on the ground in the backfield with the ball still in his hands. “But Andy had the quickest release in the NFL last year!” you argue. Let me show you something, per Pro Football Focus.

Andy is a bottom-half of the league ranked quarterback under pressure. His average QB rating of 91.8 last year fell to 57.1 while under pressure. Last season the o-line, with Whit and Zeitler, allowed the sixth-fewest amount of plays in which Dalton was under pressure. He was sacked on 22% of those plays, however, which is the worst percentage in the league. That’s with an average offensive line covering for him. If you ask any NFL “expert” you will find that the Bengals have one of the worst rated offensive lines in the league. The amount of plays Andy is under pressure will go up, meaning his effectiveness will stay down.

Dalton will have his worst season in five years and he replaced.

Now they are athletes, after all, and they can improve. The game isn’t played on paper. Any given Sunday…blah, blah, blah. These Bengals were built so that the most likely outcome would be a 4-5 win season and a regime change.

Tell me I’m wrong until you are blue in the face, but I will defend this theory until I am proven wrong.

Really Early Thoughts: Cincy Football

We’re a little over halfway through July and I am really jonesing for some football…

…so here are some thoughts on the Cincinnati Bengals as Training Camp approaches.

The Bengals have three running backs that they think are of starting caliber. Just about everyone else that knows football thinks its Joe Mixon and everyone else fighting for the second-string spot. It would probably be a more closely contested match if Giovanni Bernard were healthy, but he isn’t.

That pits Mixon against Jeremy Hill. For what my unprofessional opinion is worth, I like Mixon.

The Bengals’ offense, overall, should be far more entertaining this season. John Ross adds the kind of receiver opposite the awesome A. J. Green that the Bengals missed last season (Should have kept Sanu/Marvin Jones). Green will catch pretty much anything you throw at him while Ross is supposed to be the kind of guy who can speed past the furthest defensive back. Add in a healthy Tyler Eiffert (full disclosure, I am getting tired of waiting for Eiffert’s health) a sophomore Tyler Boyd, and the play-making ability of Mixon and the Bengals, with some amount of blocking from a decimated o-line, will be fun to watch.

Defensively, the Bengals got younger.

No more Rey Maualuga, who Cincinnati fans had become so accustomed to seeing that most of them may not realize he is gone, and enter in Kevin Minter, who came over from the Cardinals. The 2017 season will be Minter’s fifth, his first four all spent in Arizona. In his last two seasons in the desert, Minter compiled 175 total tackles, 20 of them for no-gain or negative yardage. Another key newcomer to the defense is rookie Carl Lawson. For what opinions from OTAs are worth, he’s really fast.

Another interesting watch will be the kicker…and now I’m done talking about that.

…………………………………

On the college side of things, the UC Bearcats will be completely different.

Luke Fickell has come to Clifton and put everyone on notice. As of right now, the only thing that is known about the new Bearcats is that they are intense and well-conditioned. Other than that…well…we’ll find out August 31st when they host Austin Peay. Yours truly has season tickets to Nippert, so expect a little more writing regarding the college football team from Cincinnati.

I love baseball, but the past few years, during the All-Star Break, I’ve gotten pigskin fever. This year feels like the fever upgraded to a virus…

August 31st can’t get here soon enough.