On offense, the Bengals have very few flaws and should be one of the most potent offenses this season. In terms of the offensive line, quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end the Bengals have young and athletic talent at each position. The Bengals’ lone addition to the offense this offseason was Jeremy Hill. Jeremy Hill was a solid running back for LSU and was a second round pick for the Bengals. Hill is similar to second year running back Giovanni Bernard because he is a physical runner, but also has the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Hill will likely see little time this season, but he will provide fresh legs when Bernard needs a breath.
Similar to the Bengals’ offense, the Bengals’ defense is absolutely stacked at all levels. Last season, the Bengals were like the old Ravens and Steelers as they ranked top five against the pass and the run. Two of the Bengals’ biggest offseason additions are Daniel Manning and Darqueze Dennard. The only position that the Bengals are lacking talent is at safety. Although Manning does not have the same talent as during his prime, Manning has a lot of experience and should be a solid player in the secondary. While Manning is ending his career and lacks great physical abilities, Dennard is the Bengals’ first round pick and may have been the best corner in the draft. During his time in Michigan State, Dennard was the prototypical shut down corner. Although he might immediately start in front of Leon Hall and Terrence Newman, he will receive enough time on the field because of the playing style of today’s offenses.
The most important player on the Bengals is the highest paid player on Cincinnati, Andy Dalton. Over the first three seasons of his career, Dalton surprisingly has stats comparable to Peyton Manning through his first three seasons. However, no one is comparing Dalton to Manning because he has does not have similar skills or expectations. Last season, Dalton was one of the better quarterbacks during the regular season as he threw for over 30 touchdowns and led the Bengals to one of the best records in the league. Dalton has some of the best weapons in the NFL, including AJ Green and Giovanni Bernard. Although no one is doubting Dalton’s ability to win games and record great stats during the regular season, many experts are questioning if he has the mental and physical talents to lead the Bengals to a playoff win. Over the past three seasons, he has made the playoffs, but is 0-3 during those games. This past season, the Bengals were huge favorites over the San Diego Chargers, but lost the game, threw 2 interceptions, and posted a QBR of 14. After signing a deal for over $100M, the Bengals are expecting at least one playoff win this season.
An important aspect of the Bengals’ 2014-2015 defense will be the return of All-Pro defense tackle Geno Atkins. Last season, Atkins was limited to only 9 games due to an ACL tear against the Miami Dolphins. Atkins was the best player on the Bengals’ defense because he has the ability to clog holes and apply pressure on the quarterback. Atkins is one of the best in the league because it is rare for a player to record a lot of sacks from the inside positions. Last year, Geno was on pace for double digit sack totals for the second straight season. After Geno was done for the season, the Bengals’ defense took a step backwards against the best quarterbacks in the game. It was evident during the game against the Chargers in the playoffs that they missed Atkins ability to stuff the run and sack Philip Rivers. The Bengals were only able to accumulate one sack against San Diego’s quarterback. This season, Cincinnati is counting on Atkins to return to his prior former because they are set to play quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Andrew Luck, Joe Flacco, Big Ben, and Peyton Manning.
The Bengals have made the playoffs the last three seasons and it will be a major disappointment if they do not make the playoffs or even win the AFC North. Many experts would agree that the Bengals have the most talent of any roster in the NFL, including the Super Bowl Champions Seattle Seahawks. During the regular season, very few doubt that Andy Dalton has the capability to win 11+ games for the Bengals in one of the toughest divisions in football. Many people believe in Dalton because his job is made easier by AJ Green, Tyler Eifert, Jermaine Gresham, Marvin Jones, Giovanni Bernard, and a solid offensive line. Last year, the Bengals scored 27 points per game and ranked 6th in the league. However, this season, I expect the Bengals to take another step forward as their key players enter their prime. The Bengals ranked 18th in rushing yards per game, but the number should improve as they give more carries to Bernard and Hill versus the “Law Firm”, BenJarvis Green Ellis. While the Bengals’ offense is pretty underrated, the defense receives a lot of respect and deserves the praise. Last year, the Bengals’ defense was the only unit in the league to rank top five against the pass, run, and points per game. Like the Bengals’ offense, the defense should only improve as many of their key players are young. Also, the addition of Dennard in the secondary and the return of Geno Atkins to the front four will help the defense become dominant like the Seahawks and 49ers.
Giovanni Bernard has the potential to be a top 10 or even a top 5 running back this season. Bernard has the potential to be very good because he is the main work horse, runs the ball in the red zone, and catches the ball out of the back field. Last season, Bernard was very good and finished 18th among running backs although he never recorded more than 15 rushing attempts per game. This year, the “Law Firm” will not steal carries and they will be more likely to run the ball more often.
Pics and Stats from ESPN.com