The Cincinnati Bengals have been stuck in NFL purgatory for quite some time; Never good enough to make a serious Super Bowl run, yet rarely bad enough to find themselves with a top five pick in the NFL Draft.
Since 2006, the Bengals have only lost double-digit games twice in a season, yet they’ve only won more than 10 games twice. And once the postseason pressure is turned on, much like the Detroit Lions, the Bengals falter. In fact, the only team with a longer playoff win drought than the Lions (25 years) is the Bengals (26 years).
Cincinnati is coming off a down year, finishing just 6-9-1, despite winning three of their final five contests. There are some expectations for improvement, but not a lot. Vegas currently has their win total set at 8.5 wins for 2017.
Should we expect the Bengals to beat that total and surprise some people in the competitive AFC North, or are the Bengals doomed to another mediocre season. We asked Cincy Jungle to give us the break down in our final season preview of the offseason.
Notable free agent additions: RG Andre Smith (switching positions from RT to RG), LB Kevin Minter, CB Bene Benwikere
Notable free agent departures: LT Andrew Whitworth, RG Kevin Zeitler, RB Rex Burkhead, DT Domata Peko, DE Margus Hunt
Trades: Acquired DE Chris Smith from the Jaguars for a 2018 conditional draft pick
Draft picks expected to contribute as rookies: WR John Ross, RB Joe Mixon, DE Jordan Willis, OLB Carl Lawson
Biggest offseason addition: Ross and Mixon
Biggest storyline heading into training camp: How will the offensive line do this season? The Bengals will have a very different look to the offensive line in 2017. Two of last year’s starters are gone and three players will be either starting for the first time or switching positions in 2017. The Bengals’ offensive line is expected to be, Cedric Ogbuehi at left tackle, Clint Boling at left guard, Russell Bodine at center, Andre Smith at right guard and Jake Fisher at right tackle.
In 2016, Ogbuehi started at right tackle until he was benched and then moved to be a backup left tackle. Boling and Bodine are the only starters staying in place from 2016. Smith is returning after a year spent with the Vikings, largely on IR. He’s moving from right tackle to right guard to help with the transition of Jake Fisher, who started three games in 2016 at right tackle and will now be taking on the starting job from the get-go.
There are a lot of questions here as the line was shaky in 2016 and lost its two best players (Whitworth and Zeitler) this offseason. The Bengals need this offensive line to play well; if the line fails, the rest of the team may crumble, too.
Under-the-radar storyline heading into training camp:
How much will the rookies really play? The Bengals absolutely need the rookies drafted in the first three to four rounds to heavily contribute this year. After a 6-9-1 season, a rebound is needed, and since there were few free agency additions, the draft picks must help in turning the team around.
The problem is, Marvin Lewis has been highly resistant to playing rookies, especially on defense. He needs to get Jordan Willis and Carl Lawson ready to contribute starting in Week 1 and then actually allow them to see the field. You don’t get better by sitting on the bench, but Marvin Lewis doesn’t seem to realize that.
Notable injuries heading into training camp:
- Tyler Eifert sat out during OTAs while recovering from December 2016 back surgery.
- Giovani Bernard is still recovering from November 2016 ACL surgery.
- 2017 first-round pick John Ross is recovering from March labrum surgery and is expected to be cleared to play by training camp or very shortly after the start of training camp. [Editor’s note: Ross practiced in a limited fashion during the first week of training camp.]
- 2016 draft picks William Jackson III and Andrew Billings missed all of 2016 with injuries but both are fully recovered and ready to contribute in 2017.
Thanks to Cincy Jungle for the answer. Now it’s your turn to vote. How will the Lions fare in their penultimate game of the season?
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