The 2018 NFL Season was, yet again, filled with disappointment for fans of the Cincinnati Bengals. ‘Fans’ may be the wrong term, actually. ‘Prisoners of Marvin Lewis’ is much more apt.
The Bengals did, however, enjoy a heavily promising start to the NFL season, soaring to a record of 4-1 following their first five games and toppling such impressive competition as the Indianapolis Colts and Atlanta Falcons. However, by November, the injuries started to pile up, beginning with established veteran play-caller Andy Dalton. For much of the season, the Bengals were also without several other integral players such as star wideout AJ Green and his backup Tyler Boyd, along with the perennially injury-plagued tight-end Tyler Eifert and tight-end Jake Fisher. The patchwork Bengals team performed fairly poorly, losing five games on the trot following their 4-1 start and relying on Jeff Driskel at quarterback whilst Dalton recovered from his injury.
Following six games with Driskel under centre, Dalton returned from injury, only to be placed on injured reserve once again after a week twelve loss to the Cleveland Browns. The subsequent games were miserable affairs, as the Bengals managed only one win in their final six matchups. They ultimately ended the 2018 NFL Season with a record of 6-10, finishing dead last in the AFC North and failing to qualify for the playoffs for the third consecutive season.
Without a doubt, the worst aspect of the 2018 Cincinnati Bengals were their awful defense, which was ultimately ranked dead last in the NFL. They allowed over five-hundred yards of offense in three consecutive games and conceded an incredibly 51 points against an admittedly incredible New Orleans Saints offense.
Following this season, Marvin Lewis, who had been at the helm of the Cincinnati Bengals for sixteen seasons, was relieved of his duties as head coach. Lewis had never led the team to a single playoff win in his entire career.Given the dismal history of the Bengals, many would hope that the recent changes in personnel are a new dawn for the franchise. Here’s a look at them.
Zac Taylor: The successor to Marvin Lewis is former Los Angeles Rams man Zac Taylor, who previously held the position of quarterbacks coach under Sean McVay. Many attribute the success of Jared Goff to this man, which hopefully will translate to success in the highest coaching capacity.
Brian Callahan: Callahan will take the position of offensive co-ordinator under Taylor, having formerly been the quarterbacks coach for the Detroit Lions and, more recently, the (then) Oakland Raiders. Callahan brings nearly ten years of experience to the Bengals, having progressed initially through the corps of the Denver Broncos.
Lou Anarumo: Anarumo was appointed to the position of defensive co-ordinator this offseason. He previously held the position of defensive-backs coach for both the Miami Dolphins and also for the New York Giants in a five-year stint.
James Casey: Former NFL fullback James Casey was appointed as the Bengals’ tight end coach, having turned to coaching following his final playing role at the Denver Broncos in 2015. Prior to this, he held positions in various college and high-school programmes.
Despite the desperate need for a new culture in Cincinnati along with their coaching changes, the Bengals only made a small number of free agent signings- here’s a look at them.
John Miller: One of the weakest areas of the 2018 Cincinnati Bengals was their offensive line- the signing of former Buffalo Bills guard John Miller was made in order to alleviate this issue. The player started fifteen games for the team in the previous season, and should make an immediate impact in protecting veteran signal caller Andy Dalton.
B.W. Webb: Veteran cornerback Webb was the only other marquee free agency signing made by the Bengals this season. Webb has failed to retain a positive influence in a team for a long time, having signed with six different teams in the past five seasons. The fact that the Bengals have committed over ten million dollars to this signing may raise eyebrows.
1.11: Jonah Williams, T- Alabama
2.52: Drew Sample, TE- Washington
3.72: Germaine Pratt, OLB- N.C. State
4.104: Ryan Finley, QB- N.C. State
4.125: Renell Wren, DT- Arizona State
4.136: Michael Jordan, C- Ohio State
6.182: Trayveon Williams, RB- Texas A&M
6.210: Deshaun Davis, LB- Auburn
6.211: Rodney Anderson, RB- Oklahoma
7.223: Jordan Brown, CB- South Dakota State
The Bengals provided some positive draft day additions to their roster, and addressed many positions of need. Jonah Williams was seen by many as the top offensive-line prospect in the draft prior to his injury troubles at Alabama, and is still recovering from a torn labrum injury which will limit his capacity to immediately contribute to the team. Washington’s Drew Sample will provide some much needed physicality on the offensive side of the ball, with such picks as Germaine Pratt and Renell Wren giving much needed depth on the defense. One of the more intriguing picks of their draft has to be N.C. State’s Ryan Finley, who many overlooked due to his ripe age of 24- effectively a pensioner by NFL Draft standards. Finley, whilst unlikely to be challenging the established starting position of Andy Dalton, will most likely be a reliable backup option.
Undrafted Free Agents
Jordan Ellis, RB- Virginia
Tyree Kinnel, DB, Michigan
Stanley Morgan, WR, Nebraska
Jacob Dolegala, QB, Central Connecticut State
Keaton Sutherland, OL, Texas A&M
The Bengals’ undrafted free agents, while not numerous, also address key areas of need for Cincinnati. For example, Keaton Sutherland was a stalwart on the offensive line of Texas A&M over the past four seasons, whilst Virginia’s Jordan Ellis accumulated nearly twenty touchdowns throughout his college career. Tyree Kinnel was also an integral aspect to the Michigan defense, and should make the final Bengals roster.
Notable Camp Standouts
Ryan Finley, QB
Jake Dolegala, QB
Damion Willis, WR
Kerry Wynn, Edge
The two rookie quarterbacks in Cincinnati have both been turning heads in training camp and preseason, with Finley, who the Bengals traded up to obtain, leading the team in preseason passing yards. The ascension of these two quarterbacks should make veterans such as Jeff Driskel sweat over their futures in the team. Elsewhere, Damion Willis has made his mark in a wideout corps suffering from a loss of both A.J. Green and John Ross, and should see regular season action if their injury issues persist.