Once again, Cincinnati Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis survived a less-than-expected season with the Bengals, returning this fall for his 16th year at the helm of the Cincinnati franchise.
While Lewis survived, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther didn’t hold onto his job, nor did wide receivers coach James Urban. Along with some coaching changes, the Bengals parted ways with a number of familiar faces during free agency, while finally addressing a glaring need up front along the offensive line, trading for Cordy Glenn, giving the Bengals a franchise left tackle to replace Andrew Whitworth’s hole.
In: Chris Baker (Buccaneers), Preston Brown (Bills), Matt Barkley (Cardinals), Mortiz Bohringer (Vikings)
Out: AJ McCarron (Bills), Jeremy Hill (Patriots), Adam Jones (FA), Chris Smith (Browns), Andre Smith (Cardinals), Russell Bodine (Bills), Kevin Minter (Jets), Cedric Peerman (FA), Eric Winston (FA), Pat Sims (FA)
The real additions here are Chris Baker and Preston Brown to a defense that finished in the middle of the league last season in most defensive categories. Baker brings experience and a level of play next to Geno Atkins that hasn’t been seen at the position since Domata Peko was still around. Brown was a tackling machine for the Bills, so it was a great addition for Cincinnati to bring him into the fold, replacing Kevin Minter, who was struggled to stay healthy last season.
Barkley fills in as the backup quarterback for now, at least until Jeff Driskel or Logan Woodside ascend to the role, while Bohringer is nothing more than a practice squad guy that was worth taking a shot on.
McCarron’s loss hurts the Bengals in terms of experience behind Andy Dalton, but it’s nothing that Cincinnati can’t recover from, while Hill, Jones and Smith leaving allows the locker room to reset some, losing a few headaches in the process.
2018 NFL DRAFT PICKS
Heading into the 2018 NFL Draft, the Bengals were in desperate need of offensive linemen to protect Dalton, as well as a few younger pieces on an aging defense. Consider it a job well done for Mike Brown and Co.
Prior to the draft, Cincinnati traded with Buffalo for Glenn, giving up picks No. 12 and No. 187. Buffalo sent back No. 21 in return with Glenn, which the Bengals used to select Ohio State center Billy Price, filling a major hole for the Bengals up front.
Price did tear his pectoral at the combine, but the Bengals felt comfortable selecting price, giving new offensive line coach Frank Pollack a young, talented lineman to work with.
Along with Price, the Bengals grabbed pass rusher Sam Hubbard out of Ohio State, linebacker Malik Jefferson out of Texas, safety Jessie Bates III out of Wake Forest, running back Mark Walton out of Miami (Fl.), cornerback Davontae Harris out of Illinois State, cornerback Darius Phillips out of Western Michigan, quarterback Logan Woodside out of Toledo, offensive lineman Rod Taylor out of Mississippi, and wide receiver Auden Tate out of Florida State.
Bates III, Hubbard, and Jefferson give the Bengals three future starters on a defense that is improving on paper in a hurry, while Walton might be the biggest home run in this draft.
Walton can fill the role of Gio Bernard behind Joe Mixon should the Bengals decide to move on from Bernard due to his cap hit. Walton was one of the most elusive backs in the 2018 draft class who fell due to an ankle injury suffered during the season.
Phillips is a sleeper in this class due to his ball skills at corner, and his ability to find the end zone in the return game. He’s stuck behind a number of bodies at cornerback, but there’s a good chance his clear talent wins out in the end, getting him on the field in a number of roles.
As I mentioned earlier, the Bengals underwent a number of changes on the coaching staff, firing Ken Zampese during the season, firing Paul Guenther after the season, letting James Urban go to the Ravens, and allowing Paul Alexander to become the new Cowboys offensive line coach.
However, the Bengals upgraded in a number of areas on the coaching staff, bringing in Teryl Austin as defensive coordinator, while also hiring Bob Bicknell to coach the receivers, Frank Pollack to coach the offensive line, Alex Van Pelt to coach quarterbacks, Daronte Jones to coach cornerbacks, and Matt Raich to assist Austin defensively.
Austin was a hot name for a head-coaching job the last few years, so this was a big coup for the Bengals. My money is on Austin taking over for Lewis in a few years. Pollack should upgrade the Bengals’ line immensely, especially that he now has talented players in Glenn and Price to work with.
The biggest surprise here is Van Pelt, whom the Bengals poached from the Green Bay Packers, causing outrage from Aaron Rodgers, who has credited Van Pelt for his success in the past. The hope with Van Pelt is that he helps Dalton get back to his 2015 level of play.
Overall, the Bengals certainly improved across the board during the offseason. How much will be determined once the season starts, but on paper the roster looks better, as does the coaching staff.
Week 1 Sun, Sep 9 at Indianapolis 1:00 PM
Week 2 Thu, Sep 13 Baltimore 8:20 PM
Week 3 Sun, Sep 23 at Carolina 1:00 PM
Week 4 Sun, Sep 30 at Atlanta 1:00 PM
Week 5 Sun, Oct 7 Miami 1:00 PM
Week 6 Sun, Oct 14 Pittsburgh 1:00 PM
Week 7 Sun, Oct 21 at Kansas City 1:00 PM
Week 8 Sun, Oct 28 Tampa Bay 1:00 PM
Week 9 *BYE
Week 10 Sun, Nov 11 New Orleans 1:00 PM
Week 11 Sun, Nov 18 at Baltimore 1:00 PM
Week 12 Sun, Nov 25 Cleveland 1:00 PM
Week 13 Sun, Dec 2 Denver 1:00 PM
Week 14 Sun, Dec 9 at L.A. Chargers 4:05 PM
Week 15 Sun, Dec 16 Oakland 1:00 PM
Week 16 Sun, Dec 23 at Cleveland 1:00 PM
Week 17 Sun, Dec 30 at Pittsburgh 1:00 PM