Throughout the offseason, I will be running through a series of Q&As with our fellow SB Nation blogs across the AFC. The ball gets rolling with a recap of the 2019 season, while previews of free agency, the 2020 Draft, training camp, and the 2020 season are to come later on.
We kick off with the team set to make the first NFL draft pick in the state of Nevada — the Cincinnati Bengals. John Sheeran of Cincy Jungle was able to answer a few questions regarding Cincinnati’s 2019 campaign.
1. In 2019, Ryan Finley’s career got off to a putrid start, while Andy Dalton posted the worst numbers of his career. Is it a lock that Joe Burrow will become a member of the Cincinnati Bengals on April 23rd?
It’s as much of a lock as anything when it comes to the draft. They’re going to go through the process and everything but barring a video of Burrow with a gas mask on, he’ll emerge as the only option for the Bengals. This will become more evident when Andy Dalton gets traded or cut before the draft (or during ala Josh Rosen).
2. The offensive front seemed to be a major problem for the Bengals, who ranked near the bottom in most metrics related to offensive line performance. What were the primary reasons for the team’s struggles up front, and how can the team rebuild this unit going forward?
In the summer, they had a decent unit on paper. Then Clint Boling retires, Jonah Williams is out for the year, and Cordy Glenn is in the concussion protocol for 2 months. Those were three of their four best players, the fourth being Trey Hopkins, who did have a good year at center. There just wasn’t enough talent there and they didn’t realize the blocking scheme they wanted to run couldn’t work with their personnel until the season was halfway over. Eventually, guys like Michael Jordan and Bobby Hart played better down the stretch, but when other guys like Andre Smith, Billy Price, John Jerry and Alex Redmond are playing significant snaps, there’s just not a lot of hope for success.
3. What were you able to learn about Zac Taylor in his rookie season as a head coach? Did he showcase the potential to be a top-tier head coach with the right pieces in place, or are there legitimate question marks about his ability to spearhead a team?
For me, this year confirmed that in every case: personnel matters more than scheme. Throughout the year, Taylor had bright moments as a play-caller, but for how inexperienced he was, it was no surprise he couldn’t quite work around the bad offensive line play, no A.J. Green, and an imploding Andy Dalton. He’s got a long way to go before we crown him as some offensive genius, but this year wasn’t the best to judge him by. Just like it was for the offensive line, the personnel just wasn’t enough.
4. The Bengals got their first win of the 2019 season in a 22-6 thrashing of the Jets. From a Jets perspective, this was an embarrassing loss mostly due to inept play by the offensive line and skill position core. How did this breakthrough occur from a Cincinnati point of view? What did the Bengals do differently against the Jets that they were unable to accomplish over their 0-11 start?
Quite honestly, the Bengals didn’t do much different in that game than in other games that resulted in close losses. My takeaway was simply how awful the Jets played. Sam Darnold was red hot going into that week and so was his defense. The Bengals made them look like an FCS team and I’m still really not sure how. The offense found space for the receivers and Andy Dalton was pressured maybe six times all game. It was wild to witness compared to their first 11 games.
5. Over the last seven weeks of the season, the Bengals allowed just 20 points per game, a sizable improvement over the 26.4 they allowed over their first nine games. What were the biggest changes/strides that led to the progression? Was that finish a sign of legitimate growth that could be carried into 2020?
I think you can say that. The release of Preston Brown opened the door for Germaine Pratt to settle in at linebacker and he did just that to end the season. You got more consistent play from Jessie Bates III and Darqueze Dennard in the secondary and Carlos Dunlap had perhaps the best half-season of his career. Dunlap’s resurgence probably had the most impact out of all of it, but it just looked like the unit was playing more cohesively with its talent.
6. If you could add one offensive and one defensive player from any Jets team in the 2010s to the current iteration of the Bengals, which two players would you choose?
Since I can’t pick 2009 Darrelle Revis, I guess I’ll “settle” for 2011 Darrelle Revis. Anyone who doesn’t want the greatest cornerback of this century is either a liar or a hater. It doesn’t matter if you already have good corners, he’s Darrelle freakin Revis. On offense, I’ll go with D’Brickashaw Ferguson from the same year just because he’s more valuable than Nick Mangold. His durability is something the Bengals haven’t had at the tackle spot in years.