Scott Schulze of our sister site, Cincy Jungle, is back again for another round of questions before his beloved Bengals host the Texans tomorrow night in primetime. Cincinnati might have been the only offense in the NFL that performed worse than the Texans last weekend, committing five total turnovers and scoring no points at home against a tough Ravens defense. That being said, however, the Bengals are still positively loaded at the skill positions and undoubtedly have a more stable quarterback situation than Houston does right now.
Was Week One just a fluke? Or was it a sign of things to come against the Texans on Thursday night? Scott fills us in below.
1. After reviewing the tape for myself from the Bengals and Ravens game, I'm honestly scared for the safety of Andy Dalton this season. It seemed as though the entire offensive line was getting beaten on every single snap. Even on the drives where Dalton was able to get into the red zone, he still turned the ball over with a couple of truly baffling decisions. Who do you place more blame on for getting shut out last week? The offensive line or Dalton?
Heading into this season, perhaps the single biggest concern for the Bengals was their offensive line. Last year the unit underperformed, and they lost their two best linemen from that group to free agency in this past offseason. Former All-Pro and Pro Bowl LT Andrew Whitworth joined the Rams, while RG Kevin Zeitler went to the Browns. I’m not giving Dalton a pass for the bad throws, but he’s likely going to be under duress for much of the season. Our center typically rates as one of the worst in the NFL, while both of our tackles are new starters this year, and neither one looked very promising in 2016. One bright spot in the line was right guard Trey Hopkins, but he got injured in Week 1 and is out for a while.
2. What should outsiders make of the Bengals’ running back situation right now? Is it a true committee, or has Joe Mixon shown enough yet to entrench himself as the starter? Is there any room left for Gio Bernard to get significant touches for my fantasy team? I could really use a win here.
In the eyes of most fans, Mixon has more talent than either Jeremy Hill or Giovani Bernard and “should” be the starter. But Marvin Lewis has a strong track record of playing veterans over rookies – even in cases where the rookie was clearly better. With that being the case, the team is likely going to use a 3-headed committee all season. A good example of this is Jeremy Hill’s rookie year of 2014. From Week 8 thru the end of the season Hill led the NFL in rushing yards and cranked out a 5.4 average over that span. Despite this, the team barely gave him over half of the carries that year, because he was a rookie. The point being that it is very unlikely for Mixon to suddenly emerge from the committee, even if he has some breakout games.
3. What is the biggest weakness of this Bengals’ defense? How about the biggest strength?
The biggest weakness is probably that the NFL commissioner seems to have a personal vendetta against linebacker Vontaze Burfict. When he is on the field, Burfict is absolutely game changing and has phenomenal instincts. Unfortunately, injuries, concussions, and suspensions have kept him off the field as frequently as on the field. Burfict is currently serving a three-game suspension.
Our biggest strength is probably our front seven. Besides Burfict, they also have arguably the top 3-technique defensive tackle in the NFL, Geno Atkins (with his multiple All-Pro selections). Carlos Dunlap is a very good all around RDE with 20 sacks over the past couple of seasons.
The defense seems to be overlooked nationally, despite finishing in the top ten in points allowed for five of the past six seasons. And I think only giving up 268 yards last week despite the offense giving up the ball five times, with three of our starters out, helps support this sentiment.
4. Is this Marvin Lewis' last season in Cincinnati?
Many fans hope this is finally his last year. But we’ve been disappointed in that regard before. To understand how a head coach has stayed employed for what is now his fifteenth season despite never winning a single playoff game, one has to understand the Bengals’ lost decade of the 90s. From 1991 to 2002 the team went 55-137 with zero winning seasons, thanks to poor management from the top down and some awful drafting. Compared to that, just about anything would be tolerated – for a while. Under Marvin Lewis, the team has a winning record and has made the playoffs in half of his seasons, including six of the last eight years.
Lewis turned the team from awful to good, but has never shown any ability to get them beyond that point. A large part of that is his inability to beat good teams. In primetime games and playoff games, his record is rather atrocious. For years, fans have tolerated the “good but not great” teams because it was so much better than what we were subjected to in the 1990’s, but I think at this point, most fans have had enough of it and are more than ready for a shake-up atop the coaching staff to bring in somebody who might possibly be able to win a big game.
5. What is your prediction for the game?
The Bengals travel to Green Bay in Week 3, and I think they are too talented to start 0-3, so I’ve got to go with the Bengals, right? Even though the team has struggled mightily in primetime games with Andy Dalton and Marvin Lewis, I’m hoping Dalton got his bad game out of his system last week and won’t repeat with such an ugly performance in back-to-back weeks.
I think the Bengals’ defense can contain the Texans’ offense, but it’s the other side of the ball that worries me. With A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert, I want to think our offense can score some points. But J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus could potentially make our offensive line look nonexistent. I’m going to assume our offense figures out how to keep Dalton upright for a few seconds for a few plays.
Bengals 14 – Texans 10
A big thank you to Scott for stopping by. You can read all of his and others’ excellent work on all-things Bengals over at Cincy Jungle.