By Jake Geiger, Staff Writer
Halfway through the season, the Cincinnati Bengals sit in last place in the NFL power rankings with a 0-10 record. There have been an array of problems with the Bengals this year, and because of these issues on and off the field, the Bengals are scratching for any hope of positivity in the 2019 season. Here is a short list of elements the team needs to improve to avoid further futility this year.
1. QB play
Just before the NFL trade deadline, the Bengals made the decision to bench Andy Dalton and start rookie quarterback Ryan Finley. This move came as no surprise: The Bengals were winless and wanted to see what Finley was capable of in the starting job. Dalton expressed his frustration with the organization because it never sought a trade, knowing the possibility of benching him was high.
This is Dalton’s final year of his current contract, so the signs point to the Bengals moving on from the eight-year starter. Finley has played in two games, and both of those have resulted in losses. He has looked competent with the limited weapons he has. I don’t think Finley is the future, but to see what he can do the rest of the year will let the organization know if it should stick with him for one more year or draft a quarterback in April.
Personally, I think the Bengals should draft a quarterback and with an expected high pick. LSU quarterback Joe Burrow would be the best choice. Burrow is my favorite for the Heisman with 38 touchdowns and six interceptions on the season. LSU is also the No. 1 team in the country. Burrow’s remarkable performance against Alabama in Tuscaloosa stuck out to me. Burrow was 31 of 39 for 393 yards and three touchdowns in the victory against the Crimson Tide.
2. Get healthy/Address depth concerns
Injuries have been widespread for the Bengals this year with notable players such as A.J. Green, Dre Kirkpatrick, John Ross and Geno Atkins out for extended periods of time. Green has yet to play a snap in 2019, as he got hurt in the preseason. The Bengals have struggled without its superstar wide receiver, which has subsequently led to problems in the locker room and on the field.
The leadership is lacking at the moment, with all the experienced players being hurt. These injuries have also been costly because they have damaged the Bengals’ depth. The offensive line has seen multiple starting lineups changes while searching for an ounce of chemistry and consistency. The defense has been exposed and has given up tons of yardage, especially in the rushing game. The Bengals rank dead last in rushing yards allowed per game and have showed no signs of improvement. This defensive unit needs to start from scratch and develop through the draft and free agency to regain the toughness and physicality an NFL defense needs to play week in and week out.
3. Organization issues
This issue is more controversial, but has also been talked about throughout the league heavily. Bengals owner Mike Brown has lost all of his popularity with the fan base, and rightly so. Brown has shown minimal initiative to revamp the team’s talent pool. Questionable draft picks and free agent signings have played a heavy part in this struggle for talent.
Frankly, you can’t judge new head coach Zac Taylor simply because he was given this shallow roster. I don’t know if Taylor is the long-term answer but for what he has, I think he has had some good games and games he will want to forget. The story here is until Brown is no longer the owner, the Bengals success will be hindered and have much more difficulty in selling tickets and winning football games.
4. What’s in store for the Bengals’ future?
The Bengals need to have a fresh start in the draft. Acquiring that top 5 draft pick and selecting someone who will change the franchise will be vital. Burrow would be my pick, but if he is already taken, Ohio State defensive end Chase Young would be my next choice. Young is a physical specimen who will look to make an immediate impact in the NFL and has all of the tools to be a top pass rusher.
Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert is also someone I think the Bengals have to consider. He has showed scouts that he has the necessary tools to be a starting quarterback in the pros, such as good arm strength, mobility in and out of the pocket and leadership.
The Bengals also need to start spending money on pending free agents. But, the key here is to use their money wisely.
I predicted five wins in my Bengals preview earlier this year, and I doubt they get that number. Wins will be tough to come by this season and if I had to predict the Bengals remaining schedule, there’s a good chance they’ll go 0-16.