Cincinnati Bengals 12-4
Last Season’s Rankings: #10 Overall Offense (368.2 total yards per game) #8 Passing Offense (258.5 passing yards per game) #18 Rushing Offense (109.7 rushing yards per game)
With the likes of super star WR A.J. Green, TE Jermaine Gresham and sleeper WRs Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones, Andy Dalton and the Bengals offense ranked 10th best overall last season. Before we can get to any of the receivers and running backs, we have to get to QB Andy “The Red Rifle” Dalton. Although his post-season performances have been average at best, we have seen visible improvement from Dalton over the years. Compared to his rookie season out of Texas Christian University, Dalton threw 895 more yards, 13 more touchdowns and completed 3.8% more passes. This off-season the Bengals lost OT Anthony Collins to the Buccaneers due to free agency. However, they were able to add rookie center out of UNC Russell Bodine. With or without Collins, they have the pieces to make a top-10 offense in 2014.
Stepping away from Andy Dalton and the Bengals top-10 passing offense for a second, let’s concentrate a little on Benjarvus Green-Ellis, Giovani Bernard and the Bengals’ 18th ranked rushing offense. In Bernard’s rookie season out of North Carolina, despite getting more yards per carry than his 28 year-old counterpart (Bernard had 4.1 as Green-Ellis had 3.4 in 2013), Bernard was given less carries than BGE (220 for BGE compared to 170 for Bernard). Where Bernard was most valuable for the Bengals was actually with his role in the passing game, providing run blocking as well as receiving out of the backfield (caught 56 passes for 514 yards and three touchdowns). As for Bernard’s counterpart Benjarvus Green-Ellis, the law firm rushed for 756 yards on 220 carries with seven touchdowns. Now while the Bengals rushing game wasn’t complete garbage, they could have performed better than they did. Over the off-season, the Bengals were able to add sophomore RB Jeremy Hill out of LSU to the Bengals’ already stacked rushing repertoire. In Hill’s sophomore season at LSU, he was able to rush for 1,401 yards and 16 touchdowns on 203 carries (a healthy 6.9 yards per carry average). With that help and time during the off-season to develop, Bernard and Green-Ellis should do a lot better next season. I think that with the power running style of Green-Ellis, he should be primarily a third down and goal-line back, while Bernard could potentially be the main back who does the heavy yardage lifting for Cincinnati. If Bernard shows promise and production, he could be seeing more touches and perhaps a starting role in the future. Last season he should have seen more touches considering he rushed for .7 more yards per carry than Green-Ellis. 2014 should be the year where Bernard has a deserved prominent role in the running game.
The strongest part of the Cincinnati offense would definitely have to be their passing offense. What makes this passing offense so lethal is their QB, but also their wide array of WRs and TEs. For starters, there is third-year, all-pro WR A.J. Green who took his talents to extreme heights last season. In 2013, Green caught 98 of Dalton’s passes for 1,426 yards and 11 touchdowns. What was amazing was Dalton’s 180 targets to Green which ranked among tops in the league. Along with Green is breakout, TD machine WR Marvin Jones who busted out onto the scene and ended up catching 51 balls for 712 yards and an impressive 10 touchdowns. 2014 should be a season in which Jones really comes alive and breaks into the starting role on the roster. Other receivers on the Bengals’ roster include WR Mohamed Sanu (455 yards on 47 catches in 2013) and receiving TEs Jermaine Gresham (458 on 46 catches) and Tyler Effiert (39 receptions for 445 yards). The Bengals are going to add rookie WR James Wright out of LSU to the mix which should only make this offense that much stronger. What we should see in 2014 is a spread of wealth from Dalton. 180 targets to A.J. Green last season was ridiculous. Look for Dalton to hook up with Jones and his TEs, while still keeping that solid Green connection.
In The End
Last year the Bengals’ offense performed admirably and should repeat again next season. Realistically I think that the passing game will improve, however the running game could still use some work. I think with time during the off-season to prepare, BJE and Bernard should develop well and create the one-two punch that the Bengals need in a tough AFC North. We know their defense will give them plenty of opportunities on offense. The burden is now on the Bengals’ offense to turn those opportunities into touchdowns.