Following the results of last Sunday, the Cincinnati Bengals became the first team to be officially ruled out of playoff contention; not that the playoffs were ever a realistic expectation at the season’s dawn.
Now sitting at 0-10 for the year, full attention must be given to how best prepare for the 2020 season. Gruelling times await this franchise. Playing in a competitive AFC North that features a leading candidate for MVP, the Bengals look to be entering full transition mode.
There will be questions aplenty over the coming weeks and months. Answers to some of these will come during the rest of the season, but further clarification will come during the off-season.
Future of the QB position
Last month’s defeat to the Los Angeles Rams sent nine-year vet Andy Dalton to the bench. The rather unceremonious benching announcement took place on Dalton’s birthday. Ouch.
So now the past two games rookie Ryan Finley has been at the controls. From what has been on display these past couple of outings, it’s hard to see any improvement to the team. The new starter for the Bengals has passed for only one touchdown whilst completing less than 50% of his passes. He is a raw prospect, no doubt about that. Early signs suggests that this 4th round selection out of NC State will not be the answer to the future of the QB position in Cincy.
No doubt at all, the Bengals will possess a top five draft pick next year’s Draft. Fortunately for the organisation, it’s becoming increasingly clear there will be some talented QBs on offer.
Heavy favourite for the Heisman is LSU Tiger Joe Burrow. Likely the first QB off the board in April next year, he would be great fit in this scheme. Other names to keep an eye are Justin Herbert, Jalen Hurts and Jake Fromm; all first round talents likely to declare for the 2020 draft. Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, another highly rated QB, has suffered a major hip injury is now a doubt to enter next year’s Draft.
Nonetheless, they are talents aplenty the Bengals need to do their homework on to land their future franchise QB, now it appears Andy Dalton is likely headed for the exit.
Without even considering the QB situation, the Bengals offence is facing somewhat of an identity crisis. Clear WR1 on this roster, AJ Green, has yet to see the field this season. His anticipated return to action keeps getting pushed back, as it’s clear the franchise doesn’t want to pose any kind of risk to its blue-chip receiver.
Trade rumours regarding Green swirled until the deadline. In the end, owner Mike Brown held firm and refused to cash in on his prize asset. Not making a trade is a clear message that ownership sees a future that involves AJ Green. When looking at their other options at the position, perhaps this was a wise move.
2017 1st round pick John Ross has blown hot and cold, whilst showing much promise he’s been dealing with shoulder issues ever since his entrance into the league. Other notable options in the Bengals passing game are Tyler Boyd, Auden Tate and rookie Stanley Morgan. This trio have all faced struggles throughout the year, with just the two TDs between them (one each for Boyd and Tate).
Perhaps there is a lack of chemistry between the quarterback and his receivers. Despite any possible issues in the locker room, this is a group of receivers that can do with an upgrade. Once the QB of the future has been identified and landed, attention should turn to adding a receiver or two.
Likely to be entering 2020 with a rookie signal caller, the Bengals should look to free agency to acquire some veteran talent.
Entering the 2019 season, the Bengals top brass made a bold hire at the head coach position. They plumped for 36-year old Zac Taylor, former wide receiver and more recently quarterback coach of the Rams. With this hire it was clear what ownership in Cincinnati was chasing.
Taylor was seen to have been plucked from the Sean McVay coaching tree, following the duo’s success in reaching the 2019 Super Bowl. All of this promise however has failed materialise and now this risky appointment may come back to bite the Bengals.
In light of the evident struggles, it’s important Zac Taylor is trusted to turn this team around. This should be done by giving him every resource possible to craft what looks to a hefty rebuild job. Change is coming at quarterback and just maybe this change is the catalyst for a turnaround in Taylor’s fortunes.
What is not helping Taylor’s case for a long term future is the real risk of going 0-16. Even the perceived worst team in football, the Miami Dolphins, have been able notch up two wins. Even if they do go winless, the Bengals deserve to give Taylor a second crack of the whip.
If the struggles of 2019 continue into next season however, then perhaps this franchise needs to eat humble pie and try again with it’s head coach hiring.