Being a Cincinnati Bengals fan has its perks. If you love cheering for the underdog, you most definitely are doing that, each year. You also are assured of the Bengals putting a quality product on the field. Two of the three past seasons, the Bengals have been champions of the AFC North. There’s no need to think they won’t repeat in 2016.
Defense Wins Championships
That phrase has become worn and old; but, it still rings true. Super Bowl 50 showcased two teams with top-tier defenses that put pressure on the passer. Per ESPN stats, the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers ended the season ranked No. 1 and No. 6, respectively. The Bengals finished just out of the top 10. The unit chimed in at No. 11.
With the coaching additions of Jim Haslett and Kevin Coyle, the Bengals are assured of the experience they need.
In Coyle’s nine seasons as a Bengals DBs coach (2003-11), the defense ranked fifth in the NFL in interceptions (160), and 133 of those were by defensive backs. With Coyle as his position coach in 2005, Deltha O’Neal set a Bengals record with 10 INTs, tied for first in the NFL, and DBs had 23 of Cincinnati’s league-leading 31 interceptions.
Jim Haslett has been in the NFL for 30 years. He’s played nine and has coached 21. He was a hard-nosed player and has the reputation of a disciplinarian. He’s just what Vontaze Burfict needs to turn him into a controlled yet unstoppable force.
The Bengals may have a few snags with free agency, but the core of NFL’s No. 2 scoring defense will be back. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther has no worries.
“We have a lot of guys back. It’s a good group. It’s a d*** good group. I’d go to war with any of them. We should pick up where we left off.”
The Return Of Andy Dalton
Before the dreaded thumb fracture, Andy Dalton was lighting up the league. He was torching secondaries with ease. With the help of Tom House and Adam Dedeaux, Dalton’s game came of age. He set personal records and inserted himself as a leader figure. When he went down, the Bengals offense lost the continuity that had been established. AJ McCarron was an adequate substitute, but the same fire was missing.
Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden served as Bengals OC for two seasons (2011-13). He’s thrilled about what new OC Ken Zampese will accomplish with Dalton.
“I was excited,” Gruden remarked about Zampese, via SB Nation. “He deserves it. Kenny helped me get to where I am today. He was a big help for us, one of the best quarterback coaches in the league. He’s now getting a deserved opportunity and he’s gonna do great with Andy.”
Bengals fans should probably get ready for more offensive fireworks. Most of the credit goes to current Browns coach Hue Jackson, for Dalton’s spectacular year. Zampese was there through his entire maturation process. He knows the signal-caller and the Bengals offense. The only things that may change are select plays and terminology.
It’s time for a change in Bengals history. The Wild Card loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers left a bitter taste in the mouths of many players. That memory will be the driving force to ensure that the Bengals have a breakout year.
This will be the year every Bengals player will have to execute smart, selfless football. Defensive end Michael Johnson summed it up.
“We fought, then unraveled when it counted the most. Roethlisberger didn’t hurt us on that last drive. We hurt us on that last drive.”
It’s time for the Bengals to once again win the AFC North and slay the demons.
[Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images]