Sitting at 3-5-1, the Bengals season looks bleak. They have already lost more games this year than they did all of last season. So I guess the question is, what happened? There are four main reasons for the Bengals terrible year so far that is endangering their playoff streak.
- Secondary – The secondary has been awful. No one expected this much of a decline but their coverage has been so bad. This is not the same Cincinnati Bengals defense that rarely ranks outside of the top 10. The Bengals rank 24th in the league in yards per game this season. 17th in pass yards per game and 24th in rush yards per game. “Wait you’re blaming the secondary but they are 24th in rushing? Are you an idiot?”,I maybe an idiot but I know football. The Bengals are giving up rushing yards because of their inability to stop the pass. They can never stack the box if big plays are popping up left and right. They have to play it safe on defense most of the time creating lanes for whatever division 3 running back hunches over in the backfield. The loss of ballhawk and former captain Reggie Nelson and slot corner Leon Hall has been felt. The replacements Josh Shaw and Shawn Williams have not been playing bad, but they are younger players who are starting for the first time in the NFL. Adam Jones play has also declined. He is still a great player do not get me wrong, but last season was the best of his career. He was a true number 1 CB last year but father time may be catching up. He may play until he is 38 and still be effective, like former teammate Terrance Newman, but he is not the same player. The secondary must be fixed quickly if the Bengals want to start winning games.
- Offensive Line- The offensive line is the same as last year. Former top pick Andre Smith left for the Vikings but was injured most of last year and played very poorly. So Andrew Whitworth, Clint Boling, Russell Bodine, Kevin Zeitler, and the combination of Cedric Ogbuhei and Eric Winston are the same as last year. Andy Dalton has been sacked 28 times through 9 games this season and that is more than all of last season. It is a proven fact quarterbacks do not play better under pressure, the only reason teams do not blitz every down is so that they can keep big plays under wrap. Dalton facing constant pressure may mean he is missing open receivers as he is getting whipped to the ground by the defense. One of the strongest parts of the Bengals teams over the past few years has been the offensive line, but this year they are clearly underperforming.
- 3rd Down Conversions- Not much to say here. Bengals have only converted on 3rd down 35% of the time. Punting / giving the ball to the other team over and over again is not ideal especially with a significantly worse defense from a year prior.
- Inefficiency to find pay dirt- Tyler Eifert being out for the beginning of the year did not help as he hauled in 13 touchdowns last season, most of those coming near the goal line. The Bengals have only scored a touchdown in the red zone on 53.57% of the time according to teamrankings.com. The inefficiency to score in the red zone has led the Bengals to average 20.8 points per game this season; down from 25.6 last year. The subtraction of Mo Sanu and Marvin Jones may have something to do with this, but they have to find ways to get into the endzone. When they do not they put their faith in place kicker Mike Nugent who gives the whole city of Cincinnati a simultaneous heart attack if he kicks a ball farther than 40 yards away.
The Bengals still have loads of talent. They are still all good players, but the way they are playing fans in Cincinnati should not be expecting playoff football this year.