It will be master vs. apprentice in Week 8 as the Los Angeles Rams head to London to take on the Cincinnati Bengals. Rams head coach Sean McVay will take on his former assistant Zac Taylor in his first season. This game will take place across the pond before the Rams head on their bye week.
Week 1 – at Carolina, 1 p.m. ET – Opponent Preview
Week 2 – vs. New Orleans, 4:25 ET – Opponent Preview
Week 3 – at Cleveland, 8:20 p.m. ET (SNF) – Opponent Preview
Week 4 – vs. Tampa Bay, 4:25 p.m. ET – Opponent Preview
Week 5 – at Seattle, 8:20 p.m. ET (TNF) – Opponent Preview
Week 6 – vs. San Francisco, 4:05 p.m. ET – Opponent Preview
Week 7 – at Atlanta, 1:00 p.m. ET – Opponent Preview
Week 8 – vs. Cincinnati (in London), 1:00 p.m.
The Cincinnati Bengals got off to a fast start in 2018 and had early playoff aspirations. They began the season with a pair of 34-23 victories over eventual playoff teams, the Indianapolis Colts and the Baltimore Ravens, the latter being the big Thursday night showing including three touchdown catches for AJ Green.
After a Week 3 loss to the Carolina Panthers, the Bengals bounced back to defeat the Atlanta Falcons and Miami Dolphins and quickly found themselves in excellent shape early on at 4-1.
Then disaster struck.
The Bengals would go on to lose seven of their next eight games and nine of their final 11 games, as the team looked like they had finally given up on head coach Marvin Lewis. The team ultimately fired Lewis after a 6-10 season, which included a 1-5 record against the AFC North.
Lewis lasted an impressive 16 seasons with the Bengals, but after three straight losing seasons and an 0-7 playoff record, the Bengals finally realized it was time to move in another direction.
Biggest Offseason Gains/Losses
It was a pretty quiet offseason in terms of free agency for the Bengals, as they didn’t bring in a ton of talent, though Miller, Webb, and Wynn can all be solid depth pieces. The players they lost weren’t exactly irreplaceable, either.
The most significant loss would have to be Kroft, who had put up decent numbers with the Bengals, but that was helped by Tyler Eifert missing time, and the team gave a three-year contract to in-house option C.J. Uzomah, so Kroft was the odd man out.
Arguably, Burfict’s talent makes him this most significant loss. However, the Bengals were tired of his antics on and off the field and were ready to move on.
Ogbuehi and Fisher were never able to reach their potential after being the team’s first and second-round picks, respectively, in 2015, especially Ogbuehi, who never seemed to recover from his ACL injury in college entirely.
A Look At The Draft
Whether or not the Pittsburgh Steelers swindled the Bengals for the services of linebacker Devin Bush, Cincinnati did add help for their offensive line. The Bengals selected arguably the top offensive tackle in the class in Alabama’s Jonah Williams. Unfortunately for the Bengals, Williams will likely not see the field until 2020 as he recovers from a torn labrum.
The Bengals were thought to be targeting a tight end in the draft, and they did exactly that. The surprise is that they took Washington’s Drew Sample in round two, a pick that left a lot of people scratching their heads.
Linebacker Germaine Pratt was an excellent value pick, and a player that can develop into a solid starter over time. The Bengals followed that pick by taking Pratt’s quarterback, Ryan Finley.
Cincinnati added two more exciting defensive pieces in Renell Wren and Deshaun Davis.
The Bengals started looking ahead to the future at the running back position behind Joe Mixon by selecting Texas A&M’s Trayveon Williams and Oklahoma’s Rodney Anderson, who is recovering from a knee injury that cost him most of the 2018 season.
Ohio State OG Michael Jordan and South Dakota State CB Jordan Brown rounded out their draft class.
Biggest On-Field Question
Can Andy Dalton lead the charge?
Andy Dalton has had his fair share of highs and lows since coming into the league in 2011. Now that Marvin Lewis is out and Zac Taylor is in, can Dalton revitalize his career before it’s too late?
Cincinnati selected Ryan Finley, not exactly the future of the position, so the organization still has faith in the former TCU quarterback. If Dalton can’t get it done this year, with the new offensive scheme and talent surrounding him, his time in Cincinnati may start to become numbered.
Depth Chart Analysis
Quarterback: As mentioned before, Dalton is still the guy for the Bengals, with rookie Ryan Finley and Jeff Driskel backing him up.
Running Back: Joe Mixon proved he is ready for the big-time with his impressive sophomore season. Giovani Bernard will see work on third down from time to time, and they’ve got two intriguing rookies in Trayveon Williams, and Rodney Anderson, who has a lot of talent, but his knee injury makes him an uncertainly.
Wide Receivers: AJ Green is still doing his thing, while Tyler Boyd enjoyed a breakout season in 2018. John Ross is still trying to find his footing. Then it’s a grab bag with Josh Malone, Auden Tate, and Cody Core, among others.
Tight Ends: Tyler Eifert is back on another one-year deal and looks just about recovered from his ankle injury. C.J. Uzomah was also re-signed to a three-year contract and is a very serviceable option if Eifert goes down again. Rookie Drew Sample will likely be the run-blocking, third tight end.
Right Tackle: Bobby Hart, surprisingly, got substantial money from the Bengals to return and he’ll likely cover the right tackle position again with Kent Perkins among those backing him up. This position is not a desirable spot for the Bengals.
Left Tackle: With Jonah Williams likely done for the season, Cordy Glenn will move back to left tackle, and Justin Evans is part of the depth group behind him. Losing Williams hurts, but Glenn provides a good fallback option.
Right Guard: Free-agent acquisition John Miller should be considered the favorite for the right guard spot. Westerman and Hopkins will also work as reserves at right guard as well.
Center: Billy Price should be back from injury, which should provide stability again on the interior for the Bengals. Hopkins and Westerman can also play the position.
Defensive End: Carlos Dunlap has been a steady force off of the edge for the Bengals for nearly a decade, posting at least 7.5 sacks in each of the past six seasons. Behind him, the Bengals are hoping Carl Lawson can stay healthy and produce in the pass-rush game, and Jordan Willis, Andrew Brown and Sam Hubbard also have potential. Kerry Wynn was brought in as a free agent for depth.
Defensive Tackle: Geno Atkins is getting up there in age, but he is still a respected force in the middle for the Bengals. Cincinnati does have a solid rotation behind him, including Andrew Billings, Josh Topou, Ryan Glasgow, and Renell Wren.
Linebackers: Pratt will begin his career as a backup, as Nick Vigil, Preston Brown and Jordan Evans should be the Week 1 starters at SAM, MIKE and WILL, respectively. Hardy Nickerson and Malik Jefferson give the Bengals two more serviceable depth pieces.
Defensive Backs: Jessie Bates wasted no time establishing himself as a leader of the Bengals’ secondary after an impressive rookie season, and he should only get better. Shawn Williams is a good running mate to Bates in the middle of the field. The Bengals also brought back Darqueze Dennard, keeping a good group of cornerbacks that also includes William Jackson (an excellent player), BW. Webb and Dre Kirkpatrick.
Outlook for 2019
The Bengals are a tough team to figure out for 2019 as they have a lot of talent on paper. Zac Taylor is a much-needed breath of fresh air in Cincinnati. But the AFC North is always a very tough division and only looks to be more difficult. This team will go as far as Andy Dalton will take them, which can be a wide range. The best-case scenario is competing for a wild card spot. However, the worst-case scenario is another last-place finish and picking in the top ten in the 2020 draft.