After five straight playoff appearances, the Cincinnati Bengals have headed in the wrong direction. What issues need to be resolved before the start of ’18?
It seems like after every season, Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis is on the hot seat. Which is somewhat confusing as he prepares for his 16th year with the club. It appeared to be a certainty a few months ago as the club was wrapping up a 7-9 showing. But to the team’s credit, it won its final two games, knocked both the Detroit Lions and Baltimore Ravens out of the playoffs and concluded a 7-6 stretch following a 0-3 start.
Not long ago, the Bengals were a perennial playoff participant. Now five straight postseason appearances and a 12-4 record in 2015 have been followed by a combined 13-18-1 mark the past two years.
Lewis’ squad is still very talented in many regards but this is a club closer to the bottom of the AFC North these days than the top. So can Cincinnati turn things around? And what are the Bengals’ five most pressing issues as training camp draws near?
5. Can RB Joe Mixon be a workhorse-type performer?
Imagine a backfield that consists of Giovani Bernard, Jeremy Hill and rookie Joe Mixon? Like both of the aforementioned runners, the former University of Oklahoma standout was a second-round selection. All told, that’s a pretty talented trio and should have made the Cincinnati Bengals one of the better running teams in the league.
But it just didn’t work out that way a season ago. Hill missed the final nine games of the season and even before that totaled only 37 carries for 116 yards in seven contests. Bernard is one of the more versatile backs in the league and finished third on the team in receptions. But he took a backseat to the one-time Sooner. Mixon led the team in rushing with 626 yards on 178 carries and ran for four of the team’s six TDs on the ground.
By season’s end, only the Detroit Lions finished with fewer rushing yards per game in ’17. More later on the team’s new faces on the offensive line. But don’t be surprised if Mixon winds up being the main focus of a ground attack that looks to rebound from last season’s shaky showing.