By Justin Patrick @calling_allfans on June 18, 2014
The Cincinnati Bengals went 11-5 in 2013 and won the AFC North. They then lost to the horseshoe-hoarding San Diego Chargers 27-10 in the Wild Card round. The Bengals could make the playoffs again in 2014, but what are their five biggest red flags heading into the season?
In 2013, the Bengals used the tandem of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard at RB. Green-Ellis will turn 29 in July, so the Bengals were smart to add some depth. The Bengals drafted Hill in the second-round (55th overall) of the 2014 draft. Hill was convicted of sexual assault in high school and arrested for a bar fight in college, which was caught on camera. Hill’s character concerns may not outweigh the potential benefits.
The Bengals replaced Jay Gruden with their former running backs coach Hue Jackson. He has a reputation of being hard-nosed and also a “player’s coach.” Jackson re-joined Cincinnati in 2012 after being fired as the Raiders head coach. The Bengals may be more run-oriented under Jackson, which would alleviate some of the pressure on Andy Dalton, but the Bengals are still working with a new offensive coordinator which may take some time to adjust to.
Hall suffered a right Achilles injury on Oct. 20 last season in a game in Detroit. His goal is to be on the field on July 23 when the Bengals’ training camp opens. The Bengals drafted CB Darqueze Dennard this year, and he should be in the mix to be a starter. But the Bengals do not have a lot of depth at CB. Hall, who tore his left Achilles in 2011, will be 30 in December. The Bengals need the aging veteran to get healthy and produce in 2014.
Atkins, one of the best DTs in the NFL, suffered a season-ending torn ACL in an overtime loss to Miami in Week 9 of the 2013 season. In September last year, Atkins signed a five-year, $ 55 million extension with the Bengals. With the Bengals' pass rush missing DE Michael Johnson, who departed Cincinnati in the offseason, the defense will need Atkins to be at 100 percent in 2014.
The Bengals selected Dalton with their second-round (35th overall) pick in the 2011 draft. Dalton has played well, but he has been inconsistent. Although Dalton has led the Bengals to the playoffs each of his three seasons in the NFL, the Bengals are 0-3 in the playoffs with him under center. It may not be all Dalton’s fault, but he and the Bengals must take the next step and start winning playoff games.
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