The Bengals are entering a crucial season as it seems time is running out on the team’s longtime head coach and several key defensive players face possible departures after the season. The offense needs playmakers, solid play from the offensive line, and needs to perform to the talent level they have- the team is not short on weapons. The defense must take a step forward and play at a consistent level to help keep the team in games. The OTAs have finished the first two days and here’s the buzz thus far. 

Offensive Skill Players

Bill Lazor enters his first full season as offensive coordinator and his first full offseason to implement his offensive gameplan. Lazor is one of the innovative offensive minds and will look to capitalize on the weaons in place. Andy Dalton has shown potential to be a capable if unspectacular leader and the team has potential to be a very good offense with Andy at the helm. Not much to report from the running backs, Joe Mixon looks to continue improving from his late season run and Giovani Bernard will do what Gio does- he’s as valuable of a pass catching back as there is in the league. A healthy John Ross has been torching defenses in OTA activities- this would be a huge help to the offense, allowing Dalton to stretch the field and create for all the pass catchers. Josh Malone has also shown well, also extending defenses and showing he could possibly fill in as a deep threat if John Ross becomes injured again. Tyler Eifert was looking to be healthy but has been a mysterious no-show to OTAs for a ‘medical’ issue- here we go again??? A healthy Eifert gives the Bengals such an advantage so hope has to hold out that it is merely a precaution. Ryan Hewitt ran with the first team as TE instead of Tyler Kroft surprisingly. 

Offensive Line

Acquiring Cordy Glenn was a big addition and they have taken on the big salary in hope that he will help shore up a line that has been a glaring weakness for years. Glenn’s contract has an $11.3 million number this year but can be cut after 2018 with no penalty if Cordy doesn’t return to form with Cincy. The rest of the line looks good so far but it’s the OTAs, so skepticism abounds in camp. Billy Price was a great addition via the draft and should take the starting center job. The run blocking was improving toward the end of 2017 but must give Andy Dalton time as well. 

Defense

The two elephants in the room are the impending free agency of Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins after the 2018 season. There are reports that they have been negotiating with Carlos Dunlap but there hasn’t been much said of Atkins situation at this point. Both players are critical cogs to the Bengals defense and their value goes beyond contract numbers. Some young players like Jordan Willis, Carl Lawson, Carl Hubbard, and Malik Jefferson look to make their mark in OTAs and could spearhead the next generation of Bengals defensive standouts. Jessie Bates ran with the first team defense this week and was impressive- he was a ballhawk safety at Wake Forest and could provide that element to a Bengals D that had only 11 interceptions in 2017.