That’s all she wrote.
The 2018 NFL Draft is complete, as the Cincinnati Bengals used all 11 of their draft picks to bolster a roster that has playoff aspirations after missing out on the party over the past two seasons.
It would be folly to think every pick handed into the league office will see the field for the Bengals this season but they all have a chance to make an impact one way or another.
Time to assess what kind of influence each pick could have on the gridiron this Fall.
Billy Price – C, Ohio State
Impact Meter: MASSIVE
This guy represents one of the biggest keys to Bengals success this fall. After “losing” longtime-starter Russell Bodine to the Buffalo Bills in free agency, center became the biggest area of need for this Bengals team. The only one on the roster before Thursday night was T.J. Johnson, who has started just five games since being drafted in 2013. The Bengals didn’t wait to address the hole up front, drafting Billy Price with the 21st pick in the draft.
The 2017 Rimington Award winner, Price is arguably the best center in the draft and figures to be a day-one starter once camp opens on July 26th. Price notched 55 starts between guard and center for the Buckeyes and anchored one of the best run-blocking units in college football last season.
The Ohio native figures to be a stalwart for Cincinnati similar to what Rich Braham was in the first few years of the Marvin Lewis-era. Frank Ragnow would’ve likely been the selection had he not been taken a pick earlier by Detroit, but Price is a nasty road grader who will command the huddle and play with passion each and every snap.
Jessie Bates III – S, Wake Forest
Impact Meter: MODERATE
I noted in my debut article for Locked On Bengals that Cincinnati was in need of playmakers in the back end of the defense and they added one with their lone pick in the second round.
Bates is very similar to the guy they brought in for a visit earlier in the month, Eric Reid, but with even better ball skills. He is hard-nosed and likes to play a little closer to the line of scrimmage in anticipation of closing out quicker on ball carriers. The Wake Forest product should be a welcome addition to a Teryl Austin-unit that wants to implement more three-safety looks. Bates can play close to the line or drop back in coverage where he had six interceptions and 10 passes defended during his time as a Demon Deacon. He represents a welcome addition to a defense that ranked 31st in turnovers forced last season.
Expect Bates to be in some limited packages during his first year with the Bengals but don’t be surprised if he lights a few guys up on kick returns, he will be an immediate special teams contributor.
Sam Hubbard – DE, Ohio State
Impact Meter: MODERATE
Part of a rookie trio headed from the Buckeyes to the Bengals, Hubbard was a fantastic value pick at #77 overall. The former Buckeye tore up Big Ten offensive tackles. Across three seasons at Ohio State, Hubbard totaled 17 sacks and 30 tackles for loss.
Hubbard provides depth to a strong but uninsured defensive end group. Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson should be the week one starters but they are entering the final year of their contracts and we’ve all seen how underwhelming Johnson has been during his second stint in Cincinnati. Hubbard is a little undersized to be a full-time defensive end in Teryl Austin’s 4-3 system but I expect him to bulk up over time and carve out a larger role in the process.
We won’t have to worry about his excitement to play for Cincinnati, Hubbard grew up in the tri-state area and was a diehard Bengals fan growing up and now gets to suit up for his dream franchise. Don’t be shocked if Hubbard or sophomore Jordan Willis supplants Johnson as the starter at some point this season.
Malik Jefferson – LB, Texas
Impact Meter: MODERATE/MASSIVE
That has been the weakest aspect of the Bengals linebacking corps over the past few seasons and they addressed that with Jefferson.
The Texas product ran a 4.52 40-yard dash at the NFL combine (3rd among linebackers) and was unleashed when Texas altered their defense last season. Jefferson tallied 110 tackles in 2017 including 10 for loss and four sacks.
Checking in at 6’3″ and 235 pounds, Jefferson has the prototypical size and speed to be a dominant linebacker in today’s NFL but he often plays with a recklessness that can cost a defense dearly.
If linebackers coach Jim Haslett can coach him up and reign him in just a bit, Jefferson could end up being a perfect partner for Vontaze Burfict when he returns from his four-game suspension.
Expect him to see substantial playing time while Burfict is on the shelf.
Mark Walton – RB, Miami
Impact Meter: MINIMAL
A lot of Bengals faithful threw up their hands in disgust when this pick came across the ticker but I expect them to eat their words more than once over the next few years.
Walton is one of the shiftiest home run-hitters in this draft and the value was just too good to pass up in the fourth round. Before an ankle injury cut his final season in Miami seven games short, Walton was putting together a monster season for the Hurricanes on the ground, rushing for 428 yards and three touchdowns on a whopping 7.6 yards per carry.
Walton can make just about any human on the planet miss in the open field and he provides depth to a running back committee that saw Jeremy Hill and Cedric Peerman depart this season.
Walton likely won’t see many carries in 2018 but Gio Bernard only has two years left on his deal and Walton can be a day-one contributor on special teams.
Davontae Harris – CB, Illinois State
Impact Meter: MINIMAL
The only FCS player drafted by the Bengals, Davontae Harris was brought in to offer depth on the outside of the defense. Harris has some issues with ball tracking and coverage technique but he had impressive measurables at the combine including a 4.43 40-yard dash and 22 reps on the bench press.
Adam Jones remains unsigned, while Josh Shaw and Darqueze Dennard are both entering contract years so the Bengals needed to add another promising player to the cornerback room.
Expect the FCS All-American to see limited snaps in relief of Dennard in the slot but he will likely notch the most looks on the special teams unit.
Andrew Brown – DT, Virginia
Impact Meter: MODERATE/MASSIVE
In my eyes, Andrew Brown is the only late-round pick that has a chance to be a consistent starter for the Bengals this season. Cincinnati really needed to address this position with All-Pro talent Geno Atkins set to hit free agency next year, and let’s be honest, Andrew Billings has not impressed alongside him.
Billings ranked 119th among defensive tackles last season according to Pro Football Focus and Ryan Glasgow outperformed him throughout his rookie campaign.
Brown played defensive end at Virginia and has the long arms that often cause headaches for opposing guards. After accumulating 26.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks over 34 games, Brown brings an aggressive nature to the interior line that mirrors his All-Pro partner.
I don’t expect Brown to be the week one starter alongside Geno Atkins, but he has a great chance to take control of that role if he can bring the same mentality he showed at Virginia into Paul Brown Stadium.
Darius Phillips – CB, Western Michigan
Impact Meter: MODERATE/MASSIVE
I hope Adam Jones wasn’t anticipating a return to Cincinnati this Fall because the Bengals crushed that storyline with their final pick of the fifth round.
Darius Phillips represents another chance to bolster the cornerback depth but the biggest reason a massive impact is possible lies in his game-breaking return skills.
Phillips holds the FBS-record for return touchdowns and has shown the ability to ring up big plays every time he gets ahold of the football.
The Detroit native had a return touchdown in all four years at WMU and 12 interceptions in three full seasons at corner.I noted earlier how desperate the Bengals are for playmakers in the secondary and Phillips should be able to contribute day one as a slot corner.
Dennard will still see the majority of the snaps inside but Phillips can immediately step in as the Bengals #1 return man. A fifth-straight season with a return touchdown will make Phillips a household name among Bengals fans.
Logan Woodside – QB, Toledo
Impact Meter: MINIMAL/MODERATE
This is one of my favorite value picks of the entire draft.
Woodside is a savvy, pinpoint passer who I had a chance to see first hand when he went up against the Ohio Bobcats last season.
His production dropped off a bit in his senior campaign but Woodside has always taken pretty good care of the football (93 career TD, 25 INT) and he completed 65.1 percent of his passes during his career on an astounding 9.1 yards per attempt.
Woodside can make almost every throw in the book and despite having an average arm he was still one of the most prolific deep ball throwers in the nation last season.
The Bengals were not looking to start the season with Matt Barkley as their only insurance behind Andy Dalton. I expect Woodside to win the backup role and be ready fill in for Dalton should anything happen to the Red Rifle.
Rod Taylor – OG, Ole Miss
Impact Meter: MINIMAL
Rod Taylor was the second and final offensive lineman taken by the Bengals, much to the surprise of people outside the franchise. It makes sense though, offensive line was clearly not the strength of this draft and there is no need to reach for something that isn’t there.
With that being said, I think Taylor has a solid shot to make the final roster cut because he can play tackle or guard and represents a nice little project for Frank Pollack and the rest of his staff.
Don’t expect Taylor to become the next Anthony Muñoz, but a solid back up role doesn’t seem to be out of the realm of possibility.
Auden Tate – WR, Florida State
Impact Meter: MINIMAL
The Bengals last selection in the 2018 NFL Draft brings some serious upside to a crowded wide receivers room and represents another great value pick in the final ten selections.
Auden Tate notched 40 catches for 548 yards and 10 touchdowns for the Seminoles last season and checked into the combine at 6’5″ and 228 pounds.
If Tate can stand out amongst the other three wide receivers fighting for a roster spot he will be a huge red-zone target for Andy Dalton and represent another weapon for a Bengals offense that is shaping up to be loaded when the 2018 season kicks off.
An Open Letter to Marvin Lewis
Dear Mr. Lewis,
I have been contemplating sending you this letter for quite some time, and I hope it finds you well. You don’t know me, but I am a loyal fan of the Cincinnati Bengals. The second Super Bowl loss to the San Francisco 49ers remains as the first time I can remember experiencing heartbreak. I have, quite literally, hated Joe Montana for what he did to my then 12 year old self, for 30 years now. That said, my fandom has endured. Admittedly, as I was in college in the late 90’s, I was not as honed in on every move my Bengals made. So many losses, so little time. Sure, I loved Jeff Blake, Corey Dillon, and Takeo Spikes, but I had finals to take and parties from which to recover. But then something happened. Something unexpected. Mike Brown hired you as the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals in 2003. Marvin Lewis – the legendary architect of one of the greatest defenses in the history of the league – was coming to be our coach! The excitement was palpable, and you were brimming with confidence. It was a swagger not seen around here since the days of Sam Wyche.
As the years passed, you began to place your stamp on the team and the city. The Marvin Lewis community fund is an outstanding work of art, and a tribute to your dedication to the people of Cincinnati. Kudos. On the field, the likes of Carson Palmer, Chad Johnson, Rudi Johnson, Willie Anderson, and TJ Houshmandzadeh, made being a Bengals’ fan fun again. They became must see TV, if not in person appointment viewing. Cleveland was a guaranteed two wins. Baltimore was almost two. Pittsburgh was likely a couple of losses, but the wins were sweet, and the losses were respectable. I’d look forward to your post-game interviews, and your Monday press conferences. There was useful information to be gleaned from them. Things that the average fan would miss as they had long turned off the broadcast and moved on with their lives. Not me. I am a loyal fan, remember? I don’t break down tape or have some hot draft take, but I love my Bengals, and I follow them closely – you included.
I need to take a moment to give you some props on the transition from the Palmer-era to the Dalton-era. That entire thing was a mess, what with Carson forcing his way out, you hiring an unproven offensive coordinator in Jay Gruden, and then drafting/starting a rookie quarterback in Andy Dalton. And all during an NFL lockout. I still remember predictions of the team going 0-16 that year. Somehow, some way, you guided this team, not only to a winning record, but to the playoffs. I am not sure if I have ever been more impressed by an NFL coach. You completely rebooted the franchise, and had a whole new cast of characters for us to get to know. Dalton, AJ Green, Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, Clint Boling, and Andrew Whitworth. Young talent, ready to take on the AFC North. Two wins versus Cleveland – check. Almost two wins versus Baltimore – check. Still two losses to Pittsburgh – yeah, most of the time, but division titles weren’t out of reach. The playoffs became an annual event. This is where I need to touch on the obvious…
I do not understand your philosophy when it comes to playoff games, and for that matter, night games, games against Pittsburgh, Monday Night Football games, and any other game not at 1 pm eastern. You seem to have think and preach that these games are just the same as any other. No need for extra emphasis. No need for extra hype. No need to bring an extra chin strap because it’s just another game. After watching 16 years of this approach from you, I humbly disagree. Your teams are consistently outplayed, out-coached, and seemingly unprepared for the spotlight of these match-ups. At some point, would it not make sense to try a different approach? Maybe call it Pittsburgh week? Maybe say this Sunday night game is going to be huge for us? Maybe say that your team is chomping at the bit to play on Monday Night Football? It’s got to be better than just another game – just another loss.
I know you love this city and this franchise. I genuinely believe you want to win – for Mike Brown, and for the fans. That said, I think that it is time to move on with your life’s work. You gave it your all. You got more out of Mr. Brown than anyone ever thought possible. You raised this franchise to a level of respectability that no one could have predicted. You have done good work. It’s just not enough. There is no shame in that. And if I am being honest, you just do not seem to enjoy this anymore. Your press conferences, that I used to look forward to hearing, are all the same. Short, full of disdain for the people asking questions, and random giggles that make no sense. The fire and energy after 16 years of being an NFL head coach have faded. Why not let someone else give it a shot? We both know Mike Brown isn’t going to fire you, so why not walk away? Do what’s best for the franchise, and make them look for a coach. Last time, it brought us you!
Thank you for reading, and I wish you all the best in your next adventure.
P. S. Please take Hue Jackson with you. Thanks
Blog of Football Sorrows: Week 13
Today I officially changed the name of this game recap blog. It just fits. To be positive about this iteration of the Bengals is to be a master of the mind that I cannot comprehend (aka delusional).
They’re done. I didn’t think they had much hope for the playoffs before the game, and they certainly don’t now. The injuries are a problem, but they aren’t the problem. The offense has been stale for weeks thriving on an identity-less scheme filled with dink and dunk passes and zero creativity. They now have four games left. The Raiders seem winnable, but with the hope of starting over, do we fans want that? Do we want there to be a glimmer of hope in management’s eyes? I don’t. I want change, and that doesn’t happen by winning any remaining games, this year. Lose em all, blow it up, let’s start fixing the problems that have been ignored for too long.
Jeff Driskel, to no fault of his own, was meh. Which is much the story of 2018. The game plan, in the beginning, seemed to be for him to get momentum built through screens and flat routes…but then they kept the training wheels on. Second quarter, third quarter…it kept going. The Bengals fell behind on the scoreboard and their answer was to run more crossing routes and short outs? Cincinnati ran RPO plays…and only passed. They asked an athletic quarterback who can move to stand tall in the pocket and fend off pressure from a defense with its ears pinned back matching up with a bad and battered offensive line. Kind of like James mentioned on the post-game pod, how bad is Cedric Ogbuehi that the answer to filling in for Cordy Glenn is the starting left guard and not your former first round pick, who is actually supposed to be a left tackle? So the coaching game plan was to tell Driskel to grin and bear it behind an uninspired line with uninspired play calling? But, you know, Marvin Lewis says “We’ve got to do our jobs better. The players have to execute the game plan the way it is coached.” What? The game plan hasn’t changed in 10 years! Different personnel, different opponents, different circumstances, same stale, boring, dull, lifeless, clueless plan. I get sick to my stomach when I listen to Marvin do a press conference.
The only thing left is the future, whatever may come. I know that is bleak. Not one of you reading these words can say, with a straight face, that you can see a different coach roaming the sidelines in 2019 who isn’t Marvin or Hue Jackson. We know. We know there isn’t going to be any change, and that’s why the stadium is empty. That’s why the orange in the stands at Paul Brown Stadium was Bronco orange and not Bengal orange. The sound at the end of the game? Cheers and applause, because anyone still there was a fan of the visiting victors. There’s no one left to boo because they’ve been booing for so long they’ve lost interest. It is understood that the most likely outcome this season, if change comes at all, is that Hue takes the reigns. We’ll go from a boring, uninspired, regularly out-maneuvered coach to a joke of a coach. So how can anyone care? I looked at tickets before the game. You could have sit 12 rows back in the endzone for $35…and I said no. Why? Because the joke that is the visual of the stands at PBS is the last thing we fans have left to tell ownership to get their rear in gear and fix this. Will they? You tell me…
Follow @jefffcarr and @lockedonBengals on Twitter for more angst Bengals content.
A lot of Bengals fans (myself included) wondered before the year why a young team with so much talent was pegged with worse Super Bowl odds than our in-state neighbors.
In the eyes of Las Vegas, it didn’t matter that the Bengals rallied to end last season at 7-9 with a signature victory over the Baltimore Ravens. It didn’t matter that the Bengals made legitimate offseason moves to sure up the offensive line. It didn’t matter that Bill Lazor was given a whole offseason to install his system or that Teryl Austin was bringing a turnovers-or-bust mentality with him from Detroit.
It. Didn’t. Matter.
The only thing that mattered was the face of the franchise returning for his 16th year. Marvin Lewis is and always will be the reason people around the NFL don’t take the Bengals seriously and it’s become both a blessing and a curse.
When Lewis arrived in 2003, he inherited what many considered to be one of the worst franchises in pro sports at the time. The players were using old jock straps, it was a dark time in Bengals history. Though to Lewis’ credit, he rebuilt this franchise into something fans could actually be proud of.
They became competitive, they got to the base of Championship Mountain, but that’s not good enough. Of the six coaches in the NFL who’ve been at the helm for at least a decade, Marvin Lewis is the only one without a Super Bowl trophy.
As of Nov. 28, Cincinnati has lost five of their past six games, their defense is the worst in the league, the offense can’t operate without A.J. Green, and they’ve fired one coach in waiting while rehiring another. That go-ahead score against Pittsburgh in mid-October feels like it happened in 2015.
The Bengals might not have moved on from Marvin, but I have, there’s nothing else I need to see following that 35-20 beatdown this past Sunday. ESPN has pegged Lewis with a 60 percent chance to be fired and though this might be for nothing, here are two head coaching paths the Bengals could choose to down in January.
Anyone But Hue Jackson
That’s really all that needs to be said. Hue Jackson is a great POSITION coach, but he has proved over a large sample size that he is inept as a HEAD coach. Jason La Canfora reported before the Browns game that Jackson has a real shot to replace Lewis if he steps down or takes a front office role.
Fans would be less excited about this than retaining Lewis, especially if he’s in the building overseeing nine of the 10 or 11 losses this team is headed for. Who are we kidding here, this is Lewis’ best friend and if anyone has shown the ability to persuade Mike Brown over the last 16 years, it’s Marvin Lewis.
Jackson is the clear frontrunner if a coaching change ends up happening.
A former Bengals player from 1995-98, This is the home run hire for Cincinnati. Bieniemy is in his first season as offensive coordinator of the Kansas City Chiefs and I don’t have to throw stats in here to prove why that’s been a success.
As a former player for the franchise, Bieniemy has that familiarity that Brown always looks for in new hires. He could come in and immediately offer a fresh perspective on this roster, answer the Andy Dalton question, and start to move this organization into a new era.
Bieniemy has primarily coached running backs before taking over for Matt Nagy this season and some great ones at that: Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, Kareem Hunt have all learned and thrived under Bieniemy. Imagine his expertise paired with the talent of Joe Mixon.
Oh and for those concerned with the “lack of coaching experience” after just one season as an OC, just look at the past two guys to hold Bieniemy’s current spot. Doug Pederson went from Chiefs OC to winning a Super Bowl, Nagy has turned the Bears from a laughing stock to a contender in his first season. Those expectations might not be fair for Bieniemy, but the blueprint is out there for Mike Brown to make a championship hire.