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Cincinnati Bengals

Mock Draft 2.0: Replacing McCarron and protecting Andy

James Rapien



The Bengals added defense and built around Andy Dalton in mock draft 1.0. They do the same in this draft, although some of the faces are different. The biggest change in this mock has to do with the quarterback position. We know AJ McCarron will play elsewhere in 2018. This means the Bengals have to replace him. They do that by adding one of the most polarizing players in the draft.
I used Fanspeak to complete this mock. Here are the first 11 picks of the first round:

  1. Saquon Barkley, RB – Cleveland Browns
  2. Josh Rosen, QB – New York Giants
  3. Bradley Chubb, DE – Indianapolis Colts
  4. Sam Darnold, QB – Cleveland Browns
  5. Minkah Fitzpartick, S – Denver Broncos
  6. Josh Allen, QB – New York Jets
  7. Vita Vea, DT – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  8. Quenton Nelson, G – Chicago Bears
  9. Denzel Ward, CB – Washington Redskins
  10. Tremaine Edmunds, LB – Oakland Raiders
  11. Roquan Smith, LB – Miami Dolphins

And with the 12th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Cincinnati Bengals select…..
12. Derwin James, S, Florida State – Some scouts believe James could be the next Eric Berry. James is a freak athlete at 6’3″ and 215 pounds. He ran a 4.48 40-yard dash at the combine. He has the size, speed and athleticism to be a nice addition to any defense. James is extremely versatile – the Bengals could use him all over the field. Seahawks safety Earl Thomas is a big fan of James’. You’re probably wondering why I went with him over any of the offensive tackles that were available – the Bengals aren’t going to reach to fill a need. I’m not sure any of the tackles in this draft are worth the No. 12 pick. I think the Bengals feel the same way. James has the potential to be a game changer. He can help the defense as a rookie. James’ versatility to play multiple roles ensures that he’ll fit in with George Iloka and Shawn Williams, who are both under contract through the 2020 season. Watch James’ 40-yard dash and check out who the Bengals select with their other 10 picks below.

46. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville – The Bengals were hoping an offensive tackle like Kolton Miller from UCLA or a center like Billy Price from Ohio State fell this far, but they didn’t. The Bengals still like the depth on the offensive line, but Jackson is the highest rated player on their board. You’re probably wondering if Jackson could fall this far in real life? I don’t think so, but stranger things have happened. This should be a dream scenario for the Bengals.

Nov 26, 2016; Louisville, KY, USA; Louisville Cardinals quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) throws a pass against the Kentucky Wildcats during the second quarter at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Even if you don’t believe in Jackson, you should be able to admit his ceiling is sky high. He is the same exact size as Dalton – their both 6’2″ tall and 216 pounds. I’ve always wondered what it would’ve been like to watch a focused Michael Vick who enjoyed watching film – we may see it with Jackson. Jackson gives the Bengals a weapon who could be a gadget player as a rookie – think Mohamed Sanu – and he can learn and develop behind Dalton in 2018.
77. Frank Ragnow, C, Arkansas – Ragnow is the first of multiple offensive linemen taken by the Bengals. He could be a day one starter at center. Ragnow has good size and power. The Bengals offensive line gets better with this pick. I wouldn’t be shocked if he beat out Russell Bodine for the starting job – assuming the Bengals re-sign Bodine and let Ragnow compete to start. If the Bengals stick with Bodine, Ragnow has experience at guard. His versatility is appealing for a Bengals team desperate for an upgrade.
100. Alex Cappa, OT, Humboldt State – Cappa has a mean streak that the Bengals offensive line has been missing. He has great size at 6’7″ inches tall and 305 pounds. Cappa should be able to contribute as a rookie, even if that means playing guard. This Bengals team couldn’t run block worth a lick last season – the thought of Cappa mauling opposing defenders, while Joe Mixon accelerates out of the backfield would be a beautiful thing.
112. Michael Gallup, WR, Colorado State – This is the second-straight mock draft where the Bengals land Gallup. He was productive at Colorado State hauling in 176 receptions for 2,690 yards and 21 touchdowns. He impressed at the Senior Bowl and fared well the the combine. The Bengals have plenty of question marks at wide receiver. They hedge their bet with guys like John Ross, Josh Malone and company by taking the best player on their board.
151. Shaquem Griffin, LB, Central Florida – The Bengals need speed at linebacker – Griffin brings that and more. He ran a 4.38 40-yard dash and would bring much needed athleticism to a defense that needs it. Griffin is small – 227 pounds and plenty of people will point out the fact that he only has one hand. He thrives despite his physical limitation and would have a real shot at making an impact on special teams as a rookie.

Nov 4, 2017; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish tight end Durham Smythe (80) leaves the field after Notre Dame defeated the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

170. Durham Smythe, TE, Notre Dame – Smythe has great size at 6’5″ and 257 pounds. He could help the Bengals in one key area – blocking. He would be a great addition as a run blocker. Tyler Kroft and C.J. Uzomah are both decent blockers, but it doesn’t come as naturally to them. Smythe could be an extension of the offensive line and help give the Bengals the rushing attack they need to have success in 2018. He’s also good in pass protection and could help their offense as a rookie.
187. Fred Warner, LB, Brigham Young – Warner gives the Bengals another fast, athletic linebacker who should be able to contribute on special teams as a rookie. The additions of James, Griffin and now Warner give the Bengals defense much-needed athleticism. Warner played in the slot some in college and could excel in coverage with time at the NFL level. Adding a special teamer who has potential to contribute in the future makes sense at this point in the draft.
249. Rashaan Gaulden, CB, Tennessee – The Bengals are shocked to have Gaulden fall this far. He’s projected to be drafted in round four according to most analysts. Instead, the Bengals get a corner who could slide in and be their nickel of the future. Darqueze Dennard is a free agent after the 2018 season and Adam Jones is in the final year of his deal. Gaulden could play a year of special teams and learn behind both players, before contributing on defense in 2019. Watch some of Gaulden’s combine highlights below.

252. Ike Boettger, OT, Iowa – Boettger has plenty of injury concerns, but the Bengals have 11 picks and might as well take the chance on potential. He has a chance to play tackle and/or guard in the NFL. He missed seven games due to injury in 2015 and missed most of last season. He tore his achilles last year and it may take time to get back to full strength. It’s worth the risk with offensive line being a weakness. Boettger could come in, develop and maybe have a role with the team in the future.
253. Ade Aruna, DE, Tulane – Aruna tested well at the combine and it would be shocking to see him available this late in the draft. He ran the second fast 40-yard dash among the defensive ends at 4.6 seconds. Aruna is a good athlete, who moved to America to play basketball. The Bengals haven’t shied away from projects and Aruna is worth a look if they can get him – especially this late in the draft.

James covers the Cincinnati Bengals and Cincinnati Reds for ESPN 1530 and 700 WLW in Cincinnati. He hosts shows on both stations, including Cincy 3:60 from 12pm-1pm daily on ESPN 1530. He is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati. Feel free to email him your ideas, fantasy football questions and hot takes.

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Cincinnati Bengals

Gerald McCoy in stripes makes plenty of sense

Russell Heltman



The Tampa Bay Buccaneers moved on from star defensive tackle Gerald McCoy earlier this week after failing to find a suitable trade partner for his $13 million salary and the Cincinnati Bengals have taken notice.

Russini is clearly qualified and plugged in when it comes to breaking Bengals related news and this seems like a step in the right direction for fans who want this “New Dey” for the Bengals to start going after top tier talent with minimal long term risk. It’s clear that no team around the league wanted to give up draft picks while taking on McCoy at such a high cap number.

The Bengals should roll the dice here and take a calculated chance on a guy like McCoy who could turn this entire defense into the group most Bengals fans had high expectations for last season but ultimately finished as a bottom-three unit. McCoy and Geno Atkins would make up arguably the best interior line combination in the league. One that would rival the duo of Ndamokung Suh and Aaron Donald that the Rams rode to the Super Bowl.

After missing the Pro Bowl for the first time since 2012 last season, McCoy still notched six sacks and more importantly a team-high 21 pressures for the Buccaneers. Over his highly productive career, the former Oklahoma Sooner has tallied 393 pressures, good for sixth among interior linemen since 2010. McCoy is a stud who was the best defensive player on his team and a wrecker who has never been surrounded by much talent in the trenches.

Despite a rough year across the board for this Bengals defense, Atkins clearly showed he is still at the top of his game after tallying double-digit sacks for the first time since 2010 and creating 64 pressures, which ranked fourth among all interior linemen. Joe and Jake brought up a great point on Wednesday’s podcast, McCoy would be the best inside partner that Atkins has ever played with and would not only help open up more playmaking opportunities for him but also spell players across the line more rest after it was ravaged by injury in 2018.

Sep 24, 2018; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (93) reacts during the first half against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals have roughly $23 million in cap room as we head into the summer months and despite a clear goal of extending Tyler Boyd and A.J. Green, signing McCoy to a one or two year deal worth $10-12 million annually is more than doable. Green already accounts for $15 million against the cap this year and most estimates have his new deal reaching around $18 million per year, while Boyd has gone on record this week with expectations of a deal similar to Sterling Shepard’s four year/$41 million contract.

That leaves Cincinnati with just enough room to sign McCoy to a deal he’d be happy with.

The bottom line is players like this don’t come around very often, and during the Marvin Lewis Era, they were almost never targeted by the front office. McCoy could turn this swiss cheese-defense into a formidable force overnight while helping Bengals fans see the light of a New Dey at Paul Brown Stadium.


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Cincinnati Bengals

The AFC North Power Vacuum

Russell Heltman



The AB shoe has dropped.

After a drama-filled start to the offseason, Antonio Brown got his wish: A new home and contract in the Bay Area. The Pittsburgh Steelers shipped their disgruntled star to the Oakland Raiders for a pair of third and sixth round picks in this year’s draft.

The Killer-B Era in the Steel City is over.

Le’veon Bell called the organizations bluff last year and sat the entire season after he was offered $14.5 million on another franchise tag. That decision left the Steelers with the fifth most unused cap space in the NFL last season and now the loss of Brown hamstrings them even more. The Steelers must now eat $21 million in dead cap money with Brown in the Silver and Black, ostensibly the largest hit of its kind in league history.

Dec 10, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell (26) celebrates with wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) after scoring a touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens during the first quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Sweet, sweet music for the rest of the AFC North.

While Pittsburgh holds on to a fading era the other three teams in the division have kickstarted themselves with new coaches, quarterbacks, and in the Cleveland Browns case, both.

Baker Mayfield‘s talents are now fully paired with Freddie Kitchens, the duo led Cleveland to a 5-2 record down the stretch and has injected a breadth of confidence the franchise hasn’t felt since returning to the shores of Lake Erie in 1999. The Lamar Jackson Era is in full swing after the Baltimore Ravens shipped Joe Flacco to Denver for a fourth-round pick. Jackson is a dynamic playmaker but struggled as a passer in year one, despite aerial issues the former Heisman winner notched six wins in seven starts with a 27-24 loss to Kansas City mixed in.

In Cincinnati all of the eggs now lie in the Zac Taylor basket, The entire coaching staff has been overhauled outside of special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons and after 16 seasons of Marvin Lewis, there is tepid optimism surrounding this young coaching staff.

For the first time since Ben Roethlisberger’s rookie season, the Steelers don’t seem like the go-to favorite to win the AFC North and stomp on another Marvin Lewis team. Taylor and offensive coordinator Brian Callahan are bringing fresh eyes and concepts to this roster and ideally Bengals fans will experience the 2018 LA Rams Offense: Midwest Edition when they roll into Paul Brown Stadium this Fall.

On the defensive side things can’t get much worse than last season with new coordinator Lou Anarumo taking the reins of a unit that ranked 32nd in total defense (413.6 yards allowed per game), 32nd against the pass (275.9 per game), 30th in points allowed (28.4 per game) and 29th against the run (137.8 yards per game).

Meanwhile, many of the draft experts have the Bengals selecting do-it-all LSU linebacker Devin White with the 11th pick. A massive value at that spot, White is as durable a player you’ll find at the linebacker position and is graded by Scouts Inc. as the fourth best prospect available in April. He would be a welcome addition to a defense that was the worst in the NFL defending tight ends last season.

A New Dey has arrived not only in Cincinnati but throughout the rest of the AFC North and with the Killer-B’s done in Pittsburgh the Bengals have their chance to fill the power void.

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Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals fans guide to Super Bowl LIII

Russell Heltman



It’s been 30 years since the Cincinnati Bengals last played in a Super Bowl. A heartbreaking 20-16 loss to the San Francisco 49ers was the Bengals most recent shot at glory, and while Sunday’s matchup between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams showcases how far Cincinnati is to breaking that drought, there are plenty of things for Bengals fans to focus on inside of Mercedes-Benz Stadium.


Keep an Eye on the Incoming Head Coach

Dec 3, 2017; Glendale, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Rams assistant wide receivers coach Zac Taylor against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Zac Taylor is taking the reins from Marvin Lewis in what will be the first head coaching change since I started watching Bengals games during that magical 2005 season. The 35-year old Rams QB coach joins six other “young, offensive-minded” hires from this years coaching carousel. For Bengals fans, they are hoping he’s a cut above the rest, despite being the last to ink a deal. Bengals faithful should pay close attention any and every time the CBS production crew decides to show him in action on Sunday.

This is the biggest game Taylor has been a part of since entering the NFL coaching ranks with the Dolphins back in 2012 and it will be really interesting to see him handle a moment all Bengals fans hope he can relive sooner rather than later in Cincinnati. No one on the outside of the Rams organization really knows how involved Taylor is with setting up the gameplan, but he has clearly had a very positive effect on Jared Goff since taking over his tutelage in 2017.

How he interacts with Goff in between plays and coaches him through mistakes could go a long way in determining how he will help Andy Dalton (or Ryan Tannehill?) return to his 2015 form. Zac Taylor might not be the most experienced coach getting a chance this year but the results with Goff prove he deserves this opportunity.


Pre-snap and Play-Action

Jan 20, 2019; New Orleans, LA, USA; Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) audibles during the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship game against the New Orleans Saints at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

There are still questions as to who will call plays and control the 2019 Bengals offense, but in saying that fans should expect a lot of carryover from this Rams system that has willed their way to Atlanta with pre-snap communication and play-action passing. It’s no secret that Goff and Rams head coach Sean McVay communicate right up to the 15-second cutoff during every play.

McVay can read the defense, then call something to match their formation and he often times uses motion to accomplish that. Former Bengals offensive coordinator Bill Lazor was allergic to this kind of communication and the offense ranked 32nd and 26th in his two seasons because of it. Expect Taylor to have his voice in the Red Rifle’s ear plenty on Sundays.

In terms of play-action passing the Rams used these plays as the cornerstone of their offense, calling them 34 percent of the time with devastating effect. LA’s 9.0 yards per play on these calls ranked third in the NFL and they averaged 1.9 yards per play more than regular calls. On the flip side, Cincinnati ranked 13th in the league calling play-action on 24 percent for 1.5 yards per play more than all other calls. It’s not rocket science, play-action works wonders in today’s NFL and Taylor is expected to bring that mindset with him to the Queen City.


Todd Gurley: The Receiver

Jan 20, 2019; New Orleans, LA, USA; Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley (30) is tackled by New Orleans Saints middle linebacker Alex Anzalone (47) during the fourth quarter in the NFC Championship game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Player A: 55 targets, 43 receptions, 296 yards, 6.9 yards per catch, 1 TD

Player B: 81 targets, 59 receptions, 580 yards, 9.8 yards per catch, 4 TD

Yes, I know Joe Mixon had a stellar year running the ball (1,168 yards, 4.9 yards per carry) but he was totally mismanaged in the passing game and his Player A numbers reflect that. Player B, well I’d say he was used correctly and will continue to be used that way on Sunday. Despite his two costly drops in the NFC Championship Game, Todd Gurley is still one of the best receiving backs in the NFL.

A big reason why he’s so productive is the way LA puts him in an ideal position to make big plays, whether it’s a wheel route down the sideline or a throwback screen off of…. play action, this coaching staff does all they can to help him gash defenses. So far in Mixon’s career, I’ve barely seen any of that, it’s similar to putting a governor on a 66′ Cobra. Keep an eye on how the Rams use Gurley’s receiving skills to their advantage and imagine Mixon on the other end of those throws.

This One’s For Whit

Sep 27, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Rams offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth (77) and offensive guard Rodger Saffold (76) during the game against the Minnesota Vikingsat Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Rams defeated the Vikings 38-31. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Every Bengals fan should be rooting for the new head coach to bring a Super Bowl winning pedigree with him to his new digs in Cincinnati, but if that wasn’t enough, we should all be rooting for Andrew Whitworth.

Likely on his way to back-to-back All-Pro selections Whitworth is one of the best players to ever play the tackle position and was a consummate professional during his 11-year stint in a Bengals uniform. He notched his first playoff win 13 years into his career and why not knock down all of the playoff milestones in one run. I know who I’m rooting for come Super Bowl Sunday.

Enjoy the holiday.

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