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Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals’ approach that explains their draft

Joel Chandler



I was not pleased with what the Bengals had done in the draft on Friday night. There wasn’t a single pick I was happy about at the time. For almost every pick I could name a guy at the same position that was still available that I thought was a better prospect (which will be my next article).

However in the shower, where all great ideas come from, I believe I discovered the unseen factor that pushed the guys they selected up their board.

Remember all the talk about the Bengals being in win now mode?

If you look at this draft through that lens it comes into focus for me. It seems like the Bengals were determined to go center in round 1, the easiest way to upgrade their team. I fully believe the pick was Ragnow but when he went 20 the Bengals had a choice to make, Billy Price or James Daniels. James Daniels is 3 years younger (1/3 of an NFL career and will still develop physically), much more athletic on tape and test results to back it up.

By most measures a better prospect, but Billy Price is the better player right now. That is unless the Bengals try to run a zone heavy run scheme this year, then I just don’t know what they were doing.

The Jesse Bates III pick was surprising, especially with the highly touted Justin Reid still on the board. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not very good at scouting safeties but all you had to do was put on a highlight clip of Reid.

Highlight clips can be useful if you know what you’re looking for. Don’t just look at what the result of the play was but *how* the prospect made that play.

There’s a big difference between a ball bouncing off of a DE’s hands into the waiting arms of a safety vs that safety tracking the deep ball and going up over that 6’3” receiver to steal the ball from him. When you roll the clips on Justin Reid my eyebrows go up and I involuntarily say “holy sh*t”.

Jesse Bates the 3rd (don’t you feel like we need 1 more guy that’s a 3rd of his name in the backfield just for symmetry?) is one of the true free safeties in the draft and I believe that’s why he went over Reid. Hell they’re rare even in the NFL.

He can come into that DB room right now and give them something they don’t have. Illoka has FS traits to be sure and can play the deep half really well but I don’t know if you want him in single high. I believe Bates 3 will be the deepest man in a lot of 3 safety looks and while he will likely not start barring injury, he will contribute.

Sam Hubbard is of a similar ilk. While there were some better DE prospects available in my opinion, Hubbard is ready to come in and play a role right now.

He’s already very effective against the run which was a weakness last year. He’s not going to have Carl Lawson like snaps where he just embarrasses the tackle and smashes the QB.

He’s a hustle player that’s going to get cleanup sacks and has the flexibility to play inside and out. He’s basically an upgraded Michael Johnson at this point. But that was the exact need the Bengals have on their D-line right now.

They have their edge guys, they have their lane cloggers. For the next 2 years Hubbard is the perfect fit.
This falls apart a little bit with Malik Jefferson. Hopefully he’s a quick study because he was NOT asked to do much in the pass game at Texas.

He would just delayed blitz pretty much every pass play. Who knows though, maybe he’s a coverage savant and that’s just what the scheme called for.

Day 3 was a more standard draft. They took some big swings and laid down some bunts, nothing really stood out to me there. Though I do love some of the picks.

I fully believe the Bengals are all in on the next 2 years and it really manifested itself last weekend. You have two hall of fame caliber players nearing the end of their prime and they’re just going to give it one last shot.

When I frame the draft that way I feel much better about it.

What do you guys think? Does that make sense? Tell me I’m an idiot or a genius or that my band is awesome in the comments or hit me up on twitter at @joelknowsbungs. I’d love to hear from you!

Joel is a punk rock musician that plays guitar for 5 Days Dirty and bass for Requiem. Born, raised and educated in Cincinnati until his music took him to Oakland, CA. Joel had a brief stint as a college football scout and still watches a lot of film. He's been a Bengals fan since 2004. He has a love/hate relationship with the team but desperately wants them to win



  1. Josh Casparro

    May 4, 2018 at 10:11 am

    Mark walton was a poor pick. The bengals needed to draft another quality lineman. The one they got at the end probably won’t make it let alone play. The John Ross pick still haunts me.

  2. Josh

    May 6, 2018 at 9:32 am

    Don’t be surprised if Walton not only tales over Gio’s spot this year but ends up dethroning Mixon for lead back duties. I don’t think people really see how good this guy can be cause he’s not a name.

  3. Kenny Powers

    May 6, 2018 at 10:19 am

    There is no way Mark Walton takes Mixon’s position. I think he’s an awesome addition to the running back group. This draft wasn’t about who is the best on the board but was to fill positions for the new coordinators that are going to run their schemes. We now have play makers on offense, defense and on special teams. If you’re a new coordinator or line coach and the players you need to run your scheme aren’t already on the team on your team, you go find them in the draft and plug them in. Two things really angered me about this draft though, not being aggressive go up and get Will Hernandez and not selecting the kicker from Florida- Raiders end up picking him up as a undrafted free agent

  4. Kenny Powers

    May 6, 2018 at 10:39 am

    I always wondered how do you become a scout for a pro football team?

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Austin, Bates and Kirkpatrick discuss George Iloka’s release

James Rapien



I discuss the Bengals’ decision to release George Iloka on today’s podcast. Plus, hear from defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and the man who’s expected to replace Iloka in the starting lineup – Jessie Bates. Hear that and more on today’s Locked on Bengals podcast.

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Cincinnati Bengals

Grading the Bengals victory in Dallas

Russell Heltman



The Cincinnati Bengals are undefeated halfway through the 2018 preseason slate but if the 2017 Browns taught us anything it’s that victories before September matter a lot less than the performances that go into them. With that being said it was a victorious night for the orange and black but it was rarely pretty, time to assess their performance in each phase of the game.

Offense: C-

It was an ugly night on offense for Cincinnati, The starters basically no-showed in the first half and here’s how each drive looked before they headed to the locker room: Punt, Punt, Punt, Fumble, Punt, Interception.

All in all the first-team offense put together two drives with no first downs and 10 total yards.

That’s enough to put any team down three scores early in a regular season game and plenty of those struggles were linked to the offensive line. The left side looked decent with Clint Boling and Cordy Glenn proving they can be trusted with backside pressure. Outside of that, it was pretty rough, Bobby Hart started the game at right tackle and was shredded by Pro Bowl end Demarcus Lawrence. Cedric Ogbuehi was even worse as his replacement, allowing a sack to Taco Charlton even though he was called for a hold on the play.

As for right guard and center, Trey Hopkins didn’t make any egregious mistakes and contributed as the center on a 14-play, 92-yard TD drive in the third quarter. The argument could be made for him to be the backup center over T.J. Johnson.

Rookie center Billy Price on the other hand still has a lot of work to do, some of it looks like rookie mistakes but that is now two games into his career where he’s looked a little lost. The former Buckeye isn’t quite where we need him to be three weeks from Indianapolis. Right now Joe Mixon is averaging 2.4 yards per carry in the preseason, don’t expect that to get much better without improvement up front.

On a positive note, Jeff Driskel looked competent and collected in the second half. The Florida product went 10-of-16, for 116 yards and 1 interception but he led the Bengals longest drive of the night highlighted by this gem to John Ross.

The Bengals got the win and scored 21 points but still have a long, long way to go on the offensive line.

Defense: A

I fully expect this group to be the heart and soul of the 2018 Cincinnati Bengals.

They were absolutely dominant in Dallas, especially on the defensive line where they picked up five sacks including this power rush from Jordan Willis.

Sam Hubbard, Nick Vigil, and Carl Lawson tallied a sack and highlighted this crew’s biggest strengths: depth and versatility. Teryl Austin has the luxury of a talented front seven that isn’t reliant on one or two players but on the machine as a whole. The Cowboys could never get into a rhythm offensively because Cincinnati consistently won the first two seconds of each play. Andrew Billings was a big part of that equation, he got pressure on the inside all night and all but cemented a starting spot alongside Geno Atkins.

Pair this group with another deep crew in the cornerback room and all of those issues I mentioned above might not matter if the defense only allows 13 points on a regular basis.

As for the last line of defense, rookie Jessie Bates III got some first-team reps in place of George Iloka and looked the part, Austin has talked about running more three-safety looks all offseason and Bates III is making that game plan look more likely each week.

The offense might not be ready but this defense, despite missing Vontaze Burfict, looks ready to pounce on Andrew Luck in week one.

Special Teams: B+

This was arguably the Jonathan Brown game.

The soccer convert out of Louisville had never kicked a field goal at any level before coming to the NFL and now he has put the pressure on incumbent kicker Randy Bullock. Brown went 2-for-2 on field goal tries including a 55-yard field in the third quarter, that would have tied the Bengals regular season record set by Mike Nugent.

Marvin Lewis came out after the game and said Bullock is still the guy, which isn’t big news, he did go 18-of-20 for the Bengals last season, but keep an eye on Brown over the last two preseason games. Cincinnati let a young kicker go last year who is shaping up to be pretty special.

As far as the return game goes, Darius Phillips will be returning his fair share of kicks for the Bengals this season. he flashed serious game-breaking ability last night, finishing with three returns for 96 total yards. Making it pretty clear how he left Western Michigan as the NCAA’s all-time leader in return touchdowns.

Phillips can slide in alongside Alex Erickson this season and form one of the most dynamic return duos in the NFL. The Cowboys put together a couple of nice kickoff returns but Cincinnati’s unit won the night in the end.

The Bengals were edged out in one phase while dominating the other two and that often leads to victories in the NFL. We will see if they can link all three together next week in Buffalo.


For more quick-hit thoughts on the Bengals follow me on Twitter: @russheltman11

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Cincinnati Bengals

Players are buying into Bill Lazor’s offense

James Rapien



The Bengals finished dead last in total offense last season. Yes, the 0-16 Browns finished ahead of them. So did the Colts, who played all 16 games without quarterback Andrew Luck. If you love offense, then you probably didn’t enjoy watching the Bengals last season. They scored less than 10 points in five games and didn’t reach the end zone until week three.

The offense hit rock bottom in 2017, but they don’t expect that trend to continue. Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor led a complete overhaul of an offensive that had been in place since Andy Dalton and A.J. Green were drafted in 2011. Sure, they made some tweaks over the past seven seasons, but nothing like this. Lazor rebuilt an offense that needed it desperately and the players are buying in.

“I like it. It’s different terminology, numbers and stuff like that,” Alex Erickson said. “It’s obviously challenging in the beginning, but we’ve had minicamp and OTA’s to really learn it. It’s allowed us to really progress this training camp.”

Erickson hasn’t played on a winning Bengals team. He beat out Brandon Tate for a roster spot in 2016, after going undrafted. The former Wisconsin Badger is one of the many weapons that Lazor has in his arsenal. Did he design a system that will put the skill players in the best position to succeed? That’s a question that cannot be answered until actual games start, but it’s been asked since Lazor was named offensive coordinator.

The Bengals used high draft picks on skill players over the past three seasons. They drafted a wide receiver in the top ten, a running back in the second round and multiple wide receivers in rounds two through four. They have former pro bowler Tyler Eifert, a talented running back like Giovani Bernard and a top five wide receiver in Green. Did Lazor design a system that will get the most out of a young, but talented offense? Third-year wide receiver Tyler Boyd loves the depth this team has.

“We got fresh guys out there. Guys that are hungry,” Boyd said. “Guys that are willing and dying to get out there on the field and make plays. Every guy wants the best out of each other. We do a great job of motivating each other, grinding hard and competing with one another. We all have a great friendship. We’re all cool and we’re all real tight. We all want everyone to play a part. We don’t want it to just be me and A.J. all of the time. We are able to get me and A.J. a break or get two fresh guys in there and continue what we were doing. It makes it a lot easier for the offense to improve from last year.”

That unselfishness is important to have, even on a team that finished dead last in total offense last season. There are a lot of mouths to feed. From Joe Mixon and Bernard, to Eifert and Tyler Kroft, who are both in contract years. Boyd is eager to prove last year was a mere speed bump, in what will be a successful career in Cincinnati. Former ninth overall pick John Ross not only wants to move past last season, he wants to show people that the Bengals made the right decision when they drafted him in 2017. Instead of worrying about their own touches, it seems like the offense is more worried about being successful.

Fans got their first glimpse of Lazor’s new offense last Thursday at Paul Brown Stadium. The first-team offense scored two touchdowns on three drives. Dalton completed six passes to five different players. They were nearly perfect, outside of an interception that occurred when Ross fell down on a route. The Bengals are buying into Lazor’s system and the skill players are excited about their potential.

“You look at the depth at each and every position. To me, it’s absolutely insane,” tight end C.J. Uzomah said. “It’s not fair – how much skill we have. The offensive line is protecting well. When we’re able to establish the run early, I think that opens everything else up.”

The Bengals will need to be better on the ground this season. They averaged 3.6 yards-per-carry last year and finished next to last in the NFL in total rushing yards with 1,366. Detroit was last with 1,221. If this team is going to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2015, they’re going to need their rushing attack to take a significant step forward. The offensive line is expected to be better with the additions of Cordy Glenn, Billy Price and Bobby Hart. Improvement up front will give Lazor a chance to show he can properly utilize two dynamic and versatile running backs in Mixon and Bernard.

And while the Bengals offense may begin with the ground game, it certainly won’t end there. They have made a concerted effort to throw the ball downfield in training camp. That makes sense when you have Green, Ross and other young players who are capable of making huge plays. Rookie Auden Tate has been impressive and so has second-year wide receiver Josh Malone.

They have shown their potential throughout training camp. Don’t look now, but this offense may complete a 180-degree turnaround from where they were a year ago.


For more on Bengals training camp, listen to today’s Locked on Bengals podcast:


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