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Cincinnati Bengals

The Bills have set us free, so now what do we do at center

Cody Tewmey

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Until Russel Bodine was officially signed by another team, thanks again Bills, we all were in fear of his return. With all of the options that the Bengals are “familiar” with off the table, what is next? The free agent pool that the Bengals might have considered are all signed now, or they won’t be signed until after the draft, so that leaves us with one main option draft our new center in April. There are multiple options in this draft that would be upgrades to Bodine in the upcoming draft and I will cover those in a bit. The Bengals are very fortunate to have this draft have three top tier options at center for them to choose from and with the trade down to pick 21 they are right in the spot where teams would start considering the position.
 
James Daniels – Iowa 6’3″, 305 lbs
The only player I’d consider at pick 21 is Daniels. I can already feel the OSU fans scrolling to the comments section to tell me about Billy Price, but please just hear me out. In Frank Pollock’s wide zone scheme (ZBS) athleticism at the center position is critical. The last time Pollock had a shot at a center like this, his name was Travis Frederick and he took him at pick 31, after a trade down. Since then interior offensive line has gained some value, but at pick 21 he is still going to be in rare air for a drafted center. With Daniels you are betting on his ceiling, not his floor as the better floor player is Billy Price, for those OSU fans still reading. I’ll get to him soon with more detail though. Having a center that is athletic enough to pull and get to the second level, and actually block his intended linebacker, will be a huge benefit to Mixon/Gio. This won’t help as much with the 3-8 yard runs, but will provide more opportunities for home runs if Daniels can clear out the second level it’s the RB versus the DBs with a full head of steam. Make one man miss and you’ll hear Lap all the way in Covington from the booth on the call; I’ll take those odds. Does Daniels have some issues, sure all players do, but if I’m taking a center in the first round I want the chance that at some point of his career he’s the best in the NFL, Daniels gives you that. For those that want a guy with local ties, Daniels fits that as well. He played high school football in Ohio and actually against Billy Price, who he claimed to have pancaked twice at an interview during the NFL Combine. Daniels can sometimes get overpowered by bigger guys, but he has already added weight since the seasons end and if he can carry that weight well it will help with that. He’s is great at controlling the quicker 3T defensive tackles to seal off running lanes. 
Bodine upgrade Rating 4X
 
Billy Price – OSU 6’4′ 306 lbs
Let the heavy breathing begin for the Buckeye faithful. This is one of those rare times where a huge need in Cincinnati matches up with a top flight prospect from Columbus and thus the excitement begins. Would Billy Price be a terrible pick at 21, not really, but he is likely reach there so I wouldn’t do it, now at 46 that’s a solid pick. As they say in the scouting world “you don’t get fired for hitting doubles,” and Price is likely that, his floor is solid, but he doesn’t have the athletic upside that Daniels does plus he just doesn’t have the wow plays. Is Price athletic enough to run Pollock’s system, yes he is, but is he such the prospect that Pollock will stand on the table at 21 for him, I’m not sure. People will talk about his size, but Daniels has put on nearly 15 pounds in the draft process so I expect them to have similar playing weights in the NFL. People will talk about his leadership and his grit/heart, well a lot of players play hard in the NFL, but that doesn’t make them great. Price was a vocal leader on the offense, super durable (starting every game in his career), and has played both guard and center, so that is a big bonus. Price is a very powerful blocker, so that is useful attribute in this division with all the big NT that they will face, but he can get too aggressive and miss at times. I think the Bengals are going to go a different direction at 21 with this center class, although I would say it is a mistake just take your top guy and start off this draft well. I have a feeling they will see it is so deep, so they will likely just wait until pick 46 and take the best guy in their board between Daniels (5% chance he’s there), Price (60% chance he’s there), and Frank Ragnow (85% chance he’s there). It very well end up that the Buckeye faithful go to bed unhappy on Thursday night only to be filled with joy early into day two of the NFL Draft.
Bodine upgrade rating 2.5X
 
Frank Ragnow – Arkansas 6’5″ 315 lbs
If there is a prospect that Bengals fans will love, not named Billy, that they aren’t talking about it’s Ragnow. Were you a fan of Russell Bodine, if so Ragnow is not your guy. They couldn’t be more different in their on field play/demeanor. When Bodine would whiff on an block, fall to his keister, then clap his hands angrily at his mistake. Ragnow will quickly get to his feet and try to “find some work” to get some payback. Want a guy that “plays through the whistle,” then buckle up for some Ragnow kill shots. He’s got a mean streak and likes to finish dudes, and is pretty successful at it. The biggest issue with Ragnow will be one that no one will have an answer to until draft night. He had an ankle injury and a few other nagging ones that he played through could be a cause for some concern, but he is tough as nails and played through them. The Medicals for his injuries will largely determine some of his draft slotting, but those things we won’t know about until we see when he is picked he could go round one or as late as early round 3. He is the type that always wants to finish guys off, and somewhat surprisingly testing great athletically compared to other centers. He was a captain in his final year and was known to push his teammates to get better, something this offensive line room can use. His second level blocking is really good, so I think Pollock will really want him if Daniels is gone. He was the top rated center by PFF last year, yet another stark difference from what we have seen at that position the last four years. I thought with him playing through injuries and a slightly down 2017 year because of it he might be a target for pick 77, but more and more I’m hearing that might be his draft floor I’d bet he is gone somewhere before pick 55 now. Thus, hoping for him to be available in the third round might leave you holding the bag, so as I stated before I think the Bengals need to take their center at 21 or 46. If they pass on center at 21 & 46 then be ready to trade up from 77 to the 50s if only one center of the top three is left because Buffalo and Minnesota are both in that range and possible landing spots for a center. When it comes to early plans at center, these three guys are the only real options that are not reaches at 21 and 46.
Bodine upgrade rating 3X
 
Plan B, the later round options
 
Mason Cole – Michigan 6’4″ 310 lbs
Cole is a polarizing prospect, some love him some don’t, but the tape says to me he’s a quality player. For the same reasons that Price gets a slight boost in our area, I’d say Cole gets a bit of a bad shake, but that’s human nature it’s okay. Michigan didn’t do Cole any favors either, moving him from center to left tackle and back and forth did not help his development, or draft stock. I think Cole is likely in the same conversations as the other three guys if he plays at center his whole career at Michigan, but he didn’t and here we are. When we look back at the centers’ in this draft we very well may look back and see him as a better player then one or more of the top three and say he was the best value. I could see the Bengals using him as their parachute at center, knowing he’s most likely there at 77 and possibly even at 100, so they wait early to get maximum value if they miss on the others. He also has played some OT, so they’ll like his versatility/smarts too, as it’s not as easy to move around the line as Madden leads us to believe. I think I heard a recently signed free agent guard describe moving from one side to the next as learning to wipe with your other hand, now that’s a visual that we can all relate to, but please do not attempt this at home and tweet me the outcome. My point is playing center and left tackle are so different, which is why his development might have been slowed and his NFL upside has some added potential. Even right now, as he is he would still be an upgrade over what Bodine was, I know that’s a low bar, but think about how a fringe 4th rounder could be an immediate upgrade, that’s a good thing. If the Bengals decide to wait and the top three are gone at 77, I don’t think that they will risk it and will go with Cole at that pick to be safe. 
Bodine upgrade rating 2X now potential 3X with development
 
Will Clapp – LSU 6’5″ 310 lbs, & Scott Quessenberry- UCLA 6’4″ 310 lbs
 
These are the extreme last options for an upgrade for the Bengals. The problem is if we get to this point we should all be dissatisfied with this outcome. They is still an upgrade, but with this class you can get a guy that is a 4-5x upgrade over Bodine, yet these guys are is more like a 1.5x upgrade. That is missed opportunity, when the draft lines up with needs, you pounce and improve your team as much as possible, because the end result is felt much stronger. Having a center that can do the line calls and take that burden off of Dalton is a huge benefit to him and the offense.
Bodine upgrade Rating 1.5X
It would be hard pressed with this draft for the Bengals not to improve on what we have had at center for the last for year, but that cannot be the standard. The Bengals would be foolish to think there is a lot of value at this position and try to wait on what might slide to the middle rounds. Look at the draft with Kevin Zeitler as an example, they could have waited on that position, but they didn’t they took one of the top guys and it really paid off for this offense. I think that they should do the same thing with this center class there are three guys that can make an immediate impact and really change the landscape of this offensive line going forward. If they want to move down before picking one of them because they have similar grades on Price, Ragnow, and Daniels I am okay with that too. It worked for them the year they got Zeitler, and it worked for the Cowboys when they did it with Fredrick. There is something to just taking your guy at pick 21 and running with it, but as long as we have one of the top three by pick 46 it will be a big win for all Bengals fans.

Salesman by day, DraftTwitter by night, I’ve been working on film study of Draft prospects, and mocks for about 5 years now. Feedback and debate are healthy and it’s how we get better, so let’s engage.

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Cincinnati Bengals

An Open Letter to Marvin Lewis

Andre Edwards

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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.

 

Sincerely,

Andre

 

P. S. Please take Hue Jackson with you.  Thanks

 

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Cincinnati Bengals

Blog of Football Sorrows: Week 13

Jeffery Carr

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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.

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Cincinnati Bengals

Replacing Marvin

Russell Heltman

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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

Aug 29, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson against the Chicago Bears in a preseason NFL football game at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals won 21-10. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

11-44-1

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.

Eric Bieniemy

Dec 7, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Kansas City Chiefs running backs coach Eric Bieniemy against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Chiefs 17-14. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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