Andy Dalton is in his third season. He's not off to the hottest start. How are Bengals fans feeling about his long-term prospects as the top quarterback in Cincinnati?
Mentzer: Depends on who you ask. This is the hottest topic in Bengaldom currently. The camp I am in is that Dalton is fine. He is sporting a 70 percent completion percentage and has outplayed almost all of the quarterbacks he has faced this season. Fans are upset not because the Bengals are losing, but for the fact that they are not some powerhouse offense. People complain that they did not blow out the undefeated Patriots last week and cannot be satisfied with a win over a quality team.
The truth is we have become a fantasy football society when watching the NFL. If a guy can't get you 25-plus points in your fantasy league, then he must not be very good. I think Dalton is a fine quarterback for the offense the Bengals have built. He will be aided by calling the plays he is accustomed to running. Quick passes that move the chains. Mix in a good running game and this offense will hum. We are starting to see some of it fall in to place. The issue so far is you have a young quarterback and young offensive coordinator growing up together.
A.J. Green is obviously the headliner in the passing game, but I'm curious to hear a progress report on how tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert are performing as they're used together in Jay Gruden's offense.
Mentzer: The duo of tight ends the Bengals boast is strong. Either of these can burn you in the passing game as well as block in the running game. When the Bengals have used them to supplement the passing game they have been successful. Gresham has become a true YAC tight end this season. He seems to always make the first guy miss with either a move or a shrug off and has a knack for finding the first down. Eifert on the other hand has some incredible hands. If the ball is close, he is going to make the catch.
The problem is that the Bengals seem to forget about them for huge chunks in the game. I think this is truly one of the major things wrong with this offense - they just are not sure what they want or need to do for the full game.
What's the status on Michael Johnson for this game, and if he can't go, how much of a drop-off is there between him and Wallace Gilberry, who sacked Tom Brady twice last week?
Mentzer: I think it is doubtful that Johnson plays on Sunday. He is still dealing with concussion like symptoms from the Browns game two weeks ago. While not having Johnson in the lineup is bad, it is not devastating. The Bengals have a nice rotation of guys that can fill in on the defensive line. Margus Hunt played last week as well as Gilberry, and both of them played well by pressuring Brady and disrupting the backfield.
Vontaze Burfict has emerged not only as the best linebacker in Cincinnati, but as an every-down defender. Where does he rank, behind Atkins and others, on the list of the most important defenders in Cincinnati?
Mentzer: I think behind Atkins, Burfict may be the Bengals most important defensive player. He brings a swagger to the field that he consistently backs up with his play. He is scrappy and has a knack for making plays when the Bengals need them. Last week he crawled and was able to sack Brady by grabbing just one of his feet.
Burfict is one of the rare cases that went undrafted and was able to rise above and become a star. Watching him develop into the best linebacker in Cincinnati has been fun.
The Bengals seem to be inconsistent, which Bills fans are used to - capable of a clunker one week, and a gem the next. What do you believe is the biggest reason for the Bengals' inconsistencies on a week to week basis?
Mentzer: Has to be coaching, right? I struggle to find the answers to that question. The Bengals have beat the Steelers, Packers and Patriots and then lay an egg to the Browns and their third string quarterback. (Don't get any ideasm Thaddeus Lewis.) The team seems to play to the level of competition and often does not have the killer "put 'em away" attitude when needed. I think this trickles down from the coaching staff. There are no off weeks in the NFL. Once you let your guard down you are going to lose. It is natural for players to do this, but it is up to the coaches to set the attitude for the team.