The Buffalo Bills hope to continue their hot streak to start the season when they take on the Cincinnati Bengals in the home opener. If the team can notch a win it would be their first 3-0 start since 2011. To preview this match-up we spoke to Patrick Judis from Cincy Jungle to get the lowdown on the Bengals.
1) No one wants to have an 0-2 start but are fans still optimistic that the team can make a run?
This week will tell fans a lot about how this season will go. In Week 1, I think the Bengals fought a close battle against a Seahawks team that isn’t as good as people anticipated coming into the season. You could make the argument that the Bengals got a little too confident and overlooked a 49ers team that is probably better than people think. If they can bounce back this week I think fans will be confident again. I think this fan base is desperate to be excited about the future under Zac Taylor as head coach, but they can’t keep laying eggs like they did last week.
2) In two games John Ross has almost gained more yards than all of last year—what’s changed for him?
I’ve been a big John Ross supporter since he was drafted. To answer your question quickly, Taylor becoming the head coach is the biggest reason we are seeing him turn into the player he should’ve been from the start.
It wasn’t publicized enough at the national level (because the Bengals weren’t good), so I understand why other teams’ fans are surprised about this. Marvin Lewis had no idea how to handle Ross and you could make the argument he couldn’t handle any of these young players coming in. He would remove Ross after a mistake and bench him for the game. He also made Ross a healthy scratch for most of his rookie season. Lewis then hinted at trying to play Ross at corner, and Ross then revealed he had an injury, which landed him on injured reserve. Then during the 2018 season Ross was only used as a decoy. He was essentially asked to use the threat of his speed to open up receivers underneath, and he still had this unbelievable pressure over his head that any mistake would land him on the bench. It is easy to see how that could cause a talented guy to get into his own head and over think.
This year Taylor has been clear from the start that he believed in Ross, and the offense has concepts built in that help Ross get open for some easy passes. Simple things that many fans would consider no-brainer things to include in an offense with Ross are finally in place, and it shows in Ross’ performance.
Also he leads the NFL with 270 yards, which is already more than the 210 receiving yards he had entering 2019.
3) With A.J. Green becoming a free agent this year and Andy Dalton next year, what direction do you think the team will take?
The Bengals usually do right by their franchise cornerstone players. I’d be shocked if the Bengals let A.J. Green walk. He has also said he wants to stay and is excited about Taylor’s offense. Cincinnati never really operates around the salary cap, so they have space to easily re-sign their star receiver into the twilight of his career. It may seem strange, but the team will probably make an attempt to keep Tyler Boyd, Green, and Ross on the roster. Cincinnati just values guys who want to be there.
4) What is the biggest area you would like to see the team improve on?
How much space do I have? Seriously though the offensive line is a mess. Joe Mixon has to play hero again and make defenders miss in the backfield on basically every carry. The offense does a good enough job of trying to help give Andy Dalton an option to get rid of the ball early, but on any play he needs time for a play to develop it is always nerve wracking.
The one problem they have that could be fixed during the season is linebacker. Last week tackling was the biggest issue, but right after that was the lack of athleticism at linebacker. Nick Vigil and Preston Brown are good guys and solid linebackers, but in today’s NFL you need guys who can fly around the field, and they are just not those guys. Most fans (and writers at this point) are hoping we get to see rookie linebacker Germaine Pratt. He may not be the solution, but it would be nice to find out if he could help.
5) What is your prediction for the game and why?
I think the Bengals bounce back a little bit. The offense should take some strides and look closer to what it did in Week 1, and it is hard for the defense to be as bad. It is still hard to be confident in them being good enough to pull out a win in Buffalo. Hopefully it is a close one, though. It is hard to point out specific things other than the Bengals offense being productive. They just haven’t been able to finish off drives yet on a consistent enough basis.
Bengals 17 Bills 27