It’s our very own London Game!!!
It’s just superb to see the Rams returning to the UK again this year and I’m sure that, like me folks, you’re super excited! I hope you were lucky with tickets and if there is a meet up again (there will be) this year I hope to see many Rams fans at it like there was at the Barrowboy and Banker (will likely be here again) in 2017 and again I would like to tip my cap to the NFL as it’s great to see midseason games where most teams are still in the hunt for the playoffs. This makes for an exciting game and is such a contrast from the old American Bowl exhibition games we used to get years ago in London where it was mostly lower depth chart guys. (Showing my age here lol)… Anyway on to the Bengals.
Last season began so promisingly for the Bengals with a 4-1 start and I’m sure optimism must have been high after early wins over the Colts, Ravens, Falcons and Dolphins, two of which ended up in the playoffs. That early good spell wasn’t to last, though, and the Bengals collapsed to a 6-10 finish, this would signal the end for long time Head Coach Marvin Lewis. He and Mike Brown announced a mutual parting of the ways after 16 seasons, which had 4 division titles and 7 winning seasons and playoff appearances.
Going into the 2019 season, it’s a whole new coaching staff in Cincinnati. As I said above, out is Marvin Lewis and in comes a familiar face to us Rams fans in Zac Taylor as HC. Taylor was our assistant wide receiver coach in 2017 and was promoted to quarterback coach for the 2018 season. This will be Taylor’s first stint at being a Head coach and I’m sure like me you wish him all the best, though not in Week 8! (Interesting fact about Taylor is that he was the Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at the University of Cincinnati in 2016 before coming to the Rams.) At offensive coordinator the Bengals have another new face this season in Brian Callahan. Callahan is entering his 10th year as an NFL coach, he comes to the Bengals from the Raiders where he served as their quarterback coach in 2018. Under Callahan’s direction last season Derek Carr recorded a career high 4,049 passing yards and a 93.9 passer rating. He also led the AFC and ranked fifth in the NFL in completion percentage with 68.9. At defensive coordinator it’s yet another new face with Lou Anarumo. He comes to the Bengals with 7 years coaching experience in the NFL, most recently with Giants where he was the defensive backs coach for 2018. Prior to that, he was defensive backs coach with the Dolphins in 2017.
Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that in recent years the Bengals are never massively involved in bringing in big name free agents. Yeah, there is always one or two signings, but the Bengals have just struck me in recent times as a team that is happier to retain their own free agents and build through the draft. This offseason looks to be that way again! With only a couple of notable free agent signings this offseason in CB B.W. Webb, who signed a 3-year deal worth up to $13 million and OL John Miller who also signed a 3-year $16.5 million contract. Are the Bengals continuing with the tried and tested? Maybe! One thing the Bengals again have done a good job of is resigning their own top free agents. Retaining guys like TE’s Tyler Eifert, 1-year $6.5 million, and CJ Uzomah 3-year $18.3 million, also CB Darqueze Dennard, 1-year $4.5 million deal was important for this team. Also retaining Bobby Hart, 3-year $21 million, and bringing in the aforementioned John Miller helps to shore up the right side of the offensive line, which was a big need. Losses weren’t too damaging for the Bengals in free agency either with LB Vontaze Burfict and DE Michael Johnson the most notable player moving on to pastures new. On to the draft and I can hear Bengals fan shouting that night “Linebackers” “Offensive line” and sure enough with their first pick they go OL with Jonah Williams. Sadly though, Williams sustained a shoulder injury in practice in early June and is likely to miss the whole of his rookie season. With pick two the Bengals selected TE Drew Sample. The former Washington Huskie will be looking to grow and learn from such veterans like Tyler Eifert. Pick three saw the fans hopes answered again with LB Germaine Pratt. Pratt will be hoping he can have an immediate impact and is known for being an excellent tackler. Between you and me, I’m pencilling him in after Preston Brown and Nick Vigil to start. The Bengals then have the luxury of having three 4th Round picks after some wheeling and dealing, with the first they took QB Ryan Finley (one for the future?). Next was DT Renell Wren, this is a big guy who the Bengals have already nicknamed “Mt.Wren” and with their last 4th Round pick they took C Michael Jordan. Jordan can be flexible on the offensive line and could play C or G. In later rounds the Bengals took RB Trayveon Williams, LB Deshaun Davis, RB Rodney Anderson, and CB Jordan Brown, respectfully.
With the number of new coaches (we spoke about only the main ones above) it is a new era in Cincinnati. Time will tell, but I’m getting that new car smell from them! It will definitely be interesting to see how the current squad mesh with the new system and that could take a bit of time! I do like some of the building blocks they have in place already to build around though. On offense will a better offensive line = “Better” Andy Dalton? I do feel he’s got better to give and if they can improve on the protection this offense can produce. The Bengals do have some weapons around him in WR A.J. Green who is still a top WR. John Ross, if he can stay healthy could break out. RB’s Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard are a good one-two punch in the backfield and Tyler Eifert is one of the better TE in the league, but it all starts up front with the protection and that’s the question mark!
On defense, veterans like LE Carlos Dunlap and DT Geno Atkins lead what is a decent defensive line, but linebacker is where the big questions lie. Did the Bengals do enough in the offseason to shore up what was one of their biggest weaknesses? I personally don’t think so and if the defense has an achilles heel then this could be it! On to the secondary and this young group look to have a high ceiling. Resigning CB Dennard was important for the rotation and with William Jackson and Dre Kirkpatrick that’s a good NFL trio. Also, at safety, the Bengals are handy with Jessie Bates and Shawn Williams being two of the standouts on that defense last year.
To sum it up this is kind of a transition time for the Bengals and the new first time head coach is a calculated gamble and it will be interesting to see how this team fairs in the future…..Any hoo, I hope to see you all down in London to see how it all plays out.
Well, that’s my two cents on our week 8 opponent; hope you enjoyed and cheers for taking the time to read.