Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Despite Early Struggles, Don't Write off Bengals

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Despite Early Struggles, Don't Write off Bengals

Article excerpt

Byline: Hays Carlyon

You're going to lose Sunday, Bengals fans.

But, don't panic.

Yes, even at 2-4.

Cincinnati travels to New England as an 8 1/2-point underdog on Sunday.

There's little indication that the Bengals will throw an early setback into Tom Brady's "Kill Bill" style revenge quest on the league.

There are three reasons to expect the Bengals to turn their season around, but let's start with what's gone wrong.

Losing offensive coordinator Hue Jackson to Cleveland (as coach), receiver Marvin Jones (free agency to Detroit) and right tackle Andre Smith (free agency to Minnesota) in the offseason has stung. Cincinnati is ranked 24th in the NFL in points per game.

So, what will change?

The first reason to believe in is the return of tight end Tyler Eifert. The fourth-year veteran missed the first four games of the season after needing ankle surgery following an injury in the Pro Bowl. Eifert was inactive last week and will be again Sunday because of a back injury suffered in practice.

The hope is that Eifert will be back next week.

Eifert could solve a multitude of issues. He caught 13 touchdown passes last season. The Bengals have only thrown five touchdown passes this season. Tight ends C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Kroft have yet to catch a touchdown.

Eifert is especially effective in the red zone and as an option for quarterback Andy Dalton on third down.

The Bengals are 30th in the NFL on third down at 30.3 percent. They were at 40.3 percent last season.

Cincinnati has also been awful in the red zone, ranking 29th.

The Bengals will come up in these areas once Eifert is back.

Not having Eifert and Jones to throw to is also contributing to high sack totals. Last season, Dalton was sacked 20 times in 13 games. He's already been sacked 17 times. The Bengals rank 29th in the league in sacks allowed per pass.

Second-year right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi has also struggled to replace Smith. Cincinnati's offensive line, which pushed the Jaguars around in the third preseason game, has struggled to open up running lanes as well.

The Bengals have a dynamic running-back tandem in Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard, yet their respective yards-per-carry average is 3. …

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