Over the course of the next few weeks I will be looking back at the Bengals 2018 season. I will go position by position discussing the highlights along with the moments fans would like to forget heading into 2019. There will also be speculation about the potential future of each position.
The Cincinnati Bengals offense was anemic for a large part of the season in 2018. Injuries and coaching issues weighed down the offense. That didn’t keep some of the skill positions from having good seasons. Tyler Boyd was chief among those players that had good seasons. Boyd led the team with 76 catches for 1,028 yards and 7 touchdowns. Injuries to star A.J. Green and tight end Tyler Eifert opened the door for Boyd to explode onto the scene. Underrated nationally, he became one of the best number two wide receivers in all of football. Improved consistency with his hands teamed with smooth route running and an improved understanding of where to be and when to be there led to a great season for Boyd.
Outside of Boyd there wasn’t much consistency at wide receiver. Green came out hot just like the rest of the offense to start the season. After starting with 5 touchdowns in the first four games, injuries and overall offensive problems led to a downturn in production after that for Green. He had only one more touchdown after that amazing start to finish with 694 yards and 6 touchdowns before injuries finished his season. Still one of the elite talents in the league, he had a down season for his lofty standards.
John Ross was one of the more hyped Bengals players coming into 2018. After being bogged down by injuries and the doghouse of Marvin Lewis in his rookie season, there were high expectations last year. All the hype and expectations never really amounted to much but there was enough shown to give the fans a glimmer of hope. Ross converted 7 of his 21 catches for touchdowns on the season. He stepped up as a surprise redzone weapon when Eifert went down for the year. While the lack of catches is troubling, the 7 touchdowns and a new coaching staff that may actually know how to use him is very exciting.
After those top three guys there really wasn’t much production from the wide receiver position. Alex Erickson, Cody Core, Auden Tate, and Josh Malone combined for a pedestrian 374 yards and just 1 touchdown. Malone was set up for a breakout season before being injured himself. Tate did not have enough opportunities even after both Boyd and Green were injured.
Injuries effected the tight ends just like the wide receivers. Tyler Eifert was all set for a come back season and looked well on his way before yet another injury. He caught 10 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown in the two games before injuries hit. He was really starting to reemerge as a top tight end. His back up, Tyler Kroft, played well when Eifert was hurt in 2017. He looked prepared to do the same last season but suffered an injury of his own. Kroft could have set himself up for a nice pay day this offseason as a free agent if hadn’t been injured.
The next man up was C.J. Uzomah. He became the number one tight end and played very well despite the situation. A more athletic option than Kroft with a bit more speed than Eifert, he brought a different element to the offense. Finishing with 43 catches for 439 yards and 3 touchdowns, he provided some splash plays for the Bengals offense. There was little to no production from the two players signed to back up Uzomah in Matt Lengal and Jordan Franks.
Basically the entire Bengals receiving corp will be back in 2019. Green will hopefully be back healthy to form a dangerous duo with Boyd. If new head coach Zac Taylor is smart enough to actually use Ross then this could be a dynamic starting trio in 2019. The depth behind those three is pretty solid with Malone, Core, Tate, and Erickson. With all of those guys set to be back it is hard to see the Bengals adding anyone of significance.
Tight end is a completely different story. The top four tight ends on the Cincinnati roster will be free agents when the new league year begins on March 13. If the Bengals want to bring Eifert back it almost has to be on another one year “prove it” deal. We will see how much the team believes in Kroft and Uzomah because chances are only one of the two will be brought back. With almost the whole position set to be free agents, keep an eye on the Bengals to be players in a very deep draft class of tight ends.
The Bengals have some lethal receiving weapons to play with if they all can stay healthy. Getting Green, Ross, and Boyd on the field at the same time should be fun to watch in 2019. Expect Ross to be utilized more and Green to come storming back from injury. Whichever combination of tight ends are back will be key for the Bengals. If Eifert can get healthy and resigned, they probably won’t spend an early pick on the position. Kroft may command decent money on the market so Cincinnati could be looking for an insurance option for Eifert or a new starter if neither of them is around. No matter what happens, there will be no lack of weapons in the Queen City come fall.