Bengals need winning performances from Andy Dalton to halt spiral

After another frustrating loss by the Bengals, many are searching for answers about what has happened in Cincinnati.

Here are five thoughts on the state of southwest Ohio’s NFL team:

1. The simplest explanation for the Bengals’ three-game non-winning streak (they tied the Redskins before losing to the Giants and the Bills) is Andy Dalton hasn’t played well enough.

Obviously plenty of factors have led to the team falling short, but one of the luxuries of having a franchise quarterback is he is supposed to cover up some of a team’s deficiencies. Dalton hasn’t done that the past three weeks as the offense has sputtered and his QB rating has plummeted.

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2. So maybe we’re back to concluding Dalton isn’t a true franchise quarterback.

That’s not the end of the world if the rest of the roster is great. While it was last year, it’s not now. The best hope for this season was always to spend half a year transitioning at a handful of positions where new players are starting, but that hasn’t happened yet. And at least a couple of positions have seen returnees regress. Now with the injuries to A.J. Green and Giovani Bernard, it’s probably too late.

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3. The good news is this doesn’t require a complete teardown.

There are plenty of good pieces worth keeping around for the future. Let’s save the Dalton-A.J. McCarron debate for another day, but Cincinnati has a star and a promising youngster at receiver, two good running backs, and a Pro Bowl tight end. There’s also still a loaded defensive line, which is arguably the best place to be loaded on either side of the ball.

4. The bad — maybe worst — news is the weakest spot on the team is the hardest one to rebuild quickly, and that’s the offensive line.

That once-proud unit looks like it will need a complete overhaul, especially with stalwart Andrew Whitworth getting up there in years.

5. And what about Marvin Lewis?

Certainly people will want to reopen the coaching change conversation, but I still think the roster is a much bigger issue. Of course, how they finish the season will likely have an effect.

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