Let’s take a closer look…
The defense can rush the passer, but the offense can't protect.
They have talented skill players who can't get the ball enough.
The protection is an issue there, but they haven’t seemed to have much in the way of plans for it either.
(More on that in a minute.)
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The secondary might be passable, though it hasn’t really been challenged.
Linebackers? Wait and see.
Special teams have been solid so far.
And so it comes back to the quarterback.
Isn’t that always the case in the NFL?
Thursday morning I wrote there were two keys to the Bengals succeeding this season: Andy Dalton and the pass rush.
They pressured Houston rookie Deshaun Watson consistently Thursday night and sacked him three times but still lost, so I guess that means there is really only one key: Dalton.
Can he fill in the gaps for the offense? Take advantage of good work by the defense?
Make more plays than the opposing team's signal caller?
Dalton hasn't so far this season, but he has in the past – at least when he's had lots of help.
At the expense of an already suspect offensive line, Cincinnati gave Dalton more weapons, but how to use them has been a mystery so far.
0-2 is not a death sentence, but it's the opposite of encouraging.
Hope is understandably in short supply right now.
The Bengals haven't done much to earn the benefit of the doubt over the years.
If they overcome this adversity, maybe that will be one thing that finally changes.
Something needs to.
Replacing offensive coordinator Ken Zampese with Bill Lazor might be a good start.
I didn’t think Zampese was very high on the list of issues last year, his first as the team’s OC, but the Bengals had no identity in their first two games this season.
Zampese had a hard time figuring out how to use all his weapons, and he doesn’t have a history of success to fall back on.
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I’m still not sure if they are better off trying to be a team that lives by pounding the ball or spreading defenses out, but they never committed to either style of play under Zampese.
The best teams can play either way. That is not the Bengals, at least not right now.
Before they can approach the high-flying ways of 2015, they have to figure out their bread and butter.
Battering ram, or death by 1,000 cuts?
Maybe Lazor will have better ideas for figuring that out.