The Bengals have lost three in a row to start the season. This game against the Bills was closer than last week’s game against the 49ers, but starting 0-3 has put a damper on Zac Taylor’s start as head coach. Here are five things learned from week 3.
1. Andy Dalton is Still Average (At Best)
Dalton started the year off hot in week 1, but has come down to earth in the last few games. In this game, he passed for 249 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions on 55.6 percent completion. While the offensive line hasn’t been great this season, Dalton was only sacked twice and hit three times all game. The game started off with the Bengals having no passing yards for the longest time, so if Dalton had gotten started earlier, the outcome could’ve been different.
Any hope of a revived and renewed Dalton have been crushed from the last few games. Dalton is an average quarterback, but at his age on a team that clearly isn’t going anywhere this season, his time could be coming to an end with the Bengals. He certainly isn’t the problem, but a new regime this season might want their own quarterback to work with, especially if the Bengals stay on this pace and have an early draft choice.
2. The Running Game Can Improve
After two weeks of not being able to run the ball, the running game was a little better in week 3. Joe Mixon stood up for his offensive line and said that he need to play better himself. While it wasn’t a banner day running the ball, as he had 15 carries for 61 yards, it was an improvement.
There are a few more reasons to be optimistic about the future of the run game. This was against a solid defense. It is also happening with an offensive line that is severely banged up. It is hard to be really excited about a running game that produces 67 total yards, but that’s where the Bengals are right now.
3. Auden Tate Can Play
Tate was a seventh-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft and is getting a chance with A.J. Green on the sidelines recovering from his foot injury. He saw very limited playing time as a rookie with four receptions for 35 yards last season. Against the Bills he had more production than he has had in his entire career with six catches for 88 yards.
Dalton continually looked to Tate on some of the final drives of the game, and besides one fumble, Tate handled things pretty well. There were concerns when he was coming out of college about his ability to separate and get open, but he did well in those regards Sunday. He hasn’t proven to be a star, but Tate certainly earned more playing time for his play in week 3.
4. John Ross is Still Wildly Inconsistent
This is something most fans likely already knew, but it was reemphasized this Sunday. Coming into the game leading the NFL in receiving yards, Ross had a tough day. He registered just two catches for 22 yards. He also lost a fumble, which didn’t help Cincinnati’s efforts to come back in the game.
Taylor is getting something out of John Ross, which is more than the prior coaching staff can say. That’s the good news. But Ross is still having growing pains with bad games, drops and fumbles. Hopefully, for his future, they are just growing pains and they get resolved soon. For now, all fans can know is that he is going to be inconsistent week in and week out.
5. The Defensive Line is Good, the Rest of the Defense isn’t
One of the bright spots on the defense is the play of the defensive line. Sam Hubbard specifically has played great through the first three weeks of the season and he had six tackles on Sunday. Geno Atkins registered the only sack of the game for the Bengals. They couldn’t always bring down Josh Allen, but compared to the rest of the defense, the players in the trenches are playing well.
The defensive line is the only unit receiving favorable grades on defense according to Pro Football Focus. There are a lot of concerning grades at the linebacker positions and in the secondary. That makes sense with how many missed tackles and big plays allowed happening by the Bengals’ backend. If things don’t improve, the Bengals will continue to lose games, regardless of how well the defensive line or offense plays.