After five straight playoff appearances, the Cincinnati Bengals have missed the postseason each of the last two years. How can this club get back on track?
The Cincinnati Bengals’ 2017 season began with a whimper and ended with a bang. Following a 0-3 start, Marvin Lewis’ club won seven of its final 13 games. And their victories over the Detroit Lions and Baltimore Ravens the final two Sundays, respectively, mathematically knocked those clubs out of the playoffs.
Still, a 7-9 finish and a second straight sub-.500 showing is hardly cause for celebration. Since winning the AFC North with a 12-4 record in 2015, Marvin Lewis’ club is a combined 13-18-1 the past two seasons. Since the start of ’17, there have been changes at both offensive and defensive coordinator. Meanwhile, the second-longest currently-tenured head coach with the same team returns for his 18th consecutive campaign in the Queen City.
So what can the Bengals do to increase their chances of getting back into the postseason picture? Here are five areas the franchise needs to address in a big way.
5. Improve the special teams
It certainly doesn’t help any team when your offense has to work extra hard and your defense has to deal with an opponent’s short field. Such was the case for the 2027 Cincinnati Bengals. Lewis’ club finished in the bottom third of the NFL in both punt (23rd) and kickoff (26th) yards per return allowed.
In 2016, wide receiver Alex Erickson was more than effective on kickoff returns. He averaged 27.9 yards per attempt – that coming on 29 tries. This past season, his workload increased in terms of those returns (32) but his average per play dropped off dramatically (20.7). All told, the Bengals finished 26th in the league as a team in kickoff return average.
Add in the fact that longtime punter Kevin Huber could test free agency and this is an area that needs to be shored up this offseason.