The word “reload” is generally used to describe college football teams that bring in a great recruiting class with the hope that those young players will be able to fill the shoes of a large group of departing seniors. However, “reloading” can also describe what the Cincinnati Bengals have done to their offense this offseason, as they picked up talented offensive players early and often during the draft. What’s interesting about what the Bengals have done is that they return all 11 starters on offense, but are choosing to add an infusion of young players with the hope of giving their an abundance of talent.
With a young and competent quarterback in Andy Dalton and one of the most talented wide receivers in the NFL in A.J. Green, the Bengals have a solid foundation on offense. Also, because they were able to retain right tackle Andre Smith, the Bengals kept their entire offensive line in tact from a season ago, and that continuity can give Cincinnati a distinct advantage this season. However, the Bengals decided that 11 returning starters, including several franchise cornerstones, wasn’t enough, and so they made moves to reload on the offensive side of the ball, with that hope that a more explosive offense will help them reach new heights.
The first area the Bengals wanted to address was their running game. Although they got over 1,000 yards rushing from BenJarvus Green-Ellis last season, Cincinnati wanted to upgrade their backfield and at least get someone that could split time with Green-Ellis, using their first of two second round picks on running back Giovani Bernard. If he can put his injury history behind him and stay healthy, Bernard will provide a huge lift to the Bengals backfield, as he’s a productive runner, a quality pass catcher, and a capable blocker in pass protection. Bernard and Green-Ellis splitting time in the backfield is an upgrade, but they also drafted Rex Burkhead and decided to bring back Bernard Scott, who holds promising talent but has been held back by injuries during his pro career. This not only gives Cincinnati more depth at running back than they had last year, but it also gives them a variety of skill sets to utilize coming out of the backfield.
The biggest move that the Bengals made this offseason was using their first round pick on tight end Tyler Eifert, who didn’t fill a need they had, but gives their offense a whole new dimension. Eifert is a talented pass catcher who lines up all over the field, which can create mismatches for both himself and his teammates. He gives the Bengals a second receiver, along with green, that’s tall, is a downfield threat, and can make tough catches in the red zone. Adding Eifert gives the Bengals a potential game changer that could reshape their entire offense, and definitely gives them a more potent offensive attack. Cincinnati already has an elite receiver in Green, as well as several talented complimentary receivers like Mohamed Sanu, Andrew Hawkins, rookie cobi Hamilton, and tight end Jermaine Gresham, but no one with the skill set of Eifert, which makes him a great addition to their arsenal.
Even with 11 starters returning from a team that went to the playoffs last year, the Bengals decided to reload on offense, using their first two draft picks to add Bernard and Eifert. By doing so, Cincinnati solidified their backfield and added a versatile receiving threat that should mix well with what the Bengals already have in place. They didn’t necessarily need to use their early draft picks on those types of players, but the Bengals are hoping that an infusion of talent on the offensive side of the ball will be what they need to get deeper into the playoffs than they’ve been able to get in recent years. Thus, even with no gaping holes to fill in their starting lineup, the Bengals decided to reload on offense.