2019 NFL Preview- AFC North Edition
Finally, the Marvin Lewis era came to an end and it was its time. The cat with 9 lives has finally been put out of his misery. Zac Taylor, who was previously the Rams quarterbacks coach, was hired with the hope of getting the most out of Andy Dalton and the younger QBs on the roster. Taylor is an offensive-minded head coach and the organization believes the team has the talent to win now.
This situation, however, is very different as Andy Dalton suffered a broken thumb last year in week 7. The team decided to shut him down for the rest of the season. Was that to protect him or is the message deeper than that? The Bengals drafted Ryan Finley in the 4th round of the 2019 draft. Now while its good to have an insurance policy at back up QB, I believe in a very Josh Freeman/ Mike Glennon type of way, the seeds have been laid for what will be Andy Dalton’s last year in the Jungle. If Finley performs well in the preseason I would release Andy Dalton before the season opener.
This team has nothing to lose and are not built to win right away. I believe they should take their time this season and assess every part of this team.
Do you remember a few years ago when LeBron James shocked the world and took his talents to South Beach? James joined forces with Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade to create the big three. That’s what this team has the making of with the offseason acquisition of superstar WR Odell Beckham Jr. That first year for the big three, they made it to the finals and were beaten. It took some time for the chemistry to develop and this is no different.
It is going to be real Hollywood down in the dog pound this year but I’m sorry Browns fans, it’s not going to be this year. First-year head coach Freddie Kitchen, has a lot of pressure on himself to succeed given that Cleveland actually made progress last year. But let’s be honest, if it were not the Cleveland Browns, Freddie Kitchens would still be a position coach on another club. Kitchens is still unproven as a play-caller.
Now while this team may have all the talent in the world, I don’t think they will live up to expectations. Like the Cowboys, there are just way too many personalities on this team and I don’t see Kitchens being able to keep everything under control. We still don’t know if Baker is going to get better or if he’s gonna take a step back because he’s still a young quarterback.
Baker Mayfield is not a top 20 QB and there is no reason Chris Simms should have him as the 13th best QB in the league after only one year. I do believe this team can compete for the division nothing in the league is going to be handed out.
Antonio Brown is finally gone! Le’Veon Bell is finally gone! Todd Haley has finally been fired so he’s no longer the issue. So what seems to be holding this team back now?
Is it the Defense? No, this defense is loaded up with studs and played at a high-level last year. The defense even held the GOAT to only 13 points at home in a huge win that should have lifted them all the way to the north crown. Perhaps the issues lie with Mike Tomlin. No way! The murmurs of this team being undisciplined are ridiculous because Mike Tomlin is one of the best coaches in the entire NFL and I wished he coached for another team other than the Steelers.
So what is this teams issue then? In my opinion, it is a lack of good leadership from the quarterback position. Big Ben was outplayed twice at home by the Blake Bortles led Jaguars. Big Ben was outplayed by Joe Flacco and the Ravens in the wild-card round a few years ago. Multiple reports have surfaced from teammates saying that Big Ben isn’t a great leader. Ben himself acknowledges that this year and stated he is trying to make amends by hosting his team at his home in Georgia.
Without a true leader that can elevate his team when it matters, this team will only be able to go but so far.
For everyone living under a rock or not paying attention, this team shockingly won the AFC North last year with Lamar Jackson under center. Exhale now because to think about that is absolutely mind-blowing. Lamar Jackson set the single-season record for most rushing attempts by a QB in NFL history with 147 the previous record held by Cam Newton at 139 so that’s pretty cool, that quite the accomplishment in your rookie year.
But there is only one problem here. Newton’s record was set over a 16 game slate while Lamar’s was set over a seven-game slate. For all the math wizards, Cam average about 8 attempts per game which is quite a bit for your starting QB. Jackson averaged 17 rushing attempts per game. 3rd string running backs hardly average 17 carries per season yet this man averages it in one game. It is impossible to continue that kind of production at the NFL level without the risk of serious injury and the problem is when they get down big and can’t run the ball. Like the AFC Wild Card last year, ask Lamar to pass the ball and things didn’t necessarily go well.
Don “Wink” Martindale’s defense was the strength to this team last year but that defense saw leaders like CJ Mosley and the great Terrell Suggs leave in free agency. They also overhauled the receiving corps this offseason, losing deep threat John Brown and releasing Michael Crabtree. They were replaced with rookies Hollywood Brown and Miles Boykin. John Harbaugh has been a great coach but this season is not going to be like last season was.