Sports Today: What will Bengals do with new lease on life?

  • Marcus Hartman
9:34 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017 Sports
Nick Graham
The Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd (83) looks to block for wide receiver A.J. Green as he carries the ball during their 20-0 loss to the Baltimore Ravens Sunday, Sept. 10 at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

The Cincinnati Bengals got a new lease on life with their win in Denver on Sunday. 

Or at least a stay of execution. 

Whichever way you prefer to view it, they are in much better shape than if they had lost. 

And believe it or not, improved play from the offensive line is a factor

Maybe the limited snaps the offense is getting are a blessing in disguise. Fewer plays mean fewer opportunities to get beat, after all. 

I wondered in the offseason if Cincinnati’s best bet offensively was to spread teams out and throw quickly in order to avoid offensive line problems and use playmakers in space. 

Now we know it’s not. 

Andy Dalton is just not a good enough decision-maker or accurate-enough passer for that to work over the long haul. And spending too much time in likely passing formations gives opposing pass rushers enough of a hint what’s coming that stopping them becomes next to impossible. 

So these Bengals are best as a pound-the-rock-and-throw-deep team even if they aren’t very good at actually running the ball. 

Does that sound like a paradox? Well, it is. It’s also an acknowledgement this unit doesn’t have a strength so much as two weaknesses. 

This year for certain they’re not going to be efficient. They will have to live and die by the big play. 

The dink and dunk passing game works for some teams, but it is inviting disaster for the Bengals even if there’s not very inspiring about watching Joe Mixon plunge into the line for one or two yards again and again. 

The good news here is they have one of the best big-play receivers in football in A.J. Green. Brandon LaFell and Alex Erickson both had explosive pass plays last week, too, against a very good secondary. 

Mixon is a guy who can get a lot when a little is there, too, and of course so is Giovani Bernard, so there is still hope of popping a big one even when keeping it on the ground. 

So if you squint hard enough, you can still see how this team can be a functional offense as it is constituted. 

Of course the defense forcing turnovers makes this formula much more effective, too… 

Monday was a busy one for Cincinnati Reds news. 

The team announced its spring training schedule, unveiled new spring training hats and decided who will be protected from the Rule 5 draft. 

Plus Scott Rolen is on the 2018 Hall of Fame ballot notes Rolen could have a pretty good shot at getting a call to Cooperstown (though it’s unlikely he’d be wearing a Reds cap if so): 

Rolen, 42, has a lifetime WAR of 70.0 and a JAWS number of 56.8. Of the 13 third basemen in the Hall of Fame, the average WAR is 67.5 and JAWS is 55.2. 

I would say Rolen also checks off the, “Pretty much feels like a HOFer box.” 

He was a big name with a strong game for a long time, playing in a big market in the East (Philadelphia) and two baseball-mad Midwestern cities. 

What do you think, will he get in? 

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As for the Rule 5 decisions, they added Alex Blandino, Shed Long, Jose Lopez, Jesus Reyes, Jose Siri and Zach Weiss to the roster. 

Not doing so with some of those guys would have been bigger news because then they would be in jeopardy of losing them to another team. 

Siri is coming off a breakout season, but it’s notable he has been in the organization long enough to need to be protected. 

Long was one of the organization’s stars in 2016 while Blandino is a former first-round pick who hasn’t put it together yet — but the team isn’t giving up on him… 

And that brings us to the latest update from Ohio State-Michigan week. 

Urban Meyer talked at length about what the rivalry means to him, the importance of big butts on offensive linemen and more in Columbus yesterday. 

In Ann Arbor, Wayne graduate Tyree Kinnel said what lots of his teammates are certianly thinking

“For our team coming off a loss to Wisconsin and Big Ten’s not in the picture, playoff not really in the picture, but they have that in the picture, so we want to take everything away from them.

“We want to beat them. We want to ruin their season. We want to go into bowl prep with a great win and confidence for our bowl game.”

That’s exactly how I would expect them to approach this rivalry, especially given its history. 

It’s also another reminder that this game wouldn’t be nearly the same if it weren’t played at the end of the season. The stakes are a huge part of what has made it what it is. 

Should also be noted Kinnel, who issued an early verbal commit to the Wolverines and stuck with it, also he respects everything about Ohio State.