With the 3rd preseason being the "dress rehearsal" game, we thought this would be a good time to brush up on our 'Five Questions With' skills and talk with Cincy Jungle to learn a little more about the Chicago Bears' next opponent, the Cincinnati Bengals.
Check out his answer to my first question. If I didn't know any better, I'd say he was taking about Chicago's own polarizing QB, Jay Cutler, in his 3rd paragraph.
Windy City Gridiron - Andy Dalton has had the Bengals in the playoffs every year he's been in the league (2011-2014), but it's been one and done all four years. Is this really about Dalton choking in the postseason (1 TD to 6 Ints and a 57.8 passer rating) or is there a big picture problem in Cincinnati? Also how does the Bengal fanbase feel about Dalton?
Cincy Jungle - Yes and no. Yes, Dalton has played terrible in the playoffs. But no, it is not all his fault. As we know, the quarterback always gets too much of the credit when things go well and too much of the blame when things go bad. When it comes to his 0-4 playoff record, it is a collection of suck that has resulted in the Bengals postseason woes. The most overlooked part of the Bengals postseason woes are the defense. What has been a solid regular season defense the past four years, has fallen apart in the postseason. In the four losses, the Bengals run defense surrendered an average of 164 rushing yards per game (4.7 YPC) and six rushing touchdowns. They have generated just four sacks in those four games and only two turnovers. So, the defense has been terrible as well.
The other overlooked part of their struggles in the postseason is coaching. In the four losses, the Bengals have been outscored just 64-61 in the first half, but a whopping 84-13 in the second half. To me, that is poor coaching and poor/no halftime adjustments.
As for the fans and Dalton, it is a rocky relationship and he is a lightning rod in Cincinnati. There is a large - and after tonight, quickly growing - portion of the fan base that wants to move on from Dalton and they are extremely vocal about it. Here is what I tell the large contingent of Bengals fans who are constantly clamoring for a new QB - A.J. McCarron is the "flavor of the month" right now. Who are you going to replace him with? Who out there is better? Dalton is never going to be an Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady type quarterback. He is never going to singlehandedly carry a team/franchise. But, he is good enough to win with. He is never going to be bad enough to land you in a position to get a top college quarterback, and playoff/Super Bowl winning quarterbacks don't just hit the open market.
For as much criticism as Dalton receives - some justified, some not - many forget that as a rookie (and without mini-camp - lockout season), he took over a 4-12 team that lost its' two best receivers (Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens), lost its' best cornerback (Jonathan Joseph), had their franchise quarterback (Carson Palmer) threatening retirement if he wasn't traded, and the fans and city were revolting against the franchise because the owner just re-signed Marvin Lewis. Many national media members picked the 2011 Bengals team to go 0-16. Dalton took them to the playoffs at 9-7 and has made the playoffs every year he has been in the league.
Am I satisfied with his 0-4 playoff record? Of course not, but we have to keep some perspective as well. Only one other quarterback in NFL history has made the playoffs his first four years in the league, Joe Flacco, and Flacco's defense didn't let him down in the postseason like Dalton's has. I think there are a lot of teams in the NFL that would take Dalton and his four straight playoff appearances over their quarterback situation and many Bengals fans forget how hard it can be to land a winning quarterback.
I would say Dalton ranks around 12th in the NFL as far as quarterbacks go and according to 2015 salaries, he is the 19th highest paid quarterback, so he is affordable as well. For a guy that has never thrown more interceptions than touchdowns, holds the franchise single season record for yards (4,293) and touchdowns (33), has a regular season record of 40-23-1 and a career completion percentage of nearly 62%, I would say he is a solid long term answer at the quarterback position.
Windy City Gridiron - Who are some bubble players that may not make Cincinnati's final 53 man roster, but could be in play, let's say, for a team lacking quality depth that has missed the playoffs since 2010 like the Bears?
Cincy Jungle - This is a very deep Bengals roster and there are a number of players that will get picked up on cut down day. A few that are on the bubble but worthy of a spot on a roster somewhere are Chris Carter (LB), Nico Johnson (LB), James Wilder (RB) and Troy Hill (CB).
Windy City Gridiron - In the 2013 NFL Draft the Bengals took Tyler Eifert one pick after the Bears took Kyle Long at #20. At the time many Bears' fans were upset that Chicago didn't take the Notre Dame tight end, so fill us in on what kind of pro Eifert has been so far?
Cincy Jungle - Eifert's rookie season was nothing special, but the Bengals offensive coordinator in 2013 (Jay Gruden) didn't use the tight end much. The Bengals and their new offensive coordinator (Hue Jackson) had huge plans for Eifert last year, but eight snaps into the season, Eifert separated his elbow and was done for the year. But, to give you an idea of what they had in mind, in the eight snaps Eifert played in 2014, he had three catches for 37 yards and two first downs. If Eifert can stay healthy, the Bengals expect a huge season from him. He is an impressive athlete and for the past two seasons, he has been the best player in camp. If healthy, he can take the Bengals offense into the top 10.
Windy City Gridiron - Dane Sanzenbacher had a bit of a cult following during his Chicago Bears years, did the Sanzenmafia follow him to Cincinnati where he played the last 3 years?
Cincy Jungle - Sanzenbacher was a fan favorite in Cincinnati as well - especially being an Ohio State graduate - but for whatever reason, he never saw the field much. I wish he would have seen more playing time, because he was a solid player with good hands and it seemed like he made a play whenever he did get on the field.
Editor: Sanzenbacher is still a free agent, so maybe he finds his way back the franchise that gave him his first job...
Windy City Gridiron - Since this is the 3rd preseason game, these two teams should be game-planning a bit for each other. What will the Bengal offense try and establish against the Bears and who are some defensive players the Bears should be scheming for?
Cincy Jungle - After watching the Bengals poor effort in Tampa Bay this evening, I hope they focus on simply getting a few first downs! Normally, the Bengals would play their starters for the whole first half in this game, maybe even into the third quarter, however, because the Bengals played Monday night and it will be such a short week, I have a feeling they will approach this different than most third preseason games. The starters played longer than normal on Monday night, so I suspect the starters may only play a quarter or so on Saturday.
On offense, they will look to establish some sort of rhythm in the passing game - they were awful on Monday night. On defense, I would expect the Bears to be scheming for Geno Atkins and ways to keep him out of the backfield. Atkins looks to be back to his pre-ACL tear form and is getting good pressure up the middle and blowing up running plays. On the back end, the Bears should be scheming for Dre Kirkpatrick. Kirkpatrick, the Bengals 2012 first round pick, is finally healthy and starting at cornerback and playing great so far in camp.
Thanks again to Scott for helping us out!