The Cincinnati Bengals open training camp on July 27 at Welcome Stadium for a special practice in Dayton. Here’s a closer look at a few storylines:
How are the Bengals going to turn their defense around?
The Bengals were statistically heading towards being one of the worst defenses in NFL history before they fired coordinator Teryl Austin to try to stop the bleeding. Injuries didn’t exactly help on that front either. Aside from injuries, the biggest issue on that side of the ball were the linebackers. The Bengals released the unreliable Vontaze Burfict and drafted Germaine Pratt, probably with the intention of starting him right away. Other than that, the core of the defense hasn't really changed. The Bengals need some big performances from budding stars such as Jessie Bates and William Jackson III, along with some good health, to turn things around.
Is the offensive line actually better than it was last season>
Probably not. Things looked on the up-and-up after the team signed John Miller to play right guard and drafted Jonah Williams in the second round to play left tackle. However, Williams is now out for the season and starting left guard Clint Boling retired due to a health scare. While that puts Cordy Glenn back at left tackle, left guard is now wide open. Fans don’t exactly have a lot of faith in right tackle Bobby Hart, who was re-signed despite struggling last season. A lot of players along the unit are going to have to take a big step forward if there’s going to be actual improvements this year.
This season means different things for all three. Green, arguably the most important piece of the offense, is now 30 and entering a contract season following issues with injuries over the last three seasons. Boyd is entering a contract year after a season of exponential growth. Ross has to prove his status as a first-round pick after a rocky start to his career, which could ultimately decide whether the Bengals pick up his fifth-year option. It's an important season for all three players.
What kind of impact will Zac Taylor have on Andy Dalton?
Taylor comes from a quarterback background, so Dalton is going to have the first offensive-minded head coach of his career. Combine that with quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt, who made a noticeable difference last year, and it’s clear he’ll be given every resource on the coaching front. Dalton was playing well last September before the injuries started taking a toll on the team, but if he’s going to get the team to the playoffs, he’s got to step up to Pro Bowl level. It’s a make-or-break season for Dalton.
Can Tyler Eifert stay healthy?
Nobody can predict that, even Eifert himself. Eifert hasn’t played in double-digit games since 2015 and played only one month last year before suffering a broken ankle. Yet the team keeps re-signing him because the front office believes he’s a game-changer when he’s healthy. It’s likely Eifert will be treated with kid gloves throughout the preseason, but that would be harder to do once the season starts. If Eifert can last throughout the entire season, watch out. He was one of the best receiving tight ends in the league during his best season in 2015.