Bengals think they've added enough playmakers
By drafting a tight end with sure hands and a running back that can catch passes, the Bengals think they've given their offense what it's lacked most.
A couple more playmakers are about to join an offense that didn't have enough of them late last season, leading to another quick exit from the playoffs.
''Well, there shouldn't be any excuses,'' quarterback Andy Dalton said on Monday. ''With the players we already have and adding these guys is just going to make the offense better. So I expect us to take the next step. I expect us to improve from where we were last year.''
Cincinnati made the playoffs for a second straight season - something done only one other time in franchise history - but had another rough time in the postseason. For the second year in a row, the Bengals lost to Houston in the opening round.
They haven't won a playoff game since the 1990 season, going 0-4 under coach Marvin Lewis. It's tied for the seventh-longest stretch without a playoff win in NFL history, according to STATS.
The offense has been the biggest problem the last two seasons.
Dalton and receiver A.J. Green emerged as rookie stars in 2011, getting the Bengals to the playoffs with their ability to hook up on highlight plays. It wasn't enough to get them very far in the postseason.
The Bengals didn't get another proven receiver last season, and the passing game was overly dependent upon Green again. Cincinnati finished only 22nd in yards on offense and 12th in points, although the defense had a big hand in that.
The defense scored a touchdown in each of the last four games, including Leon Hall's interception return during a 19-13 playoff loss to Houston. The defense had three touchdowns in the last three games, while the offense managed only one.
The Bengals have tried to rectify that by drafting tight end Tyler Eifert from Notre Dame in the first round and running back Giovani Bernard from North Carolina in the second. Their top two draft picks were dedicated to giving the offense more playmakers.
Everyone noticed the emphasis.
''I think the offense is starting to go into the mode and the identity that I think (offensive coordinator) Jay Gruden has,'' running backs coach Hue Jackson said. ''Our job is to score points. And in order to do that, you've got to make sure you have players that can do that. And we have some on this team right now.''
In the final three games last season, Green was the only real threat. The Bengals converted only 7 of 37 third-down plays in those three games, failed to pick up 200 yards in two of the three games, and averaged only 47 yards rushing. Dalton was 48 of 48 for 783 yards with one touchdown, three interceptions and a passer rating of 61.3, well below average.
In addition to the newcomers, the Bengals are hoping that receiver Mohamed Sanu is fully recovered from a broken foot that cut short his rookie season. Sanu, a third-round pick from Rutgers last year, had worked his way into the starting lineup when he broke his left foot and needed surgery on Dec. 3.
Sanu caught 16 passes for 154 yards with four touchdowns in nine games last season, ran five times for 15 yards and threw a 73-yard touchdown pass to Green out of a wildcat formation.
Sanu expects to be at full-speed for the team's offseason workouts in May.
''My body feels great,'' Sanu said on Monday. ''Now it's just a matter of getting back out there and ready to play. I'm already 100 percent (healed). Now I'm just getting to the point where I want to be as far as being in shape and getting ready for the OTAs and the season.''
Sanu had started settling into his role when he got hurt last year. He started the two games before he broke his foot.
''Just each game, each week you get a little more comfortable,'' he said. ''It's definitely a good feeling to know I can help the offense out and to know I was getting playing time and I was effective.''
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