Last year, the Cincinnati Bengals had 10 players on IR, including defensive stalwarts Geno Atkins (torn ACL) and Leon Hall (ruptured Achilles).
And yet, they still won 11 games and made the playoffs.
“We were able to overcome a bunch of injuries, which is great,” Hall said on The Morning Show. “I mean, it just kind of shows our depth. But as far as this year, everybody’s come back from the injury. Some are practicing every day; some are on kind of a different schedule to stay healthy. But I think we should have most of our players (ready for Week 1) going into Baltimore.”
The Bengals will also have Andy Dalton, who is 30-18 in the regular season but 0-3 in the playoffs. Dalton has just one touchdown and six interceptions in his postseason career, but that didn’t stop the Bengals from inking him to a six-year, $115-million contract this offseason.
Is Dalton the answer for a franchise that hasn’t won a playoff game in more than two decades?
“I’m a little biased obviously, but I think he’s a great quarterback,” Hall said. “Obviously he has some bad games like anybody else, but for whatever reason, a lot of times that game gets blown up more than normal people because he’s the quarterback, which makes sense. You kind of win and lose on your quarterback in this league. Obviously he hasn’t won (a) playoff game. He knows that. We know that.”
“But at the same time, we realize – and hopefully he realizes – that those losses aren’t only on him,” Hall continued. “He may have played well; he may not have played well, depending on the game. But you win or lose as a team. Everybody knows that. It’s the old cliche, but it’s the truth. When we lose, we don’t point fingers at anybody. We just kind of look at ourselves and see what we can do better.”
As far as Hall knows, the Queen City’s reaction to Dalton’s contract was very positive.
“I think so,” Hall said. “I don’t really read the newspaper. I don’t really listen to sports radio too much. Sometimes you hear something you don’t want to hear, so I try to stay away from it. Just going off of our fans and how they reacted to him in training camp before and after the contract, it’s all been positive. There may have been some negativity at practice that I didn’t hear, but as far as I know, they seem pretty confident in him. The team does. I do. And we’re just going to go from there.”
Marvin Lewis, meanwhile, enters his 12th season as Bengals head coach, and he’ll do so without coordinators Jay Gruden and Mike Zimmer, who have taken head-coaching gigs in Washington and Minnesota, respectively. Lewis replaced them with Hue Jackson, who will lead the offense, and Paul Guenther, who will lead the defense.
Guenther has been an assistant coach for the Bengals since 2005 and is keeping many of Zimmer’s principles intact.
“You don’t want to just completely uproot the system and do something totally different and just start over,” Hall said. “(Guenther) has basically for the most part kept the base and the techniques the same, which is nice. Every player on the team still has that comfort level and is still confident. You don’t have to re-learn a bunch of stuff. But he’s got a different personality compared to Zimmer. He’s a little more laid-back, a little more giddy might be the word.”
“But the players are already comfortable with him,” Hall continued. “Even when Zimmer was here, he ran some of our meetings, so you already had that comfort level and it didn’t really seem completely different – or really different at all – once he was able to step up and take the coordinator role.”