ANDY DALTON'S career has been full of highs and lows. Never was that truer than last season. When Dalton had room in the pocket he exhibited decent arm strength and savvy decision making. When he didn't, he floundered. The problem: Dalton doesn't have a great feel for nuanced pocket movement. He lacks Tom Brady's sense for sidestepping defenders and giving himself space. This is why he ends up mired in muddy pockets more than he should.
• The O-line didn't help Dalton much. Last year the interior group struggled to pick up pass-blocking assignments on the fly—and that was before it lost its top talent, right guard Kevin Zeitler, to the Browns this offseason. On the edges, young right tackle CEDRIC OGBUEHI simply couldn't handle the bull rush. Now he's being asked to replace one of the league's steadiest left tackles, Andrew Whitworth. (Yikes.) That means the new right tackle will be 2015 second-round pick JAKE FISHER, who didn't get on the field regularly last season despite the struggles of Ogbuehi and washed-up veteran ERIC WINSTON. (Double yikes.)
• The Bengals drafted running back JOE MIXON in the second round from Oklahoma, and his arrival may mean the end of JEREMY HILL'S days as a lead back. Besides being more decisive on runs, Mixon, a gifted receiver, can give the offense more options on first and second down.
• TYLER EIFERT, returning from a back injury, is an important piece in the passing game, particularly in the red zone. Mismatch-making tight ends like Eifert are valuable because where they line up often forces a defense to reveal its coverage.
• PAUL GUENTHER is one of NFL's best blitz designers, and yet he blitzed the least of any defensive coordinator last year. Coach MARVIN LEWIS is comfortable playing straightforward zone, but it would behoove the Bengals to return to the pressure concepts they ran under previous coordinator MIKE ZIMMER. This defense doesn't have consistent edge rushers. Left end CARLOS DUNLAP is long and talented but, inexplicably, he disappears for stretches. At right end MICHAEL JOHNSON, 30, disappears for weeks. It's surprising that the Bengals didn't do more to upgrade at that position.
"THE INTERIOR LINE STRUGGLED TO PICK UP PASS-BLOCKING ASSIGNMENTS, AND NOW IT HAS LOST ITS TOP TALENT."
SI'S 2017 PREDICTION
ANDY BENOIT'S 400 MMQB ON.SI.COM/400
33 A.J. GREEN WR
55 GENO ATKINS DT
123 TYLER EIFERT TE
158 DRE KIRKPATRICK CB
197 GEORGE ILOKA FS
208 CARLOS DUNLAP DE
282 VONTAZE BURFICT LB
300 GIOVANI BERNARD RB
338 ANDY DALTON QB
388 ADAM JONES CB
400 RUSSELL BODINE C