The Cincinnati Bengals knew it would be difficult to replace tackle Andrew Whitworth and guard Kevin Zeitler, but offensive line struggles plagued the team all season resulting in an inconsistent running game and inability to protect quarterback Andy Dalton, who was sacked 39 times. Dalton passed for more than 3,300 yards and 25 touchdowns, but he also had 12 interceptions and an 86.6 rating for the season.
Rookie running back Joe Mixon became a starter in Week 8 and led the team with 626 yards and four touchdowns. Wide receiver John Ross, the Bengals' first-round pick, barely saw the field before being placed on injured reserve, one of several key injuries that plagued the Bengals throughout the season. Dalton had a subpar season, but, another draft choice, fourth-round linebacker Carl Lawson, led all rookies in sacks.
The Bengals (7-9) had a 17-0 lead in the first half against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football on Dec. 4 looking to establish themselves in the playoff race. They lost that game, then the next two by a combined 67-14, effectively knocking them out of the postseason for the second straight year. The season hit rock bottom with a dismal 34-7 loss at Minnesota, before which reports surfaced that head coach Marvin Lewis would step down after the season, something he vehemently denied. He then signed a two-year contract extension two days after the season finale. The Bengals have had two straight losing seasons.
WHAT WENT RIGHT: Rookie running back Joe Mixon was as advertised. Despite missing two games late in the season with a concussion and not becoming the starter until Week 8, Mixon rushed for 626 yards and four touchdowns to lead the team. Nick Vigil, in his first season as a full-time starter, was leading the team in tackles until an injury cost him the last four games. Linebacker Carl Lawson was second on the team with 8.5 sacks, leading all NFL rookies.
WHAT WENT WRONG: The offensive line, without Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler who left as free agents last offseason, struggled throughout the season, resulting in an inconsistent rushing attack and 39 sacks of Andy Dalton, who finished with an 86.6 rating with 12 interceptions. Top draft choice John Ross only appeared in three games before being placed on injured reserve in Week 13. It was one of several key injuries that plagued the Bengals throughout the season.