Bengals look to put 2017 behind them

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) throws a pass during warm ups before a game against the Indianapolis Colts Aug 30.Photo: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals entered training camp looking to establish cohesion with a revamped offensive line.

Many things to go wrong during a disappointing 2017 season can easily be traced back to various malfunctions of an offense that could not score and even worse could not consistently block effectively.

This was not a new development.

It was just a continuation of a downward trend following the 2015 season when the Bengals went 12-4 and made their fifth straight playoff appearance.

The Bengals entered training camp looking to establish cohesion with a revamped offensive line, highlighted by the acquisition of Cordy Glenn in a trade from Buffalo.

While it provided quarterback Andy Dalton with plenty of time to make some long passes in preseason, the run game was spotty at best. During the first three preseason games, the tandem of Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard combined for 52 yards on 22 carries while being protected by the first-team offensive line.

"It's been a slow start for the backs in general, but I'm sure we'll pick it up," Mixon said. "Once we execute the little things, the big things will start popping off for us and everything will be good."

Of course, Dalton should not have any problem getting things to pop off with wide receiver A.J. Green and if preseason numbers mean anything, perhaps the Bengals will get back to normal following two seasons of unproductive and frustrating offensive performances.

Dalton was the leader in passer rating (130.9) in preseason. The reason he had ample time to find receivers was thanks to a line that let up the fewest sacks (three) in exhibition games.

Things haven't been good offensively for the Bengals in the last two seasons. They have dropped from seventh in points to 26th in three years while going 13-18-1.

While line play remains a work in progress, it's on Dalton to improve on red-zone performance. Last season, five of the losses did not feature an offensive touchdown while Dalton's passer rating dropped below 80 in those games.

Dalton's completion percentage dipped below 60 for the second time in his career. Of course, it's tough to be accurate and effective when the line can't block consistently and in the last two seasons, that unit has allowed 80 sacks.

While the Bengals are hoping to improve an unproductive offense, they are also hoping to be better than a middle of the pack defensive team. They placed 18th and 16th respectively in total defense and scoring defense and will be implementing a more aggressive approach with forcing turnovers.

The Bengals will be doing so under new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, who inherits a group that ranked 30th with 14 forced turnovers and last with four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.

Up front, little is different with stalwarts Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins. Both players recently agreed to contract extensions and for at least the next two seasons, Atkins, Dunlap, and defensive ends Carl Lawson, Jordan Willis and Sam Hubbard are under contract.

SERIES HISTORY: 29th regular-season meeting. Colts lead series, 17-11. Bengals won last year's meeting 24-23 in Week 8 and have won three of the last four meetings after losing the previous seven. Bengals have lost the last seven meetings in Indianapolis since 1997.