The Cincinnati Bengals bring back every starter from last year's offense. They used their top two draft picks on playmaking tight end Tyler Eifert and speedy running back Giovani Bernard. It's the third season for quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green.
There are naturally going to be increased expectations placed on the Bengals, and offensive coordinator Jay Gruden isn't shying away from them. He told The Cincinnati Enquirer that it's time for the offense to take “major, major, major steps in the right direction moving forward.”
“Every year you see different things and you see your team in a different way but the one thing is I want to be consistent with my approach with the players and let them understand what it takes to be great," Gruden told the paper. "That’s coming out every day and preparing, listening and adjusting on the fly. I’ve learned a lot the first two years of do’s and don’ts, no question about it.”
The Bengals offense has finished five straight seasons ranked 20th or worse, and it dropped from 20th in 2011 to 22nd in 2012. That's obviously not moving in the right direction. There were key areas where the offense struggled last season, namely third-down conversion (ranked 27th), 20-yard passes (28th) and yards per carry (20th).
But Cincinnati's offense did show improvement last season, which is why the Bengals went to the playoffs for the second consecutive year. The Bengals jumped from 18th in the NFL in scoring in 2011 to 12th last season. This proved to be a barometer of the team's success.
In two seasons under Gruden, the Bengals are 18-4 when they score 20 or more points. They are 1-9 when they score less than 20. The only time the Bengals won when held under 20 points was a 13-10 victory at Pittsburgh on Dec. 23.
If the Bengals continue to move in the right direction in points scored, the team's win total will likely continue to increase as well.