Bengals thrilled by new playmakers

CINCINNATI -- Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton expects Cincinnati to "take the next step" after his team drafted a tight end with sure hands and a running back who can catch passes, giving the offense what it's lacked most.

"Well, there shouldn't be any excuses," Dalton said Monday. "With the players we already have and adding these guys is just going to make the offense better. So I expect us to take the next step. I expect us to improve from where we were last year."

Cincinnati made the playoffs for a second straight season -- something done only one other time in franchise history -- but had another rough time in the postseason. For the second year in a row, the Bengals lost to Houston in the opening round.

They haven't won a playoff game since the 1990 season, going 0-4 under coach Marvin Lewis. The offense has been the biggest problem the past two seasons.

The Bengals have tried to rectify that by drafting tight end Tyler Eifert from Notre Dame in the first round and running back Giovani Bernard from North Carolina in the second. Their top two draft picks were dedicated to giving the offense more playmakers.

Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis said Monday the tight end tandem of Eifert and Jermaine Gresham could give the Bengals' offense a different dimension. He speaks from experience after playing with the New England Patriots and tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez from 2010-11.

"That was the big thing when I was in New England with Hernandez. [In] the first quarter we had to see how teams were playing us, like, would they play us in nickel personnel to put a DB on Hernandez?" Green-Ellis told the team's website.

"Or would they leave a linebacker in there because now it gives you options from an offensive coordinator standpoint? You could either go back or say, 'Well, if they are going to play us in nickel personnel with both tight ends, we will run the ball. They play us with big people personne,l we'll just put one of the receiving tight ends out and have them run routes.' Altogether you can't really say two tight ends is going to make it better, because it all depends on how the defense you're playing that week is going to approach it."

In the final three games last season, A.J. Green was the only real threat. The Bengals converted only 7 of 37 third-down plays in those three games, failed to pick up 200 yards in two of the three games, and averaged only 47 yards rushing. Dalton was 48-of-48 for 783 yards with one touchdown, three interceptions and a passer rating of 61.3, well below average.

In addition to the newcomers, the Bengals are hoping that receiver Mohamed Sanu is fully recovered from a broken foot that cut short his rookie season. Sanu, a third-round pick from Rutgers last year, had worked his way into the starting lineup when he broke his left foot and needed surgery on Dec. 3.

Sanu caught 16 passes for 154 yards with four touchdowns in nine games last season, ran five times for 15 yards and threw a 73-yard touchdown pass to Green out of a Wildcat formation.

Sanu expects to be at full speed for the team's offseason workouts in May.

"My body feels great," Sanu said Monday. "Now it's just a matter of getting back out there and ready to play. I'm already 100 percent (healed). Now I'm just getting to the point where I want to be as far as being in shape and getting ready for the OTAs and the season."

Sanu had started settling into his role when he got hurt last year. He started the two games before he broke his foot.

"Just each game, each week you get a little more comfortable," he said. "It's definitely a good feeling to know I can help the offense out and to know I was getting playing time and I was effective."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.