The Cowboys face a good AFC North team in the Cincinnati Bengals. To prep for the game, we asked five questions of Bengals blog, Cincy Jungle. Check it out.
Blogging The Boys: A.J. Green is having a tremendous season, but the Bengals are having problems scoring through the air compared to last year. Is the absence of Tyler Eifert the issue in the red zone? Are there other problems at play here?
Cincy Jungle: Red zone inefficiency has been the Bengals' biggest struggle this season and yes, as you mentioned, the absence of Eifert has been killing this team. The "lack of weapons surrounding Dalton" narrative is a bit overplayed, as Green and Brandon LaFell have stepped up nicely in the passing game. Surprisingly, my biggest takeaway from the Bengals' red zone struggles has been that the offensive line has struggled to open up lanes in the run game, especially when the Bengals only need a couple of yards. If Dallas' defensive line can create penetration -- and that's a big if -- then the Bengals' offense might struggle for another week.
BTB: Carlos Dunlap leads a good Bengals defensive line. Talk about those players and how they're performing this year.
CJ: Dunlap doesn't have the gaudy sack numbers he did last year, but he's been one of the best edge rushers in the NFL this season. He and Geno Atkins have relentlessly created pressure, while reserve defensive ends Will Clarke and Margus Hunt have done a great job in rotation. Cincinnati fans were incredibly skeptical about the unit's depth, but it looks like the Bengals' defensive line is one of the strongest units on the team.
BTB: The offensive line seems to be a big issue right now. How bad is it, and can they get it fixed?
CJ: The biggest issue with the offensive line seems to be a lack of continuity. There isn't one particular player who is really struggling as opposed to his teammates, though first-year starting right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi -- a first round pick last year -- has seen some growing pains. Ultimately, I think the line will get better with time, and it appeared as though last week was a first-hand glimpse of things starting to come together. I think the issues will be fixed, and I hope they'll be fixed before Sunday's game. That said, I'm not 100 percent certain the line will play great in Dallas.
BTB: After a 2-2 first quarter of the season, how do you see the Bengals season so far? Are they were you thought they would be? How much can they improve?
CJ: The 2-2 record is obviously disappointing for fans, but it's hard to say we didn't see this coming. With a new offensive coordinator, several new position coaches and more first-year starters this season than any in recent memory, growing pains were expected -- especially considering Cincinnati faced three teams which won at least 10 games last year in the first four weeks. This is still just as talented a Bengals team as the teams of the past, and I think the second quarter of 2016 is when this team is going to start winning some games.
BTB: The Bengals have been a very good regular season team, but have had issues in the playoffs. Anybody have a good theory on what is happening there?
CJ: The national media is always going to pin the losses on Andy Dalton and Marvin Lewis simply because doing so creates a juicy story, but Cincinnati's playoff struggles simply cannot be attributed to one individual. For starters, the run defense has been terrible in every single playoff game in the Dalton era. Arian Foster rushed for a combined 293 yards and three touchdowns in the Bengals' 2011 and 2012 playoff losses to the Texans, three Chargers running backs rushed for at least 50 yards in the following loss and injuries have decimated the team in the two most recent losses, as well as in every playoff game, for that matter. Virtually every skill position player has missed or left due to injury in at least one playoff game, including guys like Dalton Green, Jeremy Hill, Giovani Bernard, Marvin Jones, Atkins, punter Kevin Huber and several offensive linemen. I'm not a curse guy, but if there were any curse I'd believe in, it would be that the Cincinnati Bengals are a cursed team. The one year the defense graded positively in a playoff game was the one year Dalton missed the playoffs with an injury after a season in which he was in the MVP conversation. And for the record, Vontaze Burfict and Adam Jones didn't lose last year's playoff game; a costly fumble by Hill (after Ryan Shazier concussed Bernard, who would've been the back in the can't fumble scenario) lost the game. Enough with the "lack of discipline" narratives; that's just the media trying to create a story with the blame having to shift from Dalton to someone else. (Asking this question is like opening up a can of worms, hope you understand.)
Thanks for the knowledge, Cincy Jungle.