There has been a lot of talk about Hue Jackson coming in to replace Jay Gruden to run the Bengals 2014 offense. Gruden’s version of the West Coast offense was predicated on the QB’s ability to make quick reads on short-intermediate throws to spread the field horizontally. This would, in turn, force the defense to cover the width of the field, creating natural running lanes for which the backs to take advantage of. While Dalton was able to put up fantasy stats running the 8th best passing offense in the NFL, his 20 interceptions were enough for Hue Jackson to hedge his bets and alter this offense in a slightly different direction. We can fully expect Jackson to install many power-run packages to take a large portion of the responsibility off Dalton’s plate. They addressed this in the draft by picking Jeremy Hill, a one-cut downhill runner who has surprising speed, and reaching for the powerful, run-blocking center, Russell Bodine, in the 4th round. This will create a more balanced, well-rounded offense, without the need to rely so heavily on the Dalton-Green combination.
While it is safe to assume that A.J Green will continue to dominate on Sundays, this new offensive philosophy opens the door for both Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill to contribute. It was widely expected that Gio would make a Ray Rice-type year two leap, making him a three down workhorse with the potential to get close to 300 touches. The creativeness of Hue Jackson, along with his commitment to a power run game will allow Gio to touch the ball ~18x per game, in a multitude of ways. He has the skill to take 10-12 handoffs every Sunday, and the versatility to create in space with screens, check downs, and maybe some opportunities from the slot to get down the field. Gio can become an elite fantasy contributor if he can take advantage of this opportunity, especially for those of you in PPR format as he is a true dual threat HB. Let’s not forget though, that the Bengals handed the ball off 481 times last year, good for 8th best in the league. So even with Gio’s increased workload, there are plenty of carries for another HB to be fantasy relevant; in steps rookie Jeremy Hill. Early reports have Green-Ellis taking third team reps behind Hill, signaling a change of the guards in the Bengals backfield. Scouting reports label Hill as a tough back, who thrives between the tackles because of his ability to run through tacklers and pick up yards after contact. It is not hard to replicate BenJarvus Green-Ellis’s as he only averaged 3.4 ypc in 2013 and only broke one run for more than 20 yards. Hill has the talent and opportunity to be a potentially nice flex option, especially if he can be a short yardage producer at the NFL level.
Regarding the passing game, it is likely that we will see a regression in volume with the new offensive philosophy, however do not misinterpret this as moving away from A.J. Green. Jackson is fully aware of the talent he has on the outside and will look to use Green to stretch the field both horizontally and vertically. Green will again be the focal point of the air game, as he can run the complete route tree and has the frame to continue to be a huge weapon in the Red Zone. Last year Green led the NFL in usage rate as he was targeted on 31% of the Bengals throws. Look for a season line of no less than 90/1,300/10, making him a top tier WR option in all formats. Marvin Jones is a player who, on the other hand, is a regression candidate for the 2014 season. With the move to a more power run game and the full emergence of Bernard, something has got to give in this offense and it looks like Jones will be the prime victim. As it is, 10 touchdowns on 51 catches is an incredibly high conversion percentage, which is presumably unsustainable. We can look for his overall volume to decrease, as well as his TD’s to regress, with a realistic line around 40/500/4. Let someone else overpay him for last years production, while we see the bigger picture.
One position battle to keep an eye on through camps and preseason will be at Tight End. Many of us had high hopes for last years first round draft pick, Tyler Eifert, in 2013. Look for him to start paying dividends in 2014. While Gresham has been productive over the last 4 years, he hasn’t turned into the threat the team envisioned when they drafted him with the 21st pick back in 2010. Eifert enters camp with a shot to win this battle if he can prove that his 4.68 40 time will help open up the middle of the field.
To determine Andy Dalton’s value it will be worth keeping your ears to the ground about the role of the passing game in Jackson’s overall gameplan. If he plans to largely stay with the West Coast offense it will be a good opportunity to grab Dalton as he has a lot of nice options through the air to work with. While we don’t expect him to duplicate it, Dalton was third in the NFL last year with 33 TD’s and eclipsed 4,200 yds passing in Gruden’s WC scheme. However, if they move to a more traditional power run offense it will be best to let someone else pick him a couple of rounds too early based on last years’ numbers.
Written and arranged by - Jeremy Levinson TWITTER!!!!