Familiar refrain: Bengals look to offensive help in draft
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By JOE KAY
CINCINNATI (AP) Andy Dalton hasn't seen this much change in the Bengals' offense since his rookie season. He's expecting even more when the NFL draft begins on Thursday.
For the second straight year, the Bengals need a lot of help on offense.
Instead, things got even worse - Cincinnati finished last in the league in offense for the first time in its history.
Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor has been given a free hand to overhaul the offense, and the Bengals are expected to put a heavy accent on it during the draft.
"That's one of the big things that we're trying to do here: Start from scratch, make things feel new," Dalton said.
"There are a lot of new faces and coaches, a couple new players, and I think we have more coming in the next couple of weeks. Things feel new, and that's a good thing.
"What we've done in the last couple of years wasn't good enough, and so we've got to do things a different way."
There are new coordinators on offense and defense, although head coach Marvin Lewis was retained and given a two-year contract extension that provide more chances to get his elusive first playoff win. The Bengals started a youth movement last season and it didn't go smoothly, especially on the offense.
Unlike previous years when the Bengals could draft from a long-term perspective, they'll be thinking about immediate impacts from its top picks.
Some things to watch with the Bengals' draft:
The offensive line was the biggest factor in Cincinnati's fall to the bottom of the league. The Bengals let left tackle Andrew Whitworth and right guard Kevin Zeitler leave as free agents, and the line fell apart. In this offseason, center Russell Bodine signed a two-year deal with Buffalo, creating another hole. They've begun addressing the problem through the draft already, trading with the Bills for left tackle Cordy Glenn. The teams swapped first-round picks, with Buffalo moving up to No. 12 and Cincinnati sliding to 21st overall. They need more help in the draft.
The Bengals took AJ McCarron in the fifth round in 2014, hoping to acquire a reliable backup for Dalton. The move worked well - McCarron took over when Dalton broke the thumb on his passing hand in 2015 and led the Bengals into the playoffs. McCarron left for Buffalo as a free agent, and the Bengals signed Matt Barkley to a two-year deal, but it wouldn't be a surprise if they considered a quarterback in the fifth round again.
Vontaze Burfict is suspended for the first four games of the season - the third year in a row that he's serving punishment from the NFL. As long as he's around, there will be a need for depth at that position. Burfict has missed the start of each of the past four seasons because of injury or suspensions.
HITS, MISSES AND BARGAINS
The Bengals haven't gotten much from the offensive players taken in the opening rounds the past three years. They chose offensive tackles Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher in the first two rounds in 2015. Ogbuehi has struggled to keep a spot, and Fisher had a procedure for an irregular heartbeat last year. Receiver Tyler Boyd - a second-round pick in 2016 - managed only 22 caches in 10 games in 2017. Last year, Ross had shoulder surgery that limited him at the start of training camp and wound up with only one carry - he fumbled - and no receptions before another shoulder injury ended his season. Mixon started seven games and finished with 626 yards and a 3.5-yard average.
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Updated April 24, 2018