Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson returns to Paul Brown Stadium when the Browns go head-to-head against a struggling Cincinnati Bengals and good friend Marvin Lewis.
The Cincinnati Bengals were a premier team in 2015 that was equipped with one of the highest-powered offenses in the NFL. Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis often is credited with the team’s consistent success, although a slow start to begin this season reiterates Hue Jackson’s coaching abilities.
Jackson, the Cleveland Browns head coach, was the Bengals offensive coordinator from 2012 until the end of last season. During Jackson’s time with the Bengals, Andy Dalton transformed into a legitimate starting quarterback while throwing to an arsenal of A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, Mohammad Sanu and Tyler Eifert.
In addition, running backs Giovanni Bernard and Jeremy Hill played similar to a two-headed dragon as both offer different qualities that mesh together quite effectively.
“This is not about personal friendships, relationships or any of that. This is about trying to win a football game.” – Head coach Hue Jackson
Lewis, who is the NFL’s second longest tenured coach, has always led a successful team since his start in 2003. However, since the departure of Jackson, the Bengals have stumbled out of the gates with a 2-4 record.
ESPN’s Dan Graziano predicted the Bengals to win the Super Bowl in 2016 as did many others. An elite offense with a relentless defense was expected out of the Bengals after an impressive 2015 campaign.
Yet, the offense hasn’t impressed and the lack of weapons around Green has clearly diminished Dalton’s abilities. Jackson’s presence is certainly missed and the fact that Eifert’s debut is still in question further limits the Bengals.
Bernard went from averaging 4.7 yards per carry in 2015 to 3.4 in 2016. In terms of yards per game, Bernard has dropped from 45.6 to 27.8 while only averaging one less carry since 2015. Hill has remained consistent compared to his 2015 production although has yet to have a breakout game.
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Not retaining wide receivers Sanu and Jones has proved to be a massive front office failure. Not only have the Bengals struggled to identify a No. 2 wideout, Green is being swarmed by opponents. Veteran Brandon LaFell has played respectably with 23 catches and 289 receiving yards, although he is not a No. 2 receiver for the future.
The Bengals have slowly incorporated Tyler Boyd, a second-round pick in 2016 out of Pittsburgh, and the team hopes to accelerate Boyd’s learning curve moving forward as he has shown great flashes of potential this season.
Of course, the lack of receiving help and a questionable running game has put immense pressure on Dalton. The Jackson effect is being felt after he left the Bengals to join the Browns, something that Lewis attempted to prevent.
Lewis had a plan for Jackson to be his successor once he retired – something Jackson didn’t feel was right.
“That’s Marvin’s football team. Been there a long time,” Jackson said Wednesday. “I think it’s hard to ever replace a best friend that way and be there waiting behind. I didn’t think it was the right thing for me to do. I didn’t think it would be right their team.”
Cornerback Joe Haden is listed as doubtful and now wide receiver Terrelle Pryor is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game. Pryor injured a hamstring and Haden has missed several weeks with a groin injury. It will be tough for Jackson to create a solid game plan against his former team, especially with Cleveland’s biggest playmakers on both sides of the ball out.
Lewis and Jackson are like brothers and it will be intriguing to see them battle this Sunday as head coaches. Expect the unexpected with the Browns in this one as the young players look to steal a win from the Bengals.