In 2015, the Cincinnati Bengals boasted a multifaceted offense that had Andy Daltonas an MVP candidate, before the quarterback busted his hand with three games to go.
That 2015 squad owned a backfield tandem in Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard who each ran for 730-plus yards, with Bernard adding 472 yards receiving. The wide receiver trio of A.J. Green, Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu terrorized defenses. Tyler Eifert earned a Pro Bowl bid with career-highs of 615 yards and 13 TDs. And the offensive line was one of the best in the NFL.
Last year, that group was stripped. The Bengals lost Jones and Sanu in free agency. Eifert started just two games. And the running backs struggled with injury and production.
Heading into 2017, Green believes Cincinnati is restocked to return to that 2015 form. The Bengals added dynamic rookies in receiver John Ross and running back Joe Mixon. Wideout Tyler Boyd is expected to make the leap in Year 2. Speedy receiver Cody Core earned rave reviews from Green this offseason.
"They can all make plays all over the field," Green said of his receiving corps, via the team's official website. "I feel like we're getting back to where we were in 2015 with Marvin, Mo. I feel like once TB gets settled in, he'll be able to play faster because now he knows what to do and the way CC is coming along, and after adding Ross and adding [rookie running back Joe] Mixon, I feel like we're getting back to that 2015 roster."
There are a few stumbling blocks that could keep the 2017 offense from duplicating the 2015 success. The first is Green's health. The superstar receiver missed six games last season, ending his streak of five straight seasons of 1,000-plus yards.
Dalton reported Tuesday that everything is good in the health realm with Green.
"I would say he's better than he's been," Dalton said. "It's the best shape he's been in, probably. He's fast, he's big. He's been doing it all. Even if you said he was the same, that's really good."
The other issue for the Bengals' offense could be a reshuffled offensive line that is counting on tackles Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher to take giant steps forward this season.
If the blocking holds up and all the pieces can stay healthy, the Bengals certainly boast the playmakers in the backfield and at receiver to be one of the most dangerous offenses in 2017.