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2015 49ers' Opponents: Reviewing the Cincinnati Bengals

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We take a look at the Cincinnati Bengals in anticipation of the upcoming season.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The end of the season was a familiar story for the Cincinnati Bengals and Bengals fans: after a largely successful season, the Bengals entered the playoffs full of hope and optimism, only to be brought low nearly immediately.

And this seems to be the theme of the Andy Dalton era - have a strong season, enter the playoffs, and then get blasted out of the water. This last season, the Bengals went 10-5-1, ending the season only a half of a game behind the AFC North champions the Pittsburgh Steelers. Finishing second (by an incredibly slim margin) in the powerhouse AFC North is not at all a shameful thing. Yet, the Bengals lost their first playoff game to the Indianapolis Colts 26-10.

A few caveats to their loss: the team was suffering through some injuries at the wide receiver position. Additionally, the Bengals never really got a pass rush going. Yet, I think it's safe to say that many Bengals fans are wondering if it's time to explore other options to Andy Dalton. The low point of his season came against the Cleveland Browns when he threw 33 passes, completing just 10 and throwing three interceptions.

While it would be foolish to expect such a poor performance from Dalton on a regular basis, I think Bengals fans are wondering if he will ever get the team deep into the playoffs. My gut instinct is that the Bengals really should start developing another QB, maybe taking a guy as high as the second round. But, getting into the playoffs for four years in a row is tough, so if the Bengals believe that their system works best with Dalton under center, then so be it.

Free Agency (courtesy of NFL.com):

Unrestricted Free Agents: Rey Maualuga, LB; Jermaine Gresham, TE; Terence Newman, CB; Mike Nugent, K; Jason Campbell, QB; Dane Sanzenbacher, WR; Cedric Peerman, RB; Brandon Tate, WR; Alex Smith, TE; Eric Winston, OT; Marshall Newhouse, OT; Taylor Mays, S; Clint Boling, G.

Restricted Free Agents: Emmanuel Lamur, LB; Devon Still, DT.

Wow. I totally forgot that Taylor Mays even existed. That guy was not a very good safety for the 49ers. It will be interesting to see where he ends up. I am also a huge fan of the fact that there is a TE in the league named Alex Smith (I remember hearing his name during a football game a few years back and being incredibly confused). If the fact that an Alex Smith is mentioned in this article doesn't start an Alex Smith flame war in the comments, then I don't even know this blog anymore.

All joking aside, the fact that Jason Campbell is leaving might further incentivize the Bengals to bring in a developmental QB. The other big name to watch is Boling. Though he isn't a superstar by any means, he is a fine run-blocker. I imagine the Bengals will bring him back. If not, however, he could be an interesting candidate to take Mike Iupati's job.

Potential Needs:

If we set aside QB, then most of the Bengal's needs are on defense. In particular, the Bengals really need to establish a better pass rush. Expect them to bring in a defensive end or two. The Bengals might also want to upgrade a defensive tackle.