Hartman: A return to the playoffs? Bengals are headed in the right direction

Published: Friday, June 15, 2018 @ 9:48 AM

Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green talks about what the Bengals accomplished during their offseason program, which concluded Thursday in Cincinnati.

I walked out of Paul Brown Stadium on Thursday feeling much more optimistic than I would have expected to in January

Maybe it’s just the time of year — no one has lost an NFL game since early February, and no one is going to lose one that matters for another 12 weeks or so — but it’s not hard to look at the 2018 Cincinnati Bengals and think good things could be in store. 

Are they Super Bowl contenders? 

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Let’s not get carried away. 

›› RELATED: 5 things to know about last day of Bengals offseason program

However, a series of moves since the questionable decision to retain Marvin Lewis as head coach have made the playoffs look at least realistic. 

And if they get in, they could actually be dangerous this time. 

To review: 

New coordinator Teryl Austin could re-energize a bend-but-don’t-break defense, especially with the arrival of Jesse Bates, Preston Brown and Sam Hubbard along with the ascendance of William Jackson III, Carl Lawson and Nick Vigil. 

Perhaps new quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt can get Andy Dalton to the next level

A healthy John Ross, a more experienced Joe Mixon and maybe even the return of Tyler Eifert would give Dalton a lot more weapons, too. 

RELATED: Bengals want Mixon to be more complete back

That collective still won’t go far without much more help from the offensive line, but the addition of Cordy Glenn and Billy Price upgraded 40 percent of the line immediately, and the influence of new coach Frank Pollack might mean some of the holdovers (most notably Cedric Ogbuehi) figure out how to be contributors in this league. 

With all those toys at his disposal, Bill Lazor should be able to make a big difference with his re-vamped offense, too, right? 

Yeah, it’s June, but you don’t have to squint hard to see a team that had obvious limitations over the last two years now has fewer questions and more potential stars than it has since the 2015 season ended in misery. 

And hey, Marvin Lewis is certainly not all bad. 

He is the winningest coach in franchise history. 

He fixed a broken team after he arrived in 2003 and two more times after that. 

Not often does a coach get so many chances to remake a roster, but the Bengals are not your ordinary franchise, either. 

Lewis is sort of like Jim Tressel in that he is often misunderstood, and that is generally because of his way of dealing with the media. 

To quote the “Cool Hand Luke” line sampled by Guns N Roses: “This is the way he wants it. Well, he gets it!” 

Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis tells Bengals fans to stick with him and the team.

Of course, Tressel won a national championship in his second year at Ohio State then crippled Michigan for going on two decades by cutting the Wolverines’ recruiting base out from underneath them, so he got a lot more rope from fans. 

If you keep the media at arm’s length, your image with the fans is likely to suffer sooner or later unless you win big. As Tressel learned when the NCAA came for him, no one on the local scene is coming to your defense when things go bad, either. 

But Lewis is fortunate that he is a good football coach whose players seem to like him and whose owner doesn’t seem to care much about the media or public perception either

Whether that is for better or worse is a better debate for another day. 

For now, the summer sun shines on Cincinnati, and all of the Bengals’ goals are in reach. 

Maybe — if the good Lord’s willin’ and the Ohio River don’t rise, ya know — the fun times will return to Paul Brown Stadium this fall. 

Until then, enjoy the dreams. 

Reality will come soon enough. 

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Pirates complete sweep of Reds with another rout

Published: Sunday, July 22, 2018 @ 3:58 PM

The Pirates' Gregory Polanco hits a two-run home run against the Reds on Sunday, July 22, 2018, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.
David Jablonski - Staff Writer
The Pirates' Gregory Polanco hits a two-run home run against the Reds on Sunday, July 22, 2018, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.(David Jablonski - Staff Writer)

Trucks from WWE Smackdown lined the streets outside Great American Ball Park on Sunday. The wrestlers will put on a show Monday night at U.S. Bank Arena.

» RELATED: Harvey delivers worst performance as a Red

A smackdown of a different sort took place all weekend on the diamond. A Cincinnati Reds team with hopes of escaping last place and overtaking the Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League Central Division were instead dominated in every phase of the game, losing the first three games after the all-star break by a combined score of 27-5.

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The Pirates, who have won nine games in a row, capped a three-game sweep with a 9-2 victory Sunday. The Reds (43-56) were swept since the first time since early May. They were swept five times in the first 10 series and had not been swept in the last 21 series.

» PITCHING UPDATE: Reds will use six-man rotation

Reds starter Matt Harvey allowed eight earned runs in 3 2/3 innings. Jackson Stephens followed with 3 1/3 innings of relief. He allowed one run on seven hits.

The Reds trailed 9-0 until Phillip Ervin drove in Jesse Winker and Adam Duvall with a single in the seventh.

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Riggleman confirms Reds will use six-man starting rotation

Published: Sunday, July 22, 2018 @ 12:04 PM

The scene at Great American Ball Park before the Reds play the Pirates on Sunday, July 22, 2018, in Cincinnati.
David Jablonski - Staff Writer
The scene at Great American Ball Park before the Reds play the Pirates on Sunday, July 22, 2018, in Cincinnati.(David Jablonski - Staff Writer)

The Cincinnati Reds will use a six-man starting pitching rotation at least until the trade deadline July 31, though interim manager Jim Riggleman hopes the Reds hang onto Matt Harvey, the player most likely to be dealt.

“I’ve got no indication that he’s going to be traded,” Riggleman said Sunday.

» HAL McCOY: Reds honor 2018 Hall of Fame class

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Harvey (5-5, 4.63 ERA) makes his 13th start with the Reds on Sunday, facing the Pittsburgh Pirates in the finale of a three-game series at Great American Ball Park. He would make one more start with the Reds if he stays with the team until the trade deadline.

Entering Sunday, the only question with the rotation was who would start Wednesday against the St. Louis Cardinals after Homer Bailey (1-7, 6.68) returns to the rotation Tuesday. Riggleman confirmed that starter will be Sal Romano (5-8, 5.19).

“If we absolutely need (Romano) today in the bullpen,” Riggleman said, “he would pitch today, but we would really try to limit that and see if he would then be able to pitch Wednesday as a starter.”

» RELATED: Votto gets extra day off; Gennett reflects on All-Star experience

The six-man rotation could test the bullpen if the Reds stick with it for long because it means the Reds will have one fewer reliever than normal.

“We would not say with six for a long period of time,” Riggleman said. “I guess we could if we run into a period of very few off days and those guys are giving us six innings because if they’re not then we’re really putting a strain on the bullpen.”

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Harvey delivers worst performance since joining Reds rotation

Published: Sunday, July 22, 2018 @ 2:57 PM

Reds starter Matt Harvey reacts after giving up a home run against the Pirates on Sunday, July 22, 2018, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff
David Jablonski - Staff Writer
Reds starter Matt Harvey reacts after giving up a home run against the Pirates on Sunday, July 22, 2018, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff(David Jablonski - Staff Writer)

In his second-to-last start before the trade deadline, Matt Harvey delivered his worst performance since joining the Cincinnati Reds.

Harvey allowed eight earned runs in 3 2/3 innings Sunday against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Great American Ball Park as the Reds tried to avoid a three-game sweep. He left the game after facing three batters in the fourth.

Six runs scored against Harvey on four home runs, the most Harvey has allowed in a game in his career. The Reds trailed 8-0 after the fourth.

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» PITCHING UPDATE: Reds will use six-man rotation

The trade deadline is July 31, and Harvey is expected to be a popular name in trade talks.

Despite this start, Harvey has pitched well for the Reds. In his last four starts, he was 4-0 with a 1.86 ERA. In his last five starts, he had allowed a total of six earned runs and no home runs. He had not allowed a home run since giving up three against the Cardinals on June 6.

Before the game, interim manager Jim Riggleman said Harvey was enjoying pitching in Cincinnati and not allowing trade talks to bother him.

“I think he likes it here,” Riggleman said. “His performance indicates he’s getting better and better. We hope he stays here. We’re fortunate to have him. It was a great acquisition for our front office to get him.”

» HAL McCOY: Reds honor 2018 Hall of Fame class

Riggleman hopes the Reds don’t trade Harvey and said he hasn’t seen any indication they will.

“As good as we’ve seen Matt, I think he’s just getting healthier and healthier,” Riggleman said. “You may even see a healthier guy next year.”

Harvey gave up a two-run home run to Gregory Polanco in the first, back-to-back home runs to Corey Dickerson and Starling Marte in the second and a solo home run to Sean Rodriguez in the fourth inning.

Harvey’s ERA jumped from 4.63 to 5.21. This was the first time he failed to last four innings in 13 starts with the Reds.

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UD provides inside look at arena renovation

Published: Sunday, July 22, 2018 @ 12:54 PM

The $72 million renovation of UD Arena is in phase 2 with two shifts of construction workers tackling the big project

The University of Dayton shared a video updating the progress of phase two of the three-year, $72 million UD Arena renovation on Friday.

The video shows the seats in the 300 and 400 levels have been removed. They will be replaced by padded seats with cupholders.

» EARLIER COVERAGE: Phase two of renovation may be busiest

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UD Arena Director Scott DeBolt walked fans through the changes going on inside and outside the arena. 

“The main concentration of phase two is expanding the north side and east side of the building,” DeBolt said.

» RELATED: One of Dayton’s biggest events staying at arena

DeBolt mentioned the expanded concourse area, improved restrooms and an elevator that will provide access to a new landing at the top of the east side 400 level. That area will contain restrooms, expanded handicap seating and concession options.

“The area will provide guests with a dynamic view of the playing floor and the river,” DeBolt said, “all while maintaining the intimacy of the arena.”

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