CINCINNATI (WKRC) - As the Bengals continue their search for a new head coach to replace Marvin Lewis here is a look back at the good and the bad from the 2018 season and a look ahead to who might have breakthrough seasons on offense and defense in 2019:
MVP: RB Joe Mixon
The Skinny: Despite missing two games after undergoing minor knee surgery he still wound up leading the AFC in rushing with 1,168 yards and averaged 4.9 yards per carry.
He finished the season by rushing for over 100 yards in three of the last four games despite facing defenses stacked against him due to the absence of standout wide receiver A.J. Green and then Tyler Boyd due to injury.
Mixon added 43 receptions for 296 yards and scored nine total touchdowns (eight rushing and one receiving).
His 1,464 yards from scrimmage were 11th-most in the NFL and fourth-most in the AFC.
MOST PLEASANT SURPRISE OFFENSE: WR Tyler Boyd
The Skinny: After Boyd followed up a solid rookie season in 2016 (54 catches for 603 yards) with an extremely disappointing 2017 season in which he caught only 22 passes for 225 yards in 10 games, he turned into a legitimate offensive weapon in 2018.
Boyd finished with a team-high 76 catches for a team-high 1,028 yards and tied for the team lead with seven touchdown receptions-- and did all of that despite missing the final two games of the season due to injury.
He was extremely consistent with at least three receptions in all 14 games he played and had at least 60 yards receiving in nine games and at least 80 yards in six games.
MOST PLEASANT SURPRISE DEFENSE: S Shawn Williams
The Skinny: Williams went from being "just a guy" to being an extremely productive player.
It should be noted, too, that that over the final 10 games Williams had 81 tackles, 65 of which were solo, recorded four of his interceptions and seven of his passes defended.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT OFFENSE: WR John Ross
The Skinny: The team's 2017 first-round pick followed up his injury-plagued rookie season in which he played in only three games and didn't have a single reception by playing in 13 games, but recording only 21 catches for 210 yards on 58 targets.
That means he caught only 34.4 percent of the passes thrown his way. While not all of that was his fault, he had a difficult time getting separation on routes, won very few 50-50 balls and had a handful of drops.
For comparison sake, Boyd caught 70.4 percent of the passes thrown his way.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT DEFENSE: The defensive line
The Skinny: This appeared to be not only the strength of the defense, but perhaps the strongest unit on the entire team heading into the season. But it played underwhelming for much of the season.
Sure, the linebackers were really, really bad, but standout defensive tackle Geno Atkins was AWOL at times, end Carlos Dunlap took off too many plays, tackle Andrew Billings appeared to have gained significant weight and was rarely a factor and Father Time appeared to catch up with end Michael Johnson.
The line combined for only 31.5 sacks.
BEST MOMENT: A.J. Green's game-winning TD catch in Atlanta
The Skinny: Trailing the Atlanta Falcons 36-31 with 4:15 remaining the Bengals drove from their own 25 to the Atlanta 13 with 12 seconds left to play.
Quarterback Andy Dalton fired a perfect strike to Green in the right corner of the end zone as Green slid to ensure he stayed inbound for the game-winning touchdown with seven seconds left.
The 37-36 victory improved the Bengals record to 3-1 at the time.
WORST MOMENT: Antonio Brown's game-winning catch-and-run TD in Oct. 14 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers
The Skinny: After Mixon scored from four yards out with 1:18 left to put the Bengals on top of the Steelers 21-20, they were on the cusp of improving to 5-1 and dropping the Steelers to 2-3-1.
Instead, Pittsburgh drove from its own 23 to the Bengals 31 with 15 seconds remaining.
Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, who would be fired a few weeks later, came with an all-out blitz with no safety help and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger tossed a short pass to wide receiver Antonio Brown, who worked off a pick, caught the ball and raced the rest of way for the game-winning touchdown with 10 seconds to play.
BEST GAME: 34-23 win over Baltimore on Sept. 13
The Skinny: This was probably the most complete game the Bengals played when it mattered.
They raced out to a 21-0 lead and led 28-7 late in the first half before Baltimore began clawing back.
The Ravens pulled within 28-14 at halftime and within 28-23 early in the fourth quarter only for the Bengals to respond with two field goals in the final three minutes to pull away and improve to 2-0.
WORST GAME: 51-14 loss to New Orleans on Nov. 11
The Skinny: There were plenty of bad games to pick from, but this was by far the worst.
The Bengals were coming off their bye week and carried a 5-3 record into this game, which was at home to boot.
New Orleans scored a touchdown on all five first half possessions to take a 35-7 halftime lead and then scored points on each of their first four possessions of the second half.
The only drive in which the Saints didn't score came when they ran off the final 4:42 of the clock to end the game.
The Saints outgained the Bengals 509-284 and had 33 first downs.
Austin was fired the Monday after this game.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER POISED TO BREAK OUT IN 2019: WR John Ross
The Skinny: This may be a reach, because he hasn't warranted being a first-round pick. However, after he missed almost all of his rookie season due to injury the 2018 season was basically his rookie season.
The bright side is he tied for the team lead with seven touchdown receptions and he has game-breaking speed.
Perhaps a new offensive coordinator and having weapons around him like Green and Boyd more often will help him flip the switch.
He needs to improve his route-running, play harder on a more consistent basis and fight for 50-50 balls. All of those things are fixable.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER POISED TO BREAK OUT IN 2019: DE Sam Hubbard
The Skinny: While the defensive line was a disappointment overall, Hubbard was not.
He played over 40 percent of the defensive snaps in each of the final nine games and his performance was noticeable.
The 77th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft out of Ohio State, Hubbard had five sacks over those final nine games and eight quarterback hits. He also recorded and 25 of his 39 tackles.
He finished the season with six sacks, which ranked third on the team, and nine quarterback hits, which also ranked third.
After splitting time between playing end as a rotational player and tackle at times in the nickel defense he will likely be a starter at end in the 2019 season.