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Cincinnati Bengals: Will Red Zone Deficiencies Haunt Team in 2013?

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COMMENTARY | It is a well-known fact that 2012 was a treacherous year in the red zone for the Cincinnati Bengals. According to teamrankings.com, the Bengals finished 17 overall in red zone scoring percentage in 2012 (touchdowns only).

Not only was the team held to a mere 53.45 percent on the season, they took a dramatic dive toward the end of the year as well. During the last three games played in 2012, Cincinnati scored a touchdown only 25 percent of the time after entering the red zone.

Ouch.

The Bengals did not, however, have a difficult time moving the ball between the 20's. The offense just seemed to stall once they entered that highly-contested area of the field -- generally relying on a Mike Nugent field goal.

So, what was the main cause for the Bengals' woes in this area of the field?

The answer is quite simple: they lacked the necessary offensive personnel.

Aside from Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green, the Bengals never had a reliable secondary target in these situations.

Rookie wide receiver Mohamed Sanu showed great instincts in the red zone -- four of his 16 receptions in 2012 were for touchdowns inside this area. However, he had a severely shortened season due to an ill-timed injury.

In a recent interview on Bengals.com, Sanu shared his intent to get into the end zone often in 2013.

"You're closer to the end zone, and the end zone is six points. We need touchdowns. The more points we put on the board, the better it is for our defense and the easier it is for us to win."

Tight end Jermaine Gresham would be a likely target in this area as well. However, his inconsistencies never allowed him to gain the full trust of quarterback Andy Dalton and offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.

The addition of Tyler Eifert this season in jumbo packages in the red zone could help Gresham significantly due to mismatches created by the Bengals' personnel.

The Bengals could begin to use these jumbo packages quite often in the red zone this season. Not only are Gresham and Eiftert at their disposal, but Orson Charles and Alex Smith should be factored in as well.

Having four athletic, pass-catching tight ends on the field at the same time could create nightmarish matchups for opposing defenses.

Tight ends are not the only option that Dalton will have this season thanks to the addition of rookie running back Giovani Bernard.

Bernard showed his capability as a receiver during his days with North Carolina. This added threat out of the backfield in the red zone will only add to the pressure put on a defense that is already on its heels in the red zone.

Dalton knows that he has a great arsenal of weapons surrounding him this season. He recently reiterated the importance of getting the ball across the goal line in these situations.

"When you get down there, the windows are tighter because you're playing with less space. So you have to get the ball out of your hands quick, and into the hands of your guys."

The way it looks right now, Dalton will have plenty of options in the red zone this season -- something that he severely lacked in 2012.

This year, when he looks to get the ball out of his hands quickly, he will have the necessary weapons to get six points on the board for Cincinnati.

Sean O'Donnell is a contributor for Yahoo! Sports and a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also the co-host of the Bengals Central podcast on the Pro Football Central radio network. You can follow him on Twitter: @SeanODonnellNFL

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