Last Year was the Best Off-Season in Fifteen Years…Let’s Have Another!
The Cincinnati Bengals have a checkered history when it comes to using an off season to better the team. Last year however, the loyal fans were often found talking to themselves and the phrase that rang out time after time was “that was a good move.” The club looks forward to the NFL Draft and everyone involved with the orange and black are optimistic that they can repeat the success of last offseason where they filled some holes with solid free agents, appeared in a positive light on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” and conducted perhaps the best draft on the whole in ten to fifteen years. Those events coupled with the return of quarterback Carson Palmer produced the best comeback story in the league. Here’s hoping for a repeat of that result for the 2010-2011 campaign.
The team encountered more than its share of drama and adversity as Defensive Coordinator Mike Zimmer lost his wife and Wide Receiver Chris Henry was lost to the team due to an injury and then tragically lost his life in a domestic dispute. On the field, the Bengals improved in nearly every significant statistical category. The team’s recent history showed that they leaned on the offense to compete whereas last year it was the defense that powered the team to a division championship and a playoff game that turned sour with a loss to the New York Jets, the eventual AFC Championship contender. The collection of adversaries accrued a record of 138-118-0 last year.
Looking at this offseason so far, they have filled the need for a solid and reliable number two receiver by signing Antonio Bryant, added depth while taking a chance on receiver Matt Jones and resigned key free agents Tank Johnson, Roy Williams, Rashad Jeanty and the very solid center Kyle Cook. Time was also used wisely to lock up many solid role players and guys who will provide depth at key positions. Fans are geared up and hopeful for another playoff run. The Bengals can’t sneak up on anyone this year, coupled with the obnoxiously hard schedule a repeat of the kind of turnaround produced last season which saw them leap from 4-11-1 to 10-5-0 with a first round playoff loss. But it’s a fan’s job to hope for the best…and they’ve turned a corner and are looking to blast through the hole this year.
Draft Wish List…The Bengals are like every other team, the have some pressing needs and a list of other positions where some extra depth would be nice. We all know how fickle the draft can be, just look at last year when linebacker Rey Maualuga fell into their lap in the second round. The most pressing needs are at Tight End and Safety, they would love to add a strong pass rusher on defense, who doesn’t want that? They need a speed burner who can stretch the field and force defensive coordinators to have corners go one on one with Chad Ochocinco. They’ll also look to provide depth at defensive end, offensive guard and cornerback.
Preseason foes announced…Better Put the Big Boy Pants on…The schedule for the 2009 AFC Central Champions is an absolute mine field consisting of perennial rock solid teams. In addition to the slate of divisional contests which is made up of arguably to toughest group of squads anywhere in the NFL, the collection of non-divisional opponents screams “DIFFICULT!” as the face both Super Bowl Teams, last year’s Playoff Darlings in the New York Jets, the “all millennium” organization known as the New England Patriots. Toss in teams that are just plain good in San Diego, Miami, Atlanta and Carolina. Sprinkle in Buffalo and Tampa Bay, two teams looking to rebound from tough seasons last year and this is one very tough schedule. The team welcomes the challenge of playing a first place schedule. It’s often said “To the Victor Goes the Spoils” where good things come to those who succeed…in this case it looks more like “To the Victory Goes The Toils” as Cincinnati and all divisional winners face a rough ride the following season.
Check ‘Em Out…Many notable and notorious free agents came to “The Queen City” with the chance of joining the squad to bolster some positions and provide depth to the roster. Chad Ochocinco is dancing his way through the offseason and one of his fans in the crowd was Terrell Owens who was released by the Bills after one nondescript season. Chad loved the prospect of “81” joining “85” and played the roles of cheerleader and salesman in hopes of landing one of his buddies. He hopes to find a replacement for Laveraneus Coles who provided a veteran presence but had a case of the dropsies a few times too many. Local and national eyebrows were raised when Adam “Pac-Man” Jones rolled into town for a disappointing workout. Both Owens and Coles are thought to be still possible additions to the team before all is said and done.
Runnin’ Right Along…the running back corps will return as the dominant force that ran wild in 2009. Cedric Benson is a work horse who runs people over while Bernard Scott provides a change of pace. Brian Leonard honestly was the MVP of many drives last year. He does it all and he does it all at full speed. Teams need more guys like this. Fill in second chance back Larry Johnson was thankful for the opportunity and has moved on to Washington.
Tight Squeeze…The Bengals saw so many injuries at the Tight End position last year that it seemed the position may be cursed. Ben Utecht suffered a major concussion, Reggie Kelly tore the Achilles Tendon, Chase Coffman was a rookie last year and he couldn’t get on the field with injuries. Daniel Coats had a small problem treating Carson Palmer passes as if they were grenades or hot potatoes as he dropped far too many passes in key situation. The best at the position last year was J.P. Foschi who provided excellent blocking consistently and got open and actually caught the ball many times. He’s currently a free agent and there’s a chance he’ll be back in stripes during the upcoming season.
There’s One in Every Crowd…To be perfectly blunt, there was an idiotic growing sentiment amongst Bengals fans who expressed the asinine idea that Carson Palmer was holding the team back. They point to a number of high passes that missed the mark during the stretch run and the Wild Card Playoff game at Paul Brown Stadium. Did these people follow the team during the 4-11-1 season? Note the difference in record when the franchise quarterback was behind center. Sure he missed the mark at times, some of those misfires were a result of jail break rushes and missed assignments by the blockers up front. J.T. O’Sullivan is a huge upgrade from Ryan Fitzpatrick for sure…but the idea that there should be a QB competition in Cincinnati is quite simply ridiculous.
The draft is near and optimism is in the air. Let’s have “Who Dey” win it all this year…after all…”Who Dat” won last year so anything can happen. The Bengals are gathering steam and have a very solid roster that can get to the playoff and do some damage. It’s going to be a fun year of football for fans of the men in stripes.
About the Author
Written by Daryl Miller
I'm a lifelong sports fan. From short track auto racing, hockey, baseball, football and everything else...I love it.