Wednesday, August 10, 2011

NFL 32 in 32: Cincinnati Bengals

The 2010 could not have been more of a disaster for the Bengals. Predicted by some to make a Super Bowl trip, they instead went from 2-1 to 2-11 by week 14. Many have called for Marvin Lewis' head, but he stayed on through the lockout. Is there any hope of a surprise playoff run in store for the Queen City this year?

What's new: Well, it all starts in Cincy with those players that aren't there anymore. Carson Palmer refuses to show up at camp and says he will retire instead of playing with the Bengals, Chad Ochocinco was traded to New England, and they lost their best corner to Houston in Jonathan Joseph. So what did they do to replace these losses? In terms of the QB position, they added Andy Dalton through the draft and Bruce Gradkowski through free agency. While Gradkowski will likely start the year under center, expect to see Andy Dalton soon after unless Gradkowski truly shines. At the WR position, the Bengals added a dynamite receiver in rookie A.J Green from Georgia. He should be able to give the Bengals the deep threat they lost in Ochocinco, but the question remains whether they have the QB to get the ball down the field. And at corner, they replaced the departed Jonathan Joseph with Nate Clements, who never lived up to the potential that San Francisco hoped he would. Some other new pieces that arrived via free agency are OLB's Manny Lawson and Thomas Howard, guard Max-Jean Gillies, and Tight End Bo Scaife.

Biggest Strength: They were not very healthy on defense last year, but they will get many of the injured players back, and when the whole crew is combined it is not a horrible defense. They have a decent front 4, linebacking corps, and secondary. None of these units will blow you away with amazing talent but nevertheless is a combined very decent group. Offensively, the Bengals still have Cedric Benson, who can be a very good running back at times.

Biggest Weakness: They don't have much on offense. Aside from A.J Green, the wideout corps is very thin, and Jermaine Gresham is still unproven. The offensive line is also a sore spot, with another relatively unproven group. And, this is a QB driven league, and Bruce Gradkowski while sometimes having good moments is not the QB of the future. That, is Andy Dalton's title, and it remains to be seen whether he can take it. If not, another situation like the one in Carolina could arise, especially if they get the 1st overall pick in next year's draft.

Outlook: Well, in the most optimistic world, a great year by everyone on the team could get them a near .500 finish, but playing in the AFC North and with a tough schedule, it is hard to see the Bengals winning more than 6 games this year. There is some talent there, but there is not enough of it to make the Bengals a contender. Marvin Lewis' seat is already very hot, and it may get even hotter, very quickly.

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