8 Reasons Cincinnati Bengals Are the Most Dangerous Team in the AFC
After a surprise season a year ago that saw Cincinnati accumulate a 9-7 record and a playoff berth with a rookie quarterback at the helm, the Bengals built on that success by having a stellar offseason.
The 2012 NFL free-agency period and the 2012 NFL draft were extremely kind to the Bengals as the front office was able to fill the majority of the needs on the roster while also stacking the depth chart at each position with quality depth.
Thanks to these offseason acquisitions and the continuing development of one of the youngest teams in the league, the Bengals are could quite possibly challenge for the AFC crown.
Here are eight reasons the Cincinnati Bengals are the most dangerous team in the AFC:
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Playoff experience is invaluable, especially for a team like the Cincinnati Bengals. The roster is one of the youngest in the league but knows exactly what it takes to reach the postseason.
The Bengals were beat thoroughly by the Houston Texans in that playoff game, but experience in the postseason atmosphere is something that's critically important for everyone on the roster but especially for second-year players Andy Dalton and A.J. Green.
The Bengals haven’t won a playoff game in 22 years. Thanks to last year’s experience, that embarrassing stat could finally be put to rest.
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The Cincinnati Bengals’ depth chart is littered with quality players behind the starter at almost every position.
A prime example of this would be the defensive line. There are four quality starters in place but outstanding rotational players such as Michael Johnson, Jamaal Anderson, Devon Still, Brandon Thompson and Pat Sims.
Another good example would be last year’s paper-thin position cornerback. Behind Leon Hall, the Bengals now have Dre Kirkpatrick, Jason Allen, Terence Newman, Nate Clements and Adam Jones.
The only position that would take a massive hit if the starter went down would be the quarterback position. Outside of that, the Bengals are appearing to be one of the deepest teams in the league.
Stellar Draft Class
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The Cincinnati Bengals had arguably the best draft class of any team in the NFL this past April. They landed a top cornerback in the first round with Dre Kirkpatrick, and a few picks later, landed a top guard in Kevin Zeitler. Both players could start immediately.
The first round was nice, but what followed was even better. In the second round, the Bengals selected Devon Still—a defensive tackle who was projected as a first-round pick. In the third, Cincinnati found receiver Mohamed Sanu and defensive tackle Brandon Thompson—two players who were projected as second-round picks.
In the fourth round, the Bengals possibly found the steal of the draft with tight end Orson Charles—a first-round talent who saw his stock take a massive hit thanks to a DUI arrest.
The Bengals ability to find outstanding quality with each pick allowed them to fill needs with talented players that could contribute right away. When a team builds correctly through the draft, they quickly become championship material.
If the Bengals’ 2012 draft class is any indication, Cincinnati is well on its way.
Return of Leon Hall
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Leon Hall is a top-15 cornerback in the NFL. He’s elite at shutting down most receivers in the league thanks to his athleticism and ball skills, and he is also very aggressive in the run game.
Unfortunately for Hall and the Cincinnati Bengals, he tore his Achilles tendon in the ninth game of the season and missed the rest of the year.
In a testament to defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer’s outstanding ability to get the most out of his players, the Bengals still finished the season with an elite defensive unit that ranked in the top ten in all statistical categories.
The return of Hall will only make the Bengals better. He’s a veteran presence and the captain of the defense. Hall will likely start the season on the PUP list, but when he returns, he will give the team a much-needed boost.
Jay Gruden Will Open Up West Coast Offense
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Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden kept the playbook simple last season with Andy Dalton being a rookie quarterback with a shortened amount of time to learn thanks to a lockout.
With a full offseason of preparation ahead, Gruden will be able to open up the playbook in a big way. Gruden’s West Coast offense is perfectly suited for a passer like Dalton who excels at throwing short and intermediate routes.
A running back by committee approach will be able to wear opposing defenses down throughout the course of a game. Add in the fact each back excels at catching passes and the Bengals have an extremely dangers offense.
Gruden did an outstanding job last season considering what he had to work with. Now, he has one of the most talented offensive rosters at his fingertips, and it’s exciting to see what he is going to be able to do with it.
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Former New England Patriot’s running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis signed with the Cincinnati Bengals in free agency this offseason. He’s a huge upgrade over last year’s starting back in Cincinnati—Cedric Benson.
For starters, Green-Ellis has never fumbled in his four-year career; Benson fumbled five times last year alone and 15 times in four seasons with Cincinnati. Green-Ellis is also four years younger and has played with a winning organization in New England.
The most important difference is Green-Ellis perfectly suits the West Coast offense the Bengals utilize. He’s a much better pass-catcher out of the backfield when compared to Benson, and that’s a major requirement of running backs in this type of offense.
Green-Ellis was the upgrade the Bengals needed. He’ll be part of a rotation but see more carries than the other backs on the roster. He’ll be a main cog in the Bengals potentially pushing for a divisional crown.
Progression of Andy Dalton and A.J. Green
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Quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green both had jaw-dropping rookie seasons last year for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Dalton looked like a veteran in the league’s toughest divisions by throwing for 3,398 yards, 20 touchdowns and only 13 interceptions. He finished with a stellar 80.4 rating.
Green had an even better season catching 65 passes for 1,057 yards and seven touchdowns. He averaged 16 yards per catch as the focal point of the Bengals passing attack.
Dalton to Green is quickly becoming one of the more formidable connections in the league. As the roster around them only becomes better, there’s no reason to believe either won’t do anything but progress in a positive manner next season.
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Despite making the playoffs a year ago, the Cincinnati Bengals are still flying a bit under-the-radar—and rightfully so.
The Bengals only finished 9-7 last year and only beat one team with a winning record—the Tennessee Titans. They went a miserable 2-4 in the AFC North, with the two victories coming against the laughably bad Cleveland Browns who finished their season with a 4-12 mark.
Add in the fact that the Bengals had one of the easiest schedules in the league last year and it’s easy to see why no one is taking them seriously just yet. The Bengals franchise hasn’t had back-to-back winning seasons since 1975-76, unless you count finishing at the .500 mark.
Still, the Bengals have made the playoffs in two of the last three seasons and are a team on the rise. They have all the right pieces in place, now they simply must execute properly, and they’ll be competing for a divisional crown and much more in 2012.