The Most Positive Developments of the Cincinnati Bengals Offseason
The Cincinnati Bengals ushered in a new era in the Queen City in 2011 by replacing Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson with Andy Dalton and A.J. Green.
With an unexpected playoff berth following shortly after, there is a renewed confidence in Marvin Lewis and with it great expectations.
The Bengals put together another solid draft earlier this year, and with some smart moves in free agency it would seem Mike Brown's new approach to ownership is going from strength to strength.
Here we take a look at the most positive developments of the Cincinnati Bengals offseason thus far.
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The acquisition of former Wisconsin Badger Kevin Zeitler is perhaps one of the Cincinnati Bengals' best offseason moves.
A day one starter in place of Bobbie Williams and a dramatic improvement over the departing Mike McGlynn, Zeitler has an opportunity to create a formidable duo with improving right tackle Andre Smith.
The Bengals struggled to provide much of anything in the way of run blocking for Cedric Benson in 2011, an area where Zeitler excels.
Let's not forget that not only did the Bengals select Zeitler with the pick they traded Carson Palmer for, they also traded down from No. 21 to No. 27 to get him.
The Bengals will be hoping that Zeitler becomes a mainstay on the offensive line for at least the next four years, with early signs suggesting that he's up to the challenge.
Also worth a mention is the significant upgrade that the departure of Nate Livings and the signing of the Travelle Wharton brings to the left guard spot.
A Cornerback Stockpile
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The Bengals' troubles in the secondary became painfully clear in the the wild-card loss to Houston in which Adam Jones' ineptitude and Nate Clements' age became painfully apparent.
However, while Clements may have lost speed he remains one of the strongest corners on the Bengals roster, and the likely starter opposite Hall in 2012.
The addition of Terence Newman, Jason Allen and first round pick Dre Kirkpatrick give the Bengals an eclectic mix of youth, explosiveness, consistency and veteran poise in the secondary.
There's no certainty that both Newman and Allen make it through camp but if they do, it gives the Bengals confidence inspiring depth at corner.
Jones is likely to factor in the return game whilst battling Kirkpatrick for the nickel role. This will leave Allen and Newman to back up Clements and Hall, in what is a serious improvement on last year's depth chart.
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Mike Zimmer and Jay Gruden have been widely praised during their time in Cincinnati and with one if not both likely to move on or move up the ladder in 2013, it seems the Bengals are already making contingency plans.
One particularly impressive hire came via the return of Hue Jackson. The former Raiders HC had his time in Bay Area cut short thanks to a franchise overhaul in the wake of Al Davis' passing, but not before he unknowingly helped out his future team with "the greatest trade in football."
Joining the Bengals as an assistant in 2012, Jackson will be a strong presence on the training field and on the sidelines.
Marvin Lewis and Jackson have a solid rapport and it will be interesting to see what the latter has learned in his time away from Cincinnati. If Lewis' comments are anything to go by, it seems Jackson will play a big role in his return to Bengaldom:
"I relied on Hue greatly when he was with us, and his success overall in the NFL, including being selected for a head coaching position, is well documented," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. "He has expertise in all aspects of the game, and we are fortunate to have obtained his services."
Signing UDFA Vontaze Burfict
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Once upon a time Vontaze Burfict was touted as a first-round pick. Several PR disasters later and Burfict found himself not only tumbling out of the first round, but tumbling out of the draft itself.
The Bengals had visited with Burfict prior to the draft and seemed genuinely interested, so it came as no surprise that the team to pick him up as an UDFA was Cincinnati.
Burfict has a boatload of potential and the Bengals risk nothing in giving him a chance. It's a big win for the team, with the only loser being Rey Maualuga who could start to feel his seat warming up if he doesn't improve in 2012 and Burfict continues to generate the excitement that he is.
Early reports have been positive with Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com commending Burfict's performance at OTA's:
"Burfict impressed the coaching staff in OTAs by quickly figuring out the playbook and where to line up. For a player riddled with questions about his discipline (among other things), Burfict is off to a good start in his long-shot quest to crack Cincinnati's 53."
The Departure of Cedric Benson
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There's no denying that during the Cincinnati Bengals' AFC North topping 2009 season, Cedric Benson was a joy to watch.
Two years later and a very different picture began to emerge. With an evolving offensive philosophy Benson saw his role minimized and his game suffered because of it.
While the blame rests somewhat with a ropey offensive line, Benson's play was both inconsistent and unimpressive towards the end, with his five fumbles in 2011 coinciding with crucial moments and often costing the Bengals games.
Symbolically Benson will always be tied to the Carson Palmer era. Appearing to be the last of the old guard in 2011, Benson was largely left out of game plans, a clear sign that he didn't factor into Jay Gruden's long term plans.
While his departure is bittersweet, he's making way for a man who is perfectly suited for the retooled offense. BenJarvus Green Ellis brings with him 510 carries, zero fumbles and a good attitude. Having been used to playing second-fiddle to the Tom Brady-Rob Gronkowski show, Green Ellis will be more than suited to playing a role in A.J. Green's Bengals offense.
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If the Bengals are hoping to follow in the footsteps of New England's Aaron Hernandez/Rob Gronkowski combo they made the right choice in drafting Orson Charles.
Charles hauled in 45 passes for 574 yards and five touchdowns in 2011, proving that he has sure hands and playmaking ability inside the redzone. The former Georgia Bulldog is of a similar size to Jermaine Gresham with great strength and a superior blocking ability. Together the two could make a formidable pairing.
With Gresham and A.J. Green likely to be the focus of opposing defenses, Charles will have an opportunity to make an impression in 2012.
The only thing holding him back is the plethora of talent the Bengals have at receiver, with Marvin Jones, Mo Sanu, Ryan Whalen and Andrew Hawkins all hoping to establish a role in the offense.
We may not see Charles become a veritable threat until 2013, as the offense is still in the process of establishing its main players and there is only so much Jay Gruden can install in a year.
However, Charles has too much talent to sit on the sidelines for long, and its only a matter of time until we see him contributing.