Last year I wrote that the Cincinnati Bengals could be a surprise team to make the playoffs. Needless to say, I was wrong.
I’m going to stick with the same prediction and I think this year I may be right.
The Bengals had a brutal schedule last season. This season their schedule is a little easier so that already puts them off to a good start. Additionally, their off-season to this point has been very productive.
The loss of TJ Houshmandzadeh is big, but Laveranues Coles will help fill that gap somewhat. The signing of two former cowboys, Roy Williams and Tank Johnson, will help make the defense even stronger than it was last year. The Bengals cut long-time Bengal Levi Jones. The move shouldn’t have an effect on the offensive line, as the sixth pick in the draft, Andre Smith, should easily fill the void.
The Bengals roster potentially got stronger with a very good draft.
Smith, problems aside, will most likely be starter at LT and has the potential to one day be a star in the league. The teams’ second round pick Rey Maualuga seems to have experts split down the middle. Some think he simply isn’t a four down linebacker, while some think it was a great pick.
While I don’t claim to be an expert, I agree with the latter. Maualuga potentially gives the Bengals the type of defensive player they haven’t had since David Fulcher. He is the type of linebacker that running backs and receivers going across the middle fear. Odell Thurman could have been that linebacker if not for his off-field problems.
The rest of the draft for the Bengals was solid. Third round pick Michael Johnson from Georgia Tech could be a big help for the defense and could end up being a surprise player for the Bengals. Their other third rounder, Chase Coffman, could be the biggest surprise of them all. With Ben Utech being injured all last year and not producing like they thought he could, Coffman could come in and assume the pass-catching tight end role. Don’t discount punter Kevin Huber from the University of Cincinnati. The Bengals cut both punters from their roster when they drafted Huber.
So how will the Bengals ’09-’10 season play out?
It’s no secret; it all comes down to protection.
If Smith can develop quickly and the rest of the line can protect Palmer, then this once high flying offense could be back. Cedric Benson will look to prove why he is a former number four overall pick in the draft.
All of Bengal Nation is hoping Chad Ocho-Cinco returns to form. If these things happen offensively and the defense stays as strong as it was last year or even gets better, this Bengal team will be prowling into the postseason.
But, if the Bengals can’t put it together this year, then who knows if they ever will.
One last prediction, if the Bengals don’t make the playoffs, Marvin Lewis will be looking for a new job.
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