Bengals = Cardinals? Not Quite
In a word: no.
The Cardinals and the Bengals have many things in common: a talented trio of receivers, a veteran Pro-Bowl quarterback, an underrated defense and a lack of a running game.
But the Cardinals also possessed one aspect the Bengals are missing: the big play.
The Bengals do not have the ability to stretch the field in the same way the Cardinals did because Cincinnati’s receiving corps of Chad Ocho Cinco, Laveranues Coles and Chris Henry are all at their best while executing short square-outs and over-the-middle patterns — especially with the advancing age of Ocho Cinco and Coles, both 31.
As a result, Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer will have to focus on getting the ball out quickly and accurately to the quick-developing routes.
This works to the Bengals’ advantage because there are questions about Palmer’s ability to throw the deep ball following a torn tendon in his throwing elbow in 2008.
Also, a reconstructed offensive line — which will feature rookie Andre Smith at right tackle and guard Andrew Whitworth shifting to the outside to cover Palmer’s blindside at left tackle — figures to provide less than the requisite five seconds for down-field opportunities to develop.
The Cardinals lived on such plays in 2008, utilizing big-play threats Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin to produce 54 plays over 20 yards through the air. The Bengals only had 21 such plays in ‘08.
Without the ability to stretch the field in a similar fashion, the Bengals’ offense will not have the same room to operate, thwarting the running game that offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski is determined to establish.
Further troubling a Bengals offense that was last in the NFL in total offense in 2008 is their schedule, pitting them against run-stopping stalwarts Baltimore and Pittsburgh twice a year in divisional rivalries. Also, the presence of the Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears and New York Jets — all top-10 run-stopping defenses in 2008 — will force the Bengals to rely more heavily on the pass.
Such a reliance will rob the Bengals of the play-action pass that was not only a staple of the 2008 Cardinal attack, but Palmer’s signature play before he missed the final 12 weeks last year with the elbow injury.
Despite their weaknesses, the 2009 Bengals may still appear on paper to be the closest to copying the 2008 Cardinals archetype.
However, in order to reach that level of success the Bengals will have to progress beyond their impotent offensive scheme and add some home run ability.
Without such big plays on the field, Bengal fans might want to wait before making their own bold move: purchasing plane tickets for Miami in February.
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