The Cincinnati Bengals went into last season thinking playoffs, because Carson Palmer was back and with a healthy leg. Four games into the season, Carson Palmer once again injured something, this time his throwing elbow, and the team once again was looking at a top-10 pick in the draft.
Ryan Fitzpatrick tried to fill in, but in a division with Pittsburgh and Baltimore, the Bengals could not compete. The team’s claim to fame was their tie with the Eagles, which benefited both teams; the Bengals end up with one less loss and the Eagles jump over Dallas and Tampa Bay into the sixth playoff spot.
The Bengals finished 4-11-1, praying Carson Palmer stays healthy next season.
Cedric Benson was signed late last year and showed some of the running skills the Bears expected when they drafted Benson with the fourth overall pick in 2005. Benson will fill a huge hole left open by the departure of Rudi Johnson early last season and the inability for Chris Perry to live up to his first-round status.
Along with the newly added running back Brian Leonard and the massive tackle Andre Smith drafted sixth overall, the Bengals hope for a double dose of power to lead the running game.
The Bengals signed wide receiver Laveranues Coles, who had been the No. 1 receiver for the Jets. The Bengals hope Coles can replace most of the numbers put up by now-Seahawk, T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
The Bengals signed safety Roy Williams and defensive tackle Tank Johnson. Roy Williams has lost much of his ability to cover effectively, but leadership and his ability to punish receivers will improve at a position that Dexter Jackson could not effectively control.
Tank Johnson is a pass-rushing tackle that can get 8-10 sacks when he is on his game. These additions, plus the drafting of linebacker Rey Maualuga, who was the hard-hitting leader of the dynamic Trojan defense, should greatly improve what was already the league’s 12th ranked defense.
Shayne Graham is still one of the most consistent kickers in the league and deserved the franchise tag placed on him for this year.
The Bengals lost both starting offensive tackles in Levi Jones and Stacey Andrews, lost the anchor to the offensive line in center Eric Ghiaciuc, and lost the team’s most consistent receiver in T.J. Houshmandzadeh, all pieces that Palmer will miss this upcoming season.
Once again, as is Bengals tradition, the team drafted Andre Smith and signed Roy Williams and Tank Johnson, all of whom have a history of off-the-field issues.
As of now, the Bengals have gambled and lost on players like receiver Chris Henry, who have many issues non-football related, but the Bengals think they will finally strike it rich with this batch.
The Bengals will be this season’s team for the hit HBO series “Hard Knocks”, which featured the Super Bowl favorite Dallas Cowboys last season.
The Cowboys did not even make it to the playoffs as they watched the Eagles leap-frog over them. This might be another version of the Madden curse.
Carson Palmer is a high-risk, high-reward No. 1 quarterback. If he stays healthy, he can be a top-five quarterback, but he has a history of injuries that should have people drafting him as a No. 2 fantasy quarterback.
Cedric Benson is geared for a breakout year with the return of Palmer. He has a downhill running style that should lead to double-digit touchdowns. But due to Palmer’s past, I would take him as a No. 3 back who could move into the No. 2 spot as the season goes on.
Chad Ocho Cinco has been working to get in shape and seems to want to play this season, so he is a solid No. 2 receiver.
The Bengals defense could turn out to be a top-10 defense that produces many sacks, so if you feel you have a strong team, take a shot. The light schedule should also help the sacks increase.
Shayne Graham was a top kicker last year with Fitzpatrick, so a healthy Carson Palmer should give a healthy boost to his numbers.
The sleeper is Coles, who will draw less attention because of Ocho Cinco and because he is not Housh. Coles was a No. 1 receiver in New York and has very good hands, so do not be surprised if he becomes Palmer’s favorite target over the season.
8-8, Third Place