The Bengals have one of their best teams in a long time. They look strong in many areas this season, particularly at cornerback and linebacker.
The Bengals can't be strong everywhere, though. They have some question marks that need to be worked out.
Here are 10 concerns going into training camp for the 2010 Bengals.
We now know that Bengals running back Cedric Benson was arrested for an alleged May 30 assault in Austin, Texas. Benson is a key component of the Bengals offense and a top five back in the league. If Benson is found guilty, he could be suspended for four games. The suspension could kick in at the start of the season. The good news is that the NFL doesn't think much of the incident now.
The Bengals must now hope that Bernard Scott can step up like he did last season. He showed some flashes of being a quality NFL back but wore down at times. Brian Leonard is a nice third-down back but that is about it. They also have Cedric Peerman but he is unproven. The free agent list is thin but includes Justin Fargas and Lendale White. Those two have had success in the NFL.
The timing of this isn't good for the Bengals.
Last season, Palmer threw for 3,094 yards with a 60.5 percent completion rate, 21 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions, and had a quarterback rating of 83.6. He battled a thumb injury for most of the season and his receivers had problems catching the ball.
He also was erratic with his throws. Some games, he was either throwing too high, too low, or both. Still, here are Palmer's completion percentages for his career (excluding 2008).
2004: 60.9 percent
2005: 67.8 percent
2006: 62.3 percent
2007: 64.9 percent
2009: 60.5 percent
Every year, his percentage is above 60. However, a closer look at 2009 reveals that he had a good start but tailed off at the end. In the first eight games, he completed 62 percent of his passes for 1,832 yards, 14 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. In the final eight games, he completed only 59 percent of his passes for 1,262 yards, seven scores, and six interceptions. Of course, one of those final eight was the dreadful game against the Jets.
With a healthy thumb to sell play-action, the possibility of two pass-catching tight ends, and five wide receivers that can catch and make plays, Palmer
should be in position for another good year.
Last season, the Bengals' kicker was Shayne Graham, who was one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history. However, in 2009, he only made 82.1 percent of his field goals, which ranked 20th in the NFL. He also had problems making kicks under pressure.
Now, the Bengals have kickers Mike Nugent and Dave Rayner in camp competing to replace Graham. Both kickers have looked good so far.
Nugent appears to be back on top of his game. He hit every field goal (including one from 54 yards) in camp and showed a little more distance on his kickoffs than Rayner. In 2006, Nugent hit 88.9 percent of his field goals, which was tied for seventh in the league. He followed that year up by hitting 80.6 percent of his field goals in 2007. He hasn't kicked much since due to injuries.
Rayner is not giving the job up easily. He only missed one kick in camp. In Rayner's only full season back in 2007, he made 74.3 percent of his field goals.
Nugent has the edge now, but the point is to put the ball through the uprights and both kickers are doing that now—even if they were all uncontested. Neither of these guys have a long track record of success kicking in the NFL.
In 2009, the pass rush was the weakest part of the Bengals' defense. They have addressed the issue in the draft by picking Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins.
Last year, the Bengals' 34 sacks ranked 16th in the NFL. Antawn Odom had eight of those, and he is recovering from a serious Achilles injury. Take away Odom's eight sacks and their sack number is pitiful.
Someone like Michael Johnson will have to step up big to improve that number. Dunlap is capable of earning plenty of playing time early in the season and may help them get after the quarterback more.
Andre Smith still has a bad foot to go along with the other concerns about his work ethic and maturity. There is no reason to believe he will play 16 games at right tackle.
Last year, Smith wasn't on the field for most of the season because of a contract holdout and a broken foot. When he did make it on the field, he showed that he will be a quality NFL run blocker, but there is work to be done on pass blocking.
For Smith to claim the starting right tackle job when the season rolls around, he will need to be ready for training camp and get as much work in as possible.
In 2009, before the first play of the regular season, the Bengals lost both of their starting tight ends.
This year, the three tight ends figure to be Jermaine Gresham, Chase Coffman, and Reggie Kellly.
By all accounts, rookie Gresham is a stud but he is still just a rookie. He also may delay his development with a holdout like Andre Smith did last year. Gresham may turn into the next Kellen Winslow, but that is unlikely to happen in 2010.
Coffman may play a lot if he can learn the position. In 2009, Coffman was unable to get on the field due to poor blocking skills and an ankle injury.
Then you have Reggie Kelly. Kelly is back but he will have a lot of rust to shake off before being productive. He may not even be 100 percent by September. Kelly is a great leader and will be a mentor for both the young tight ends, but an unhealthy Kelly is not going to help much beyond that.
If all goes well, Gresham and Coffman present match up problems for linebackers which could end up giving Chad Ochocinco and/or Antonio Bryant single coverage. They have a long way to go to get there, though.
The Bengals are said to be revamping the entire passing game. They have some new faces in Antonio Bryant and Jordan Shipley.
In 2009, Palmer had nobody aside from Ochocinco who could reliably catch the ball. Ochocinco is another year older and devotes a lot of time to promoting his image. Antonio Bryant should be better than Laveranues Coles, but he has knee problems. Shipley may be a huge factor but rookie receivers can't be relied upon. Andre Caldwell disappeared in the second half of the season.
In the end, all of these guys, with the possible exception of Ochocinco, are question marks.
As the roster sits now, the two fullbacks on the Bengal's roster are Joe Tronzo and Fui Vakapuna. These guys have never played a down in the NFL.
With last year's starter Jeremi Johnson unsigned in free agency, the Bengals appear to be planning to make Fui Vakapuna as the team's primary fullback.
Vakapuna was one of the final cuts in 2009 and was signed onto Arizona's practice squad. The Bengals got Vakapuna back when they signed him off the Cardinals practice squad, but he was listed as inactive the rest of the season.
Tronzo is a rookie from Louisville. There he was primarily a blocking back but also played special teams.
They could also resign Johnson or another veteran, bu,t, for now, they will line up with an inexperienced fullback.
The Bengals need better coverage from their safeties in 2010. This year, the Bengals will face the top quarterbacks in the NFL.
Chinedum Ndukwe is a good player and the early reports are saying that he is much better. Some think he and Chris Crocker are underrated and make up a solid secondary. Roy Williams will play the role of enforcer if he can stay healthy. Gibril Wilson seems pretty solid. Brandon Ghee may also end up playing a little free safety.
None of these guys are playmakers, though. The Bengals just don't have a ball-hawking coverage free safety with a nose for the ball, leadership skills, and experience.
Last year, the offense had injuries on the offensive line, wide receiver issues, and a quarterback with a bad thumb. To overcome these problems, they became a run-only team. The opposing teams seemingly knew what was coming, but they were still ninth in the NFL in rushing. That formula does not work when you are down a couple scores. They found this out in the playoff game against the Jets.
This year, Carson Palmer has been quoted saying that the playbook is going through major changes. If this is true, they will need a lot of work to get the kinks out.
What do you think the Bengals' concerns are? While thinking about that, check out these other Bengals articles:
This is a list of Bengal weaknesses.
Here are five things the Bengals should not do.
This article reviews the Bengals' minicamp.
This is a list of five reasons not to miss Shayne Graham.
This article gives five reasons why the Bengals should sign JaMarcus Russell.
This article reviews the top unrestricted free agent signings by the Bengals.
This article looks at Carson Palmer's career and why he hasn't gotten a playoff win.
This article gives five reasons why the Bengals signed Adam "Pacman" Jones.
This article asks some questions about the Bengals' draft.
This article wonders whether Marvin Lewis should be signed to an extension.
This article questions the Antonio Bryant signing.
This article debates the Matt Jones pickup.