Cincinnati Bengals Preseason: Why There's No Downside To Signing T.O.
It has now been almost a week since Terrell Owens signed up to be Shrek to Ochocinco’s Donkey, which should be enough time to have fully digested the new dynamic in the Queen City.
Yet, the only thing that it seems we’ve settled on is that we’re going to need to get a lot of popcorn ready because, if nothing else, this pairing is going to be entertaining.
So entertaining, in fact, that I’m hard-pressed to think of a more entertaining duo in the history of sports.
This is like putting Ron Artest and Dennis Rodman on the same roster.
But other than that fact, it seems like the jury is split 50-50 on whether such a gamble is a good thing for the Bengals.
A lot of pundits (mostly the traditionalists) worry about the explosive mixture that has been created with T.O.’s signing.
Are there going to be enough balls to go around?
What happens the first time one of these divas is unhappy?
Which T.O. is going to show up anyway—the 81-catch, 15-TD version we saw in Dallas three seasons ago or the 55-catch, 5-TD edition we got last year in Buffalo?
Poor Carson Palmer, right?
Ultimately, however, there was no good reason for the Bengals not to bring in T.O.
Sure, both receivers have personalities bigger than Terrence Cody, but despite their look-at-me neuroses, it remains true that the problems they present for a team could be much worse.
We aren’t talking about Plaxico Burress or Santonio Holmes here.
Both Ochocinco and Owens will work harder than anyone else, every day. Maybe when they don’t get a reward for that work (in the form of passes thrown in their direction) they get upset and act like petulant children, but it isn’t the worst issue for a team to deal with.
And what’s more is these two will push each other to get better and perform brighter.
However, the one thing that seems to have gone unmentioned over the last five days is the fact that T.O. and Ochocinco are going to be a nightmare to match up against.
Neither has game-changing speed any longer, but both are savvy, smart receivers that run good routes and read defenses expertly.
Add to that the fact that the team brought in Antonio Bryant, who is just one season removed from an 80-catch, 1,200-yard campaign in Tampa, and drafted Jermaine Gresham, a seam-stretching tight end, as well as Dezmon Briscoe, who is a poor man’s Dez Bryant, and Jordan Shipley, who could be a Wes Welker clone.
In short, the team is loaded on the perimeter—Carson Palmer has never had such riches to throw to.
Just think, when Palmer was gifted with a solid running game with Rudi Johnson and good weapons (i.e. Ochocinco and T.J. Whosyourmomma), he looked like mini-Peyton.
Now, he’s got even more.
On the field, frankly, there are only two questions for this team.
First, is Cedric Benson going to repeat his out-of-nowhere revival of 2009?
And related to that, do the Bengals have anyone to step up and take some of the backfield burden off of Benson.
No offense to Brian Leonard and Bernard Scott, but if that’s all Cincinnati has behind Benson, that is a recipe for disaster.
Benson had over 300 carries a year ago which means he needs a greatly diminished role to duplicate the production of last season.
In my mind, Brian Westbrook would be the ideal here.
As a third-down back, he could save himself some wear-and-tear, but at the same time provide the type of dynamic replacement that would complement Benson perfectly.
Either way, though, the team must make sure the running game is primed for success because if it is even 75 percent of what it was last year, it will demand just enough defensive attention to unleash those weapons on the outside.
The second question is on the other side of the ball.
Cincy’s D surprisingly finished fourth in the NFL in total defense, and that was without Antwan Odom’s pressure for the final 10 games.
With Odom back and game-changing linebackers like Keith Rivers and Rey Maualuga healthy, older and wiser, they should be even better.
If they are, the Bengals are automatically the favorites in the AFC North, which is no small claim.
But the point here is that Cincinnati was not in rebuilding mode, nor were they in a position to compete for a Super Bowl.
Could the T.O. experiment blow up in their face?
Of course, but with a strong head coach that can control Owens and a quarterback that won’t take his nonsense, it is unlikely.
Even if does, though, at least they tried.
This is a move that puts pressure—good pressure—on everyone on the roster. It is a declaration that this season is a win-or-bust year in the Queen City.
It could be good or it could be bad, but it was a move that is unassailable for what it brings to a term on the verge of great things.
And however it works out, we’re going to need a lot of popcorn and Chapstick.
In the end, Ochocinco and Ochouno might not be kissing the baby, but kissing the Lombardi.
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