Terrell Owens, Chad Ochocinco, rookie Dezmon Briscoe, Reggie Kelly, Chase Coffman, rookie Jordan Shipley, and rookie Jermaine Gresham sounds like a threatening bunch of receivers and tight ends. This year's Cincinnati Bengals look like an offensive juggernaut. Carson Palmer has so many weapons at his disposal this season that there isn't anyway the Bengals don't score 25 points a game this year. Cedric Benson, Brian Leonard, and Bernard Scott should provide a balanced attack in the run game for Palmer's offense. In fact, the Bengals have been blasted for having a poor running attack, but I'll disagree.
Last season, Benson was very good at hitting holes and has seemingly grown up a little this off-season. The former Texas Long Horn ran for 1,251 yards, averaging 4.2 yards a carry last season. While six touchdowns is a low number, Benson should be there for sixteen games this season, upping his touchdown total. If the Bengals can get some help at the guard position, and the offensive line in general, which is incredibly weak there will be a sustained run into the post season.
Second year pro, Andre Smith is the real key to the offensive line growing as a unit. Last season the Bengals drafted Smith out of Alabama and he played in six games. Smith played Right Tackle, and looked like a rookie. If Smith can sustain the right side of the line, next to an average Right Guard, Palmer's back will be the only side he has to worry about. The Offensive Line is the #1 key to the Bengals success in the 2010 season.
Defensively, the Cincinnati Bengals are young, and extremely talented. Their Cornerbacks are the best group in the league. Leon Hall, Adam "Pacman" Jones, Johnathan Joseph, and David Jones as a four-some are spectacular. If Pacman Jones can behave himself, his talents as a defender are unmatched. Whether or not he behaves remains to be seen. From a Safety standpoint, the Bengals are loaded as well. Chris Crocker, Roy Williams, Gibril Wilson, and Chinedum Ndukwe are a fearsome four-some. The 2010 Bengals are a team you don't want to pass on.
For the last two years, on draft day I've begged for a USC defender for the Cleveland Browns. Two years ago I wanted the man who will lead the Bengals linebacking corps into the future for a long time to come, Ray Maualuga. He's a monster just waiting to explode similar to Ray Lewis exploding on the league the year the Ravens won the Super Bowl. Maualuga is a man possessed on the football field. This will be his break out season, guaranteed. Joining Maualuga is Abdul Hodge, Michael Johnson, Dhani Jones, Keith Rivers, and Roddrick Muckelroy. That's a solid group with a lot of youth. The linebackers will be forced to make a lot of tackles this season, due to issues on the Defensive Line. I expect big seasons out of Hodge, Rivers, and of course Maualuga. Maualuga has cleaned his act up off the field, and that's going to pay dividends for Bengals fans and the team itself.
Robert Geathers, Antwan Odom, and Frostee Rucker lead the defensive ends. There's not much depth to that group, but they are fairly good at getting to the opposing Quarterback. Up front, Tank Johnson, Domata Peko and Pat Sims are impressive but again outside of that there is no real depth. If an injury occurs there is going to be a lot of scrambling. Rookie defensive end, Carlos Dunlap will be an important cog in the depth chart if there is an injury to the ends. This group will need to step up huge if there is going to be a run deep into January.
Mike Nugent will battle Dave Rayner for the kicking duties. As great as Nugent was during his time at The Ohio State University, his professional career has not been anywhere near as lauded. He's battled injuries and now during the pre-season, Nugent will have to stay healthy to battle Rayner.
Anything less than the playoffs will be a disappointment in Cincinnati. The Bengals have talent everywhere but will have to battle depth issues throughout the season if there are injuries to the starters. Head Coach Marvin Lewis is a good leader and will have to control the egos of Ochocinco and Owens. Antonio Bryant was also signed to be the second wide receiver this season, and has already been replaced without playing a game. Bryant is injured, but his job now is aimed at being the third fiddle to Ochocinco and Owens. That might be too tough of a fact for Bryant to face and stay happy.
My season prediction for Cincinnati is 9-7, with wins over Carolina (Away), Tampa Bay, Atlanta (Away), Miami, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Cleveland, San Diego, and Baltimore (Away). This will be good enough for the final Wild Card spot, and second place in the AFC North. This is a team on the rise, especially with that young defense in place for years to come. If Owens keeps his ego in check, and catches the football this is a team that should not be taken lightly. In the toughest division in the league, The Cincinnati Bengals are ready to take the stage.