Cincinatti Bengals problems continue to grow during off-season

Terry TravisContributor IIFebruary 2, 2011

Marvin Lewis was left scratching his head many times this past year.
Marvin Lewis was left scratching his head many times this past year.Larry French/Getty Images

It goes without saying that the 2010 season is nothing short of a year that all Bengals' fans are hoping to forget.

The Bengals, having won the AFC North a year ago, were a favorite to repeat this season as divisional champions, especially with the Steelers' losing star QB Ben Roethlisberger and the Ravens' defense only getting older. Ultimately, it was the Steelers and Ravens that would find themselves sitting atop of the pack when the regular season ended, and the Bengals left to ask: What happened over the past year? How was such a disappointment possible?

Reason No. 1—Injuries, injuries, and more injuries.

By years' end, the Bengals had lost Terrell Owens, Tank Johnson, Antwan Odom, Chinedum Ndukwe, Andre Smith, and 15 other contributors on both sides of the football. Too many injuries on the defensive line and secondary caused the Bengals to find fill-ins on a week-to-week basis. Cincinnati ranked ninth in points per game allowed in 2010, and there is certainly a big question facing Marvin Lewis regarding the durability of his defense. These positions are sure to be addressed in the draft, and most likely in the early rounds.

Reason No. 2—Carson Palmer's struggles 

Here is one of the biggest reasons for the Bengals' plight: the best player on your team and the person the team is built around is not happy, and has even spoke out demanding a trade. Palmer was surrounded with a plethora of talent in 2010, as the Bengals' brought in veteran star WR Terrell Owens to compliment the young, speedy Chad Ochocinco.

Cincinnati also drafted Sooner TE Jermaine Gresham who provided Palmer with a huge target and a solid blocker. Adding to Palmer's arsenal is veteran RB Cedric Benson who finished 2009 with a firm grip on the starting job and was impressive again in 2010. So what could have happened this past year for Palmer to struggle so mightily? Was it the addition of Owens that, in the end, hurt the Bengals offense?

Owens caught the eye of Palmer early in the season and often, and would finish the year the Bengals leader in receptions (72) and receiving yards (983) and Ochocinco would end the season with a career-low in both stats as a starter.

Palmer was once again healthy enough to make every start of the 2010 campaign, but is just tired of coming up short with the Bengals, and this season turned his attitude even more sour. Losing ten straight games this past season will only make Palmer resent his current situation even more over the long off-season.

Reason No. 3—Ready or not, Chad Ochocinco/Johnson must become the leader he has not been

And he will. Ochocinco is one of the greatest at his position that the game has to offer, but it is time for him to fully realize his role on the team, especially now that "franchise QB" Carson Palmer wants out and has threatened to retire in order to leave the Bengals behind. What a perfect time for the star receiver to step up and be the captain of a struggling defense.

Ochocinco only finished the season with 628 receiving yards, and has not cracked 1000 yards since the "Ocho-cinco" saga began by changing his legal name in 2008.

Earth to Ochocinco: It is time to get right the ship with head coach Marvin Lewis and begin the long road to recovery after this years' implosion. At the time of this writing, the wrestling organization Total Nonstop Action (TNA) Wrestling, had caught news of a twitter tweet by Ochocinco who had challenged his coach to a steel-cage match at TNA's April 17th pay-per-view, called "Lockdown!".

Instead of hitting the ring with Lewis, or coming up with a new last name for this season, Ochocinco needs to hit the film room, and work on finding out what he needs to do in order to return to being the receiving threat the Bengals so desperately need. Even more than that, he first needs to discover what he has to do in order to be the leader the Bengals are without.