The Cincinnati Bengals were a team that had Super Bowl aspirations at the beginning of the 2010 NFL season after coming off an AFC North division title. The Bengals not only missed the postseason, but their offense struggled despite the heralded four-some of Chad Ochocinco, Terrell Owens, Carson Palmer and Cedric Benson. Palmer threw a career high 586 pass attempts last year and tied his career high of 20 interceptions. Palmer struggled all year until Owens and Ochocinco were out of the line-up the last two weeks of the season. In those final two weeks, Palmer completed percent of his passes for just under 600 yards and 5 touchdowns. Bengals fans are hoping those final two weeks of the season were an indication that Palmer can still be an effective starter in the NFL.
The Bengals had the NFL’s 27th-ranked rushing attack and a 13th-ranked passing game. The team scored only 20.1 points per game. However, the passing game was not that much better than the rushing game, and the Bengals often found themselves throwing the ball to try to catch up late in games. This awful offensive production was often plagued by turnovers.
So far in the off-season, the Bengals have fired longtime offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski and hired Jay Gruden to guide their offense. Gruden has said, “We're not going to spread out and go no-huddle every down and throw the ball 65 times a game. I intend on pounding the ball and being able to pound the ball," leading many to believe the Bengals will not throw near as much in 2011.
Gruden may not plan to pass as much in 2011, but he is still a west coast offense guy, evidenced by this description of his offensive system that he made shortly after he was hired:
"A lot of quick throws involved in the West Coast offense," Gruden said. "Let the receivers do some work after the catch. The backs, tight ends catch the ball, run up field and make them miss and do things after the catch. It's very important to have very good receivers and obviously good tight ends and backs that can protect and run routes. Everybody has to play a major role."
Gruden will diversify the Bengals' passing attack by using more backs and tight ends and will rely on the running game to set up big plays off play-action fakes.
With Gruden’s new west coast offense the Bengals will need someone who can stretch the field and open up the middle for the tight ends and backs. Normally, that player would be Ochocinco, but after his most recent tift with Marvin Lewis I would not be surprised to see him moved.
For those of you that have lived in the dark the last few days Marvin Lewis recently was ask about Ochocinco’s MLS endeavor and had this to say: “What has he ever done that he’s completed? What circle has he connected in any way?”
To which Ochocino responded, “Marvin Lewis won’t say anything bad about Carson Palmer, stays kissing his (rear end), but disses Ochocinco daily. Carson Palmer has given a big F-U to Marvin Lewis, but Lewis steadily says how wonderful he is. Makes Lewis a hypocrite.”
Those comments between Lewis and Ochocinco, the decline in Ocho’s stats over the last few years, plus the one year worth $6 million left on his contract, might finally be enough for the Bengals to move on without Ochocino.
The Bengals success in the 2011 NFL Season will depend on whether Carson Palmer will play or retire, since Owner Mike Brown has refused to trade him. However, with Owens gone, and the likely departure of Ochocinco as well, Cincinnati figures to improve with addition by subtraction. I believe Palmer will be better without the poison of those two players around him, will decide to play in 2011 and will return to his Pro Bowl form of 2005 and 2006. In order for Palmer to do that he must have that threat on the outside to open up the field for everyone else.
Enter AJ Green.
At 6'4", 208 lbs, AJ Green has the ideal physical makeup and comes with an automatic height advantage over most NFL cornerbacks. Many scouts believe Green is one of the best wide receiver prospects to come into the NFL over the last decade. Few prospects have the talent and enough proven skills to make as much of an immediate impact on offense as Green. Though his performance at the NFL Scouting Combine was slightly overshadowed by fellow receiver Julio Jones, there isn’t a better offensive player set to be available in this year’s draft than Green.
Green finished his career at Georgia with 23 touchdown receptions among his 166 total catches for 2,619 yards. His touchdown total is the second most in school history, while he’s No. 3 in yardage. Considering he missed three games his sophomore year due to injury and four games his junior year due to suspension, those stats are pretty amazing. Green was able to dominate from start to finish and took advantage of every opportunity he was given to play.
Green’s frame is a bit thin and he could certainly use a few extra pounds of muscle. However, Green is able to use what he has to his advantage. Green consistently uses his long arms to defeat the jam at the line of scrimmage as well as extending his body to grab out of reach passes. Green has the ability out-leap any defender, giving him a huge advantage in the red zone.
In addition to being a bit thin and having a slower than expect 40 time at the NFL combine, Green also raised some flag with his Wonderlic Score. Green received 10 out of 50 on his Wonderlic test, stating afterwards that he focused too long on each question. I do not believe the Bengals will let this score effect their decision to draft Green. For comparison, Roddy White notched a 4 on his Wonderlic, and I don't think the Falcons regret drafting him.
The best aspect of Green's game as a wide receiver is that he's a natural hands catcher. It is a rarity to see Green use his body to make the catch. Green appears to have such strong hands on tape that he is able to snatch the ball out of the air with ease. Green is a complete package of a prospect with all of the physical tools and attributes to develop into a perennial Pro-Bowl wide receiver in the NFL.
Green would be a great corner piece to an offense with a ton of young stars at the major skill positions. Adding Green to a young offense with young players such as Bernard Scott, Jordan Shipley, and Jermaine Gresham would certainly be a good sign for the future of the Bengals offense, and would add another game breaker for teams to have to defend. A player like Green would really open up the middle of the field, and that would complement Shipley, Gresham, Scott, and Benson.