I wonder... about the Bengals season

...how much we're going to welcome back Chris Henry -- and how much grief you're going to give me for supporting Henry.

I've heard overwhelming support that Tab Perry will be a suitable replacement for Chris Henry -- most of the talk coming before preseason game #1. Here's the word I forgot to mention. Permanently. How is this possible, you say. Well, most people are mostly using their 40-time -- one of the most meaningless statistics -- during combines over two years ago. Consider for a moment that Tab Perry, in 18 regular season games, has nine career receptions for 102 yards receiving. Also consider that 22% of Henry's total receptions result in touchdowns. Compare preseason numbers. Knowing he'd have the upper-hand to capture that #3 spot, Perry caught only five passes for 37 yards receiving with no scores. For comparison sake, Henry ranked 6th in the NFL with 14 preseason receptions, 4th in the NFL with 195 yards receiving with two scores. I support Perry as much as the next guy. But to say he's a permanent replacement to Chris Henry is just mad-crazy guy talk.

Tab Perry had one of the best kickoff returning single-seasons in franchise history (64 returns for 1,562 yards) in 2005. He could be the best kickoff returner since Lemar Parrish that this team has ever seen. But I don't think this team can replace a receiver with Henry's caliber and touchdown percentage. Chance? OK, I should hold judgment until we see him as the #3 receiver. See, I'm reasonable. For now.

...if Chris Perry will make a difference returning from PUP.

I'm not going to recap the struggles Chris Perry has fought against the Dark Lord of the Injured. It's documented enough times that if you google his name, 93% (totally made that up) of the total 2.6 million returns are related to injury. The question now is, what difference will he make when he returns?

First off, let's address the 600-pound "if" sitting in the middle of the room. If Perry comes back healthy, he could generate that spark he charged in 2005. A big threat out of the backfield and a guy that gives Rudi Johnson ample time to rest could completely skyrocket this offenses' potential. Look at it this way, only one other player on the entire team touched the football more than Chris Perry (112 touches) in 2005 -- Rudi Johnson, 360 touches.

You have to worry about something else. Rudi Johnson, for the past three seasons, has averaged 346 rush attempts. There will be a day, I believe soon, that his production will quickly drop like so many great running backs. Even some now wonder if we saw that in 2006. But I say we do our best to expand the potency of his career.

You almost get giddy thinking about a lineup with Chris Henry and Chris Perry on the field, at the same time.

...about Daniel Coats.

Yea, me too. I don't expect him to reach the level of Antonio Gates or Tony Gonzalez. Coats has the tools to be a great fit within the Bengals offense -- three receivers and a blocking tight end. If I were to put on my Nostradamus mask for a moment, he'd be the most natural heir to replace Reggie Kelly -- the best blocking tight end in the NFL and a classy guy.

...if you're worried as I am about the linebackers.

OK, we have our usual suspects -- Landon Johnson, Caleb Miller. Rashad Jeanty will miss the start of the season. Ahmad Brooks was, well, blah, at middle linebacker -- but may have found a home rushing the quarterback at the ends. Lemar Marshall could be good -- six tackles against Indy in preseason game #4. Andre Frazier had moments, but the bulk of his playing time will likely be on Special Teams. I honestly know little of Anthony Schlegel's NFL career -- but I do know he didn't play much on defense.

So, yea, to be a little worried about the linebackers would be justified. It will put more pressure on the defensive front to carry over their tremendous preseason effort (both run defense and pass rush) and the secondary to actually stop a pass.

...about the ups and downs about defensive units.

The linebackers aside, I think aspects of this defense has a high ceiling of potential. The secondary has two first round picks (Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph), a 2005 Pro Bowl 10-interception performer (Deltha O'Neal), two second round picks (Madieu Williams and Keiwan Ratliff) and a former Super Bowl MVP (Dexter Jackson). The talent is there. The results must follow or this pass defense will be as horrific as they were in 2006. And you didn't get the feeling that much was going to change during the preseason. (Yes, I know, a chance). God, did I just make a mention of "paper champions".

If preseason games are much in the way of forecasting, the defensive front could be this year's best unit on defense. The Bengals finished the preseason with the best rush defense in the NFL -- allowing 71.2 yards per game. The longest rush allowed went 16 yards (t-2nd best) and the defense forced five fumbles (3rd best). They allowed only 3.1 yards per rush (3rd best). The pass rush sacked the quarterback 13 times -- ranked 4th in the NFL.

On to the Down.

The Bengals pass defense allowed a league worst 304.0 yards passing per game. The 66 first down conversions against the past ranked second worst allowing 64.3% of all passes to be completed. The pass defense allowed 17 plays to go 20 yards or more (worst in the NFL). (sigh) You get the point. Rush defense, good. Pass rush, good. Pass defense, bad.

...why I've rarely mentioned Carson, Chad and T.J. lately.

Think of it this way. We all know that God exists so we don't need to always mention it.

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