First off, I'll start by congratulating our Bengals. I doubt many people expected a Divisional title and it was one hell of a season.
Lets start off with the good-
-We finally have a solid base to build around on defense. This is the primary reason that we shouldn't slump back down into 8-8 for the next few years. As long as we can keep Zimmer around (whether it be head coach or DC) we should have a defense that is consistently good enough to keep us in most games. With a good addition at safety in the off season we will go from a good defense to a great defense.
-Cedric Benson is the real deal. I had wondered for a while just how much of his success came from the push at the line, but after last night it's obvious.... the man can run.
-Chad can still play. I was worried after last season but he looks committed again. We should have a dominant Chad for another 3-4 seasons before he is really done.
-Brian Leonard is a beast. Need I say more?
-Carson Palmer became mobile. He looked like his former USC self rolling out of the pocket and making plays with his legs. I don't know what happened in the off season, but it's nice to see Carson actually avoiding a sack every now and then.
-JJ & Leon Hall.... what can I say? Amazing work. The first year I haven't completely seen JJ beat on the deep balls. He has really worked hard.
-Above anything else this year I'd have to rate our play calling on offense as my biggest disappointment. How many run-run-pass 3 and outs do you have to see before you realize it's just not working? As mediocre as Carson looked all season it's amazing how many 3rd & 10+ 15+ situations he was able to convert. That being said, you can't live on third and long and we did for far too long.
-Carson Palmer. Let me start by saying CP9 is my favorite player not just on the Bengals but period. Ever. I just like the guy. He is humble, dedicated, and has (had?) amazing talent, but I can't excuse his play. At times he looked amazing (Chicago game, 4 quarter 2 min drill) sometimes good (Chargers & Baltimore) and sometimes just terrible (last 2 Jets games.... who was he even throwing it to?) Overall this season he looked... mediocre. He looked average. How much of it was on the lack of a competent receiving core? How much of it was on our terrible pass blocking? How much of it was CP9 himself? I just don't know and of all the things with the bengals this year it's the hardest for me to figure out.
The guy was just plain inconsistent. His accuracy was questionable most of the season, especially on the deep throw (his calling card), and he zeroed in on Chad far too much. He got back in the habit of throwing high (something he did a lot in 06' after the injury) and it's incredible that our guys made it through the season without being totally trashed up.
I think we need to get another QB coach in here. Carson needs to get back to working on the fundamentals. The guy is just too good to play like this, and I wish I knew the cause.
-We need a big play tight end. I was pretty happy to see Chase drafted and I couldn't wait to see him on the field. Obviously the kid isn't ready and I hope that next season we can see him on the field, but in the mean time why in God's name was Leonard not moved to tight end? We used him as a receiving back. The man can bock, the man can catch, he's deceptively quick for his size, and is a genuine play maker. Carson has never enjoyed the big tight end threat that other Qb's have and when you look at the elites (Manning, Brady, Rivers--I despise the man but the stats don't lie) they all have a big time tight end who has gaudy numbers. When he got in trouble they had several check down options, be it a back or a slot receiver or a tight end. Carson needed a mid range threat badly this year.
-We need a deeper receiving core. I was really psyched about Andre Caldwell half way through this season, but after the last 6 games or so I'm ready to be done with him. You HAVE to hold on the to ball son! How many drops did he have against the Jets alone in the last 2 games? Coles looked bad all season (then looked decent last night) and was not a replacement for TJH (oh, how we miss you TJ). Just how bad is Jerome Simpson? Coles has a bum thumb, and Caldwell is being helped off the field after every play last night and Simpson STILL doesn't get a shot to play. BUST...........! We HAVE to get another deep threat.. we miss you 15.
-Coaching was pretty bad all season long. Marvin, I like you, but just bad coaching on the O side of the ball. Botched time-outs, weird calls (I'm praying that the kickoff to start the 2nd half was a flubbed kick and not some.... well... I don't even know. I knew the game was over after that).
Well that was longer than I anticipated it being.
So what do I hope to see next year?
I want us to have another good draft. I feel like we drafted pretty well this year and I want to see more of the same. I want players drafted that can make immediate impacts... enough with drafting prospects who may or may not have it all.
If Coffman can play, and we add another deep threat receiver next year, I think you will see the old CP9 return under center (at least I hope so.... still have faith in you Carson).
Surround Carson with some more pass blocking. If he has time for more 5 step drops, our passing game will take off again.
If nothing else though... please keep Zimmer. Don't be cheap Mike... pay the man and keep him around otherwise it may be another 4 years until we have a winning team again.