Is it time to start considering next season (providing there is a next season)?
Yes the Bengal’s are not mathematically out of the race for the post season, but I feel confident that a poll of this site would find most agreeing that the 2010 season is over. Well over at least in regards to the playoffs, so what should the Bengal’s do for the rest of the season?
I think it is time to think about the next season. At some point in a season when the playoffs are no longer a viable option it’s time to look to determine what changes are needed for next year. It is time to see how young players play in real games, and see what the team needs to address in the draft. The Bengal’s have a number of players that need to be judged in games to determine can they play in this league.
Dhani Jones has been a great player for the Bengal’s, but he is not the future of this team. Despite leading the team in tackles, Jones has typified this year’s defense; he’s been a step slow and emotionally flat. I hate doing it, but the Bengal’s have to slide either Rey Maualuga or Keith Rivers to the middle and see who will be the defensive quarterback for this team in the years to come. Rey Maualuga was a middle linebacker in college, but can he do it in the Pro's? Can he take over calling the defense? If you do move Rey Maualuga over does Michael Johnson get the start? Is Michael Johnson ready to start? If Maualuga and Johnson are not the answer, is Keith Rivers the answer as the middle linebacker? He was not a middle linebacker in college, but could he do it in the Pro's? If he moves over do the Bengal's start Brandon Johnson? Brandon Johnson is the best cover linebacker the team has, and I think all denizens of Cincy Jungle will agree that our linebackers’ coverage has left a lot to be desired.
What about the Defensive line? This has been just a complete mess this year. The decline in our defense this year can be completely laid at the feet of the defensive lines inability to put any pressure on opposing quarterbacks. I don't expect this to be fixed this year, I don't think inserting Carlos Dunlap or Michael Johnson into the starting line-up will suddenly inject a pass rush into this defense, but I do believe playing time can help them learn and improve for the next season. Is there any reason to give Antwan Odom extended minutes when he returns? What about Robert Geathers? Would it not be better to give more time to our younger players and see what they can do? For that matter I would not mind bringing up Clinton McDonald and see if he can play. He hustles in the preseason; let's see if it can carryover into the regular season.
Our secondary? Still the strength of this defense, and this team should bend over backwards to resign Johnathan Joseph, but as he is banged up along with Leon Hall, lets see more of what Morgan Trent and Brandon Ghee can do. Let's see if Reggie Nelson can be a starter and if Rico Murray and Tom Nelson can be more than just roster filler and special teams.
Then there is the offense. I know there are no quick fixes, but let's see what Anthony Collins can do, and if a better line combination is Collins at tackle and Andrew Whitworth at guard. I have really liked Bobbie Williams, but maybe it's time to see if Reggie Stephens can play guard.
It has to be obvious that Jerome Simpson is never going to do anything, why not cut him and bring back Brisco from Tampa Bay, and see if he can be the second wide receiver of the future? Do we really keep Foschi, or do we give Chase Coffman a chance? Do we keep Cedric Peerman or do we get a true fullback and bring back Chris Pressley and see if this team can do better with a real fullback? Or maybe we keep Peerman and let Reggie Kelly go. I'm surprised to suggest it, because I had always considered Kelly the bedrock of this team, a blue collar player who does the little things that a team needs to win, but let's face it, Kelly is not the player he was, and is not in the future of this team. Like Dahani Jones, I'm afraid Kelly can do little for us.
Now I know that most of the suggestions above will not be done, and most likely will not be contemplated, but that is where management will get it wrong. They will continue to insist that they are still competitive, and field a team that can't win. They will not admit it but, this season is for all intents and purposes done. There is no rebound with the teams we are fielding. They do not have the heart or the ability to turn the season around. Therefore this team should start playing their younger players, and start to evaluate the players of the future.