The funny thing about the 2009 Bengals was that fans did not have to worry about their defense like in years past. The only thing is, the Bengals unfortunately took that worry for the defense and placed it on the offense.
Have no fear, Bengals fans. After the 2010 draft class, the Bengals offense will take its 24th ranked offense from 2009 and place it squarely back in the top ten, and maybe even in the top five.
First off, take a look at the Bengals offense from ‘09. If you think about it, it seems amazing that the offense wasn’t even worse. WR Laveranues Coles was a liability in the passing game. Whatever tight end we would plug in there, we just held our breath when Carson Palmer would throw to him. And once WR Chris Henry was injured for the season, we didn’t have a reliable deep threat outside of Chad Ochocinco. Add that to an offensive line that was better at run blocking than pass blocking, and it’s no wonder we kept feeding Cedric Benson/whatever-running-back-who-was-running-the ball over and over.
And after free agency and the draft, those liabilities should be gone.
Adding first-round draft pick TE Jermaine Gresham basically gives the Bengals a three-wide-receiver set every down. The dude is 6-6 and can run a 4.6. Imagine that streaking down the field against other teams’ linebackers.
Of course, your third receiver is only as dangerous as how good your second (and, of course, the first) receiver is. Everyone repeat after me: Antonio Bryant is not L. Coles. Bryant is younger, faster, taller, and more tenacious than Coles. With Bryant and Gresham as legit receiving threats, Chad might actually not be double and triple teamed all the time.
In other words, this is going to open up the passing game, which will in turn open up the running game once we establish that the 26th-ranked pass offense of 2009 is a thing of the past.
None of this, of course, is a sure thing. The one big question mark, aside from the traditional "can the new people actually perform?" is the offensive line. As mentioned before, last year’s offensive line was better at run blocking than pass blocking. They have got to improve on that. They only allowed 29 sacks, which is just under two per game, but Carson looked hurried many times and threw the ball while running for his life.
Hopefully with Andre Smith having a year under his belt, and actually be in training camp so he doesn’t get too disgustingly fat (just mildly disgusting), we should be improved. "Should" is the key word.
Still, I’m totally psyched about our offense the more I think about it. Before we had the following: Star, liability, liability. Now we have: Star, Star, Star. Hopefully.
And that doesn’t even include the addition of speedy and reliable receiver Jordan Shipley from Texas, who could be the Bengals’ version of a white Wes Welker (wait, he is white? never mind). After drafting two receivers, and having signed Matt Jones, it’ll be interesting to see who actually makes the club for the receiver. The first three our obvious: Chad, Bryant, and Andre Caldwell. Jordan Shipley will make the club for sure. And then you have about six guys for three spots. Dezmon Briscoe is the other guy we drafted, and he was extremely productive at Kansas, with 9 TDs and 1,300 yards. He wasn’t as fast as people wanted him to be (4.66) so he dropped far down the draft. In addition to Briscoe, there is Jones, Jerome Simpson, and Quan Cosby. It’ll be an interesting battle. I think Jones will probably make it, due to Mike Brown’s ego and the fact that Jones has professional experience. Cosby might be at a disadvantage because he returned punts last year, and Shipely is a good punt returner. I don’t know, I think the Bengals will go with Briscoe and Jones in the final two spots. Either way, I like our receiving corps a hundred times better than last year.
Aside from offense, I think the Bengals have upgraded their defense significantly. Carlos Dunlap looks like a monster at 6-6, 277 lbs. Can you imagine a pass rush with the following guys: Antwan Odom, 6-5, 280; Michael Johnson, 6-7, 260; Robert Geathers, 6-3, 280; and Dunlap? Our pass rush would be pretty fierce. We lost a lot with Odom, too, when he went down last year. Another guy that we addied is DT Geno Atkins, who had 3.5 sacks last year after only starting three games. He should be a great addition to our defensive line rotation. We need to generate more havoc around the QB, and hopefully these guys can do it. Who knows, maybe the Bengals can go from fourth in defense to one of the top two.
Wow. What if the Bengals had a top five offense and a top five defense? We’re not just talking about defending the AFC North title. That’s Super Bowl, baby. Only time will tell if the talent can produce on the field.
Follow David Jacob at http://twitter.com/HoldenCarraway and at bengals.gearupforsports.com (but it doesn't offer anything new than what I post on cincyjungle, but if you click on it, I will give you a virtual high five)