Tony Grossi is doing a series of articles, much like many other writers, on a preview of the AFC North. He starts out with Cincinnati. It is a surprisingly objective article that doesn't overlook the Bengals as a contender. The title of the article?
This is true. It seems that the majority of the "experts" all project the Bengals to fall apart this year, and the number one reason for this... history.
Here is what Tony Grossi says about it...
They're the defending champions of the Browns' division and are not the favorites to repeat. Most preseason prognosticators have greater respect for Baltimore. That sentiment removes a small burden from the team and replaces it with a convenient motivating chip.
Why do few believe in the Bengals?
The previous time the Bengals won the division in 2005, they followed with an 8-8 season and missed the playoffs. In fact, the Bengals have not made playoff appearances in back-to-back seasons in 28 years. Somehow, they will self-destruct, goes the thinking.
There's also the perception that quarterback Carson Palmer, 30, is on a decline that began with his knee injury in the 2005 playoffs and worsened with an elbow injury in 2008. The statistics support the contention.
While the statistics do support the contention, there are also other factors that have most likely played a part in his dropping statistics and status. We've all mentioned them before... injuries, only one consistent option for Palmer to throw to when he wasn't blanketed by multiple defenders. And I say consistent because Caldwell did make a few clutch catches that helped us win games, and Coles wasn't entirely useless last year but neither was consistent.
Tony goes on to say that even if Carson has seen his better days, the Bengals still should not be counted out.
But even if Palmer has seen his better days, here are some reasons not to count out the Bengals:
While I don't think he has seen his better days yet, even if he has, his numbers should still improve with the new weapons he has to throw to. Antonio Bryant will open up the deep plays and take away pressure from Ochocinco. Shipley and Gresham will command the middle of the field. Not to mention, Chase Coffman, who is healthy now, and by all reports, making strides to become an impact player for the team. Then you have the offensive line, with the return of Andre Smith, with its depth allowing players to stay fresh. They should be able to protect Carson better this year. And add all of this to the phenomenal rushing team we have in Cedric Benson, Bernard Scott, and Brian Leonard. Are they going to pass or are they going to run? This year opposing defenses should have to fear both.
• The defense under coordinator Mike Zimmer rose to fourth in overall yards, seventh against the rush and sixth against the pass -- a top-10 hat trick it hadn't accomplished since 1983.
And ALL of those players are coming back this year, with a few additions at DT, DE, CB, and S. Then the prospect of Michael Johnson's developing wild card role. I'm getting excited just writing this.
• They're getting back pass-rush specialist Antwan Odom, who had eight sacks in three games last year before suffering a season-ending Achilles tendon injury.
Antwan Odom... all I can say is... SACK MACHINE! And by all reports his Achilles has healed well and he is feeling even better than before he was injured. Then as I mentioned above, the additions at DT and DE, Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap respectively, look to have the potential to really put the pressure on the quarterback. And when the quarterback is pressured, looking downfield and sees all his receivers covered by Hall, J Jo, A. Jones, and the middle of the field dominated by our linebackers and our safeties where is he going to throw?
The Bengals play in the first NFL preseason game Aug. 8 in Canton. It would not surprise themselves, at least, if they're also playing in the last postseason game, Feb. 6, in Dallas.
Sounds a little bit like it wouldn't surprise Grossi either. I know it wouldn't surprise me, and it would make me an extremely happy fan.
Grossi finishes with a little synopsis about what the Bengals are looking at this year in training camp and beyond.
Full camp opens: July 28, Georgetown College, Georgetown, Ky.
2009 result: 10-7, lost to Jets in wildcard.
2009 vs. Browns: 2-0; 23-20 in Cleveland, 16-7 in Cincinnati.
2010 outlook: Playoff contender.
2010 uncommon opponents: San Diego and Indianapolis.
Veteran to watch: WR Antonio Bryant. The one-time Brown hit the jackpot in free agency with a four-year contract for $28 million. He's the new go-to guy for Carson Palmer.
Training camp issues: Is Adam (nee Pac Man) Jones ready to put his troubles aside and contribute as a nickel cornerback and return specialist? Will defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer assimilate 2009 draft picks Michael Johnson and Rey Maualuga into a 3-4 look? Will former Ohio State standout Mike Nugent or Dave Rayner replace kicker Shayne Graham, who gagged twice in a playoff loss against the Jets?
Yes folks, Tony Grossi believes the Bengals are a playoff contender this year, unlike most analysts, writers, or expert who think history will be the Bengals doom. And I have to say I agree with Grossi. Yes, I know they say "history repeats itself", but they also say, "there's a first time for everything".
Grossi advertises a look at the Baltimore Ravens today.