It was January 11, 1986 at Cleveland's old Municipal Stadium where Marty Schottenheimer gathered his troops on the sideline and told them that there existed a part of football beyond that of our physical senses. He called it "the gleam". He didn't go into detail; he simply told them it existed and to go get it. I used to think he was the only one who ever knew anything about the gleam and that perhaps he was a mystic, but reading about the Bengals lately, I think I can sense it too.I'm an emotionally cautious person these days when it comes to the Bengals. I used to get all fired up when training camp would roll around and pronounce them serious contenders...every year. Then the 2008 season came along and crushed my spirit. Obviously, last year soothed some of that trauma, yet nonetheless, I've tried to remain guarded about my favorite team—it just isn't working.
They have a gleam to them. Even when I try to think analytically about the whole thing, it still equates to the Bengals having a great season. I don't detect a clear weakness in this team, and they were damn good last year with what seems like half of this year's roster. They're deep at nearly every position, they have a platoon of healthy players returning, and now they have real star power. The coaches can feel it, the players can feel and I can too. Something is certainly shining in Georgetown, Kentucky right now.
I know what you're thinking: it's TO that's getting me so excited. Well, you're mostly right.
What I am dying to find out is how the Bengals will attack the New England Patriots in Week 1. Even if Antonio Bryant still isn't healthy, suddenly Cincinnati has one of the deepest receiving corps in the league and can throw to a plethora of targets. Jason LaCanfora of the NFL Network said that what he hears from scouts is that Owens is best when teams put him in motion and move him around to seek out matchups that favor the offense. Buffalo wasn't able to use TO like that last year, but our offense can put him all over the field and still not draw double teams. With Chad Ochocinco and Jermaine Gresham on the field too, defenses will have to pick their poison against these guys.
That's even if we pass all that much. Bob Bratkowski has been steady with his remarks that this remains a power-run team, and that, he says, won't change. Who can blame him? Now that Cedric Benson is officially off the hook with the Commissioner's Office, might as well use him up—considering he become a free agent after this season. The line is built for the run—especially if that fat ass Andre Smith can get it going—and the stable of running backs compliment one another nicely. I don't think anyone has a problem with the Bengals racking up the rushing yards, but it's when they need to pass that needs improved, and, after a vigorous campaign to improve just that, I think they will be.
Not one player held out because they didn't like their current contract, despite the upcoming labor skirmish swirling around the new Collective Bargaining Agreement and despite it being the cool thing to do. No one (of importance) hurt themselves in the offseason. No one got suspended. Fans are flocking to Georgetown in record numbers to scream support to their team. National pundits now like the Bengals. Mike Brown just pulled off one of the most successful offseasons in recent memory. Crazy things are happening! It's the gleam!