It seemed like some things were finally coming together for the Bengals at the end of 2010. Then again, doesn't it always appear that things are come together at the end of every season, only to generate hope during the offseason for another meltdown the following season? But we're optimistic folk, aren't we?
Regardless. In the second half of the season, Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins exploded as pass rushers. Pat Sims became a more balanced defensive tackle, Michael Johnson posted 20 quarterback pressures (second on the team) and Keith Rivers and Rey Maualuga became turned into dependable run defenders.
On the offensive side, Andre Caldwell posted 270 yards receiving in the final three games, with his lowest output being an 87-yard effort against the San Diego Chargers. Jerome Simpson closed the season with at least 123 yards receiving in back-to-back games with three total touchdowns and 12 receptions against the Baltimore Ravens. Combined, Simpson and Caldwell caught 35 passes for 547 yards receiving during the final three games of the year.
Simpson is enthusiastic about continuing that momentum and Andre Caldwell is posed to have a breakout year.
"Let everybody know up there," Caldwell said, "I'm ready. I'm ready to come in and have my best year. I trained like I was going to the combine all over again and I'm going to keep going."
How both receivers closed 2010 is generating enough debate as to whether the Bengals should spend their fourth overall pick on wide receiver A.J. Green. There's points against selecting Green. Along with Caldwell and Simpson showing that they can play in this league, the Bengals want to rebound next season with a power rushing offense. And there's the little fact that the team doesn't even have a quarterback at this time to even get the ball to the receivers, provided Carson Palmer follows through on his threat to retire.
But there's also points for drafting Green. He's listed as the top prospect in the NFL draft by many experts and the Bengals will have a serious problem with depth beyond Caldwell and Simpson. And both wide receivers drafted in the 2008 NFL Draft are heading into a contract season, unsigned beyond 2011.
But no matter what happens, Caldwell is out to prove he's going to have a career-year in 2011.