Alright. It's not like they asked us specifically. Pro Football Weekly, earlier this week, released the team's top three story lines (h/t bengaljohnboy) in question format, complete with their own conclusions. We decided to answer their questions with our own thoughts. Note: after the jump, there's no reference to Carson Palmer.
1. What Will Happen With Carson Palmer?
I know what you're thinking. My god, how much more do we have to endure with Carson Palmer? Having written so much about Palmer and reading twice as much since January, I couldn't agree more. But no matter how the story plays out, it will be huge. Each update just adds another chapter to what we believe could be an explosive climax in this Michael Bay production.
If Palmer retires, a franchise level quarterback just said, "I'm done." Not done playing mind you, just finished with the organization he's playing for. Your team. A player-declaration of sorts that most owners would think, "how did this go wrong and how do I fix this so it doesn't happen in the future." Since it's Mike Brown, we're not holding our breath. On the other hand, if Mike Brown relents and trades Palmer, then two things happen: The Bengals receive draft picks and a majority of Bengals fans will have to call the hospital to reattach the jaw that dropped onto the floor.
2. Did A.J. Green Selection Signal The End Of Chad Ochocinco?
In a word: Yesno. We feel that the Bengals were through with Chad long before the team selected Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green. Marvin Lewis has bantered publicly with Chad -- to the point that we're left with no conclusion that Lewis is done with him -- and that's something he simply wouldn't do with a player he expects to play with the Bengals in 2011. Additionally NFL Network's Steve Wyche reported that the entire organization is tiring of Chad's "attention-seeking ways."
With Chad due $6 million in base salary in 2011, you could argue that lack-of-production alone would be enough of a reason. Compared to his averages from 2003-2007, Chad's production in the past three seasons has fallen by nearly 30 receptions, 570 yards and three touchdowns per season.
There are obviously arguments that counters Chad fallen production; we don't ignore stuff just because it doesn't suit our arguments. For example, Chad played with Ryan Fitzpatrick through most of 2008; and Fitzpatrick didn't necessarily light it while dealing with his own problems with bad pass protection. The team redefined its core offensive philosophy into a pound-the-rock AFC North team. And the threat on the other side of the field that same season to give Chad more single coverages during passing plays? Laveranues Coles, whose greatest benefit was when the team signed Antonio Bryant claiming the title of greatest free agent bust in recent memory, if not franchise history, only caught 43 passes. Chad was literally the only threat beyond 10 yards from the line of scrimmage.
That being said, I still don't believe that Green is the direct result of Chad's eventual departure. They would have done it regardless of whom they drafted in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft. The only difference now is that they feel more comfortable doing it.
3. Will the defense step up?
Based on what we know now, how could we say yes? Jonathan Joseph, arguably the team's best defensive player, could leave for free agency. Dhani Jones, the linebacker with nearly 500 tackles in the past three seasons, could leave for free agency. Brandon Johnson, the team's best linebacker in coverage and primary linebacker in nickel formations with 3.5 quarterback sacks and three interceptions in the past three seasons, could leave for free agency. Jonathan Fanene, one of the team's most versatile defensive lineman who posted six quarterback sacks in 2009, could leave for free agency. The team's safety roster is thin and, arguably, the weakest in the division. Tank Johnson, Domata Peko and Robert Geathers struggled while Antwan Odom missed 12 games in 2010.
Based on what we know on May 19, the defense has a lot of questions to answer before one could determine if they'll improve or devolve. But if they lose every player scheduled to enter free agency, then we can't see them improving at all.