Certainly I don't like doing predictions. They're an over-zealous response using flimsy interpretations of current events, believing that what exists today will exist in mid-October. That being said, we're going to do a prediction. A season prediction. That's right. We're going to predict many aspects of the 2011 season, using the proven formula of throwing it against the wall and hoping it sticks. Here we go:
Rey Maualuga has a breakout year. Even though Rey Maualuga had a strong preseason, much of the criticism levied against him remains: overaggressive, struggle in pass coverage, etc. That being said, we believe that this will be his best season yet, easily becoming the team's top defensive performer, even making an argument for a Pro Bowl bid.
Jermaine Gresham becomes Andy Dalton's top target. Though wide receivers A.J. Green and Jerome Simpson will compete for the top yards receiving title, Gresham will become Dalton's top target because rookie quarterbacks love talented tight ends to get them out of sticky situations. And Gresham is pretty talented.
Carlos Dunlap will struggle to recapture the quarterback throne. Carlos Dunlap set a franchise rookie record 9.5 quarterback sacks last year (8.5 in 2001), being the first rookie to lead the team in sacks since James Francis in 1990 (8.0). Will he be the team's top sacker this year? He could. Will opposing offenses gameplan the Bengals defense with Dunlap in mind? Absolutely.
Cedric Benson will break the franchise record for most yards rushing. Benson was arguably one of the top running backs in 2009, averaging 96.2 yards rushing per game. If Benson didn't miss three games that year, he would have destroyed Rudi Johnson's franchise rushing record (1,458) by nearly 100 yards rushing. With the offensive philosophy reverting back to a 2009-version of the team, along with how good the rushing offense looked this preseason...
...Chris Pressley will make an argument for the Pro Bowl. He's like a mini-nuke against linebackers. A great rushing offense will force voters to take notice.
Andy Dalton will throw more interceptions than touchdowns. This isn't a knock on Dalton. Not one bit. Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning threw more interceptions than touchdowns his rookie year and you know how that turned out. Yet of Dalton's interceptions over the preseason, they weren't always his fault. One was a careless attempt by A.J. Green that slipped through his hands during a driving rainstorm in New York. Another was a bad attempt by Green to go from receiver to defender (pass interference if you have to) against the Lions
There's a lot of inexperience at receiver this year with a rookie quarterback. Is this a long-term thing? No. This year, maybe.
Nate Clements will be the team's best offseason acquisition. Not including the 2011 NFL draft, Clements will have the best regular season compared to guys like Thomas Howard, Manny Lawson, Taylor Mays among other acquisitions. And it won't just be about interceptions.
Leon Hall will set a personal best with most interceptions. If the preseason is any hint, teams may target receivers Leon Hall covers this year more than Clements. And while Hall will lose some battles, he's going to win more. In 2009 he set a personal best six interceptions. He'll have more opportunities this year to improve on that.
A.J. Green will expand the English language. At some point this season, rookie wide receiver A.J. Green will make a reception that makes fans go: holysmokingshitpancakes. And that'll just be the first of man.
Pat Sims will become the undisputed defensive tackle. We were close to saying that Pat Sims would be the team's breakout defensive player of the year. That being said, Sims will win more than he loses against opposing offensive linemen this year while poor nose tackle Domata Peko will consume most of the double teams.
Taylor Mays will become the starting strong safety before the end of the season. Whether it's related to injuries, performance or potential, at some point this year Taylor Mays will become the team's regular starting strong safety.
Andrew Whitworth will make the Pro Bowl. After finally receiving recognition from around the league as one of the most underrated offensive tackles, Whitworth will finally receive the recognition he deserves and makes the Pro Bowl.
Carson Palmer will remain a pain in our collective asses. Really.
Most Valuable Player: Rey Maualuga
Offensive Player of the Year: Cedric Benson
Defensive Player of the Year: Rey Maualuga
Rookie of the Year: Wide Receiver A.J. Green
Most Improved Player: Rey Maualuga
Offensive Lineman of the Year: Andrew Whitworth
Defensive Lineman of the Year: Geno Atkins
Linebacker of the Year: Rey Maualuga
Cornerback of the Year: Leon Hall
Safety of the Year: Reggie Nelson
Most Yards Rushing: Cedric Benson
Most Yards Receiving: A.J. Green
Most Receptions: Jermaine Gresham
Most Quarterback Sacks: Carlos Dunlap
Most Interceptions: Leon Hall