The Bengals' Pro Bowl representatives have landed in Hawaii, while the coaching and scouting staff are watching the newest prospects of the upcoming NFL Draft on the opposite side of the country in Alabama. There's only the All-Star showcase, otherwise known as the Pro Bowl, and the "Big Dance" left to play in the 2011 season. The week-long festivities leading up to the Super Bowl and all of the hype that comes with it don't kick off until next week.
Even though the season has nearly come to close, there really isn't a "dead time" in the NFL--not to us fans anyway. The 2012 scouting process has begun and the rumors are swirling as to who the Bengals are targeting this week at the Senior Bowl.
I was asked by commenter @keithclark77 on Twitter about some rising prospects in the Senior Bowl this week:
Now keep in mind that I'm not actually in Mobile, Alabama scouting the practices myself and most of what I know is through hearsay. That being said, the big winner through the first few days of Senior Bowl week has to be Boise State running back, Doug Martin. He was considered a late second round pick going into the week, but his size, speed and other attributes have scouts calling him the best back at the Senior Bowl. It sounds like he's not outstanding in any one particular area of his game, but is pretty solid in all aspects. We'll have to see how he plays in the game itself, but he's improved his stock considerably. Truth be told, I like what I'm hearing about this kid and he could be a good fit here in Cincinnati.
The guard position seems to be a bit trickier. Georgia's Cordy Glenn, an imposing figure that has a late-first to early-second round grade, has had a decent week and has stood up to elite defensive talents like Quentin Coples and Courtney Upshaw. I wouldn't say he "improved his stock" per se, but with other lineman seeming to look inconsistent this week, Glenn has helped himself by simply being the player that everyone expected. This draft also seems to have a lot of tackles and centers that could kick to guard, so that's something to keep an eye on.
I would not be surprised to see the Bengals take Glenn if Stanford's David DeCastro is off of the board. Glenn seems to be of the Bobbie Williams mold and could be a day one starter. If they grab either Glenn or DeCastro and last year's fourth round pick Clint Boling pans out, the line could be a lot more stable than it was in 2010 and 2011.
Other players that have been impressing this are: Iowa wide receiver Marvin McNutt, Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden, North Alabama cornerback Janoris Jenkins, Arkansas wide receiver Joe Adams and Georgia cornerback Brandon Boykin.
Most of the NFL coaching vacancies have been filled now, with Mike Zimmer seemingly being left out in the cold. It still baffles me as to why he hasn't had his opportunity in the NFL. I'm grateful that it looks like he'll be sticking in Cincinnati, but there must be something about him that rubs teams the wrong way. He's had numerous top-ten finishes with his defenses and is well-versed in the 3-4 and 4-3 schemes, having run both in Dallas and Cincinnati, respectively.
He's done a great job with what he's had here and I'd like him to stick around for a long time. Zimmer has resurrected the careers of players like Chris Crocker, Adam Jones and Tank Johnson. He's very good at having his team rebound after a poor performance and if he emphasizes something during a week's practice, the team responds. As a Bengals fan, I want him here.
However, as unpopular as this may initially sound, I wonder if we overrate him here just a little bit. His unit still has the occasional lapses and poor performances that have cost the team games (see vs. Baltimore, Week 17). They still lack the ability to overcome a free agency departure and/or injury to consistently compete. Let's also not forget that the unit can't consistently cover a tight end. And, the supposed prized possessions of the Bengals defense, Rey Maualuga and Keith Rivers, have yet to live up to expectations.
You can argue that this may be a by-product of a poor job of scouting and bringing in depth. Or you can argue that the situation with Maualuga and Rivers lie with linebackers coach, Jeff Fitzgerald (who may not have his contract renewed, by some reports). I'd probably agree with you to an extent, but the truth is that Fitzgerald ultimately reports to Zimmer. I'm really glad that he'll be staying in Cincinnati, but there has to be a reason that a man who has successful coached NFL defenses for almost two decades gets snubbed for the same head coaching position for his counterpart in Baltimore who has only had one year of defensive coordinating experience.
Lastly, I couldn't end this mailbag without talking about a "hate email" that I received recently. Last week, I posted my very early predictions for 2012, based on what next year's schedule looked like and what the upcoming offseason holds for the Bengals. In case you missed it, I predicted an identical 9-7 record.
Shortly after the article was published on Cincy Jungle, I received an email that called me every name in the book. I'll keep the commenter's identity anonymous, but their take was that the Bengals will be winning four or five more games than what I had predicted. That's not out of the realm of possibility.
Again, my prediction was based on where the team is at in this point in time. I also took into consideration that the Bengals seem to never string back-to-back playoff seasons together. I also began to wonder if Marvin Lewis is the coach that will get them over the hump in the playoffs--but that's another topic for another mailbag. I just want to let the angry emailer know that this was a very early prediction and could very well change with the draft choices, free agent acquisitions and injuries that the team accrues this offseason. Not much would surprise me in 2012 with the Bengals--they could very well go 12-4 as the angry emailer predicts and I may agree come May or June. For now, I'll temper my optimism and stick with 9-7.
Shoot me any questions or comments or hate mail that you'd like to see on Cincy Jungle's mailbag feature at firstname.lastname@example.org or @CUIBengalsFan.