[We're revitalizing the mailbag again, discussing topics that you, our readers, email, tweet and comment on Facebook. We'll also take a few FanPosts and expand on our thoughts for additional discussion. Instead of one single post, we'll spread them out throughout the week... at least for now. If you have a question you want us to examine, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org]
ON JASON ALLEN:
Bengaljohnboy wrote an inquiry on a FanPost, asking where the hell cornerback Jason Allen has gone, with a little Everett McGill flavor. Allen has been so frequently absent this year that when plugging inactive players during our Sunday morning pregame rituals, I have his name already added. So it's a fair question.
The Bengals signed Allen to a two-year deal worth $8.2 million and, due to various injuries dating back to Training Camp, has essentially become the sixth cornerback behind Leon Hall, Terence Newman, Jason Allen, Dre Kirkpatrick and the roaming hybrid defensive back Nate Clements.
Though not entirely his fault, or Cincinnati's for that matter, who wisely stocked up on cornerbacks this year, Allen's signing could be an early nomination for free agent bust of the year. During his first year with the Bengals, Allen is expected to earn $1.8 million in base salary, having already earned a $1.9 million roster bonus and an $800,000 signing bonus for $4.5 million in 2012.
If he doesn't play another down in 2012, Allen, who has three defensive snaps to his credit (all against the Redskins), will have earned an insane $1.5 million per defensive snap this year -- or $600,000 if we exclude the roster and signing bonuses. Allen is scheduled to earn another $3 million next season, including a $700,000 roster bonus. With so many players entering free agency next year, we're not sure if he's an obvious roster cut prior to the deadline for an inexpensive bonus in March.
We get why he's not playing; the Bengals clearly do not view Allen as being better than those on the 46-man game day roster. And frankly it's nice to have him available if Cincinnati suffers an injury in the secondary; it's just a really expensive backup plan.
One final thought, what's the impact releasing Allen after this year and giving Adam Jones the remaining dollars (plus a little more) for an extension before he hits free agency? Something worth considering at least.
ON BEING THE CONSTANT UNDERDOG:
During our Power Rankings post, RedBengal9 observed:
We've always play(ed) better as underdogs because we are always underdogs... I'm ready to shed that label.
Couldn't possibly agree more.
Yet clearly the Bengals have enabled it. The annoying talking point recently is that, while Cincinnati sports a winning record over the past two seasons, they're not beating teams with a better record -- or favored. The two notable exceptions last year being the Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans, both of whom had winning records when the Bengals played them; not necessarily teams that you use as an example for shedding such images.
During this iteration of Marvin Lewis' roster makeover, the team's exceptional victory against a heavily-favored opponent was the New York Giants and even that has some fans, mostly those that make it a habit to excuse Cincinnati's wins rather than celebrate them, point out the issues New York was facing at the time -- the same Giants team that out of the Bye Week crushed the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
There will always be chances for Cincinnati to crack out of this shell. Especially down the stretch.
This weekend against the San Diego Chargers is beyond critical, largely because of external factors entering into equation -- mostly surfacing in regards to Cincinnati's performances on the West Coast.
Later this season, if both teams keep pace with each other, Cincinnati's Week 16 game against the Steelers has the potential to be the most pivotal matchup in years during this one-sided rivalry in recent years. With my pessimism hat briefly nurturing the tips of my hair follicles, it's hard departing the conditioned mind because Pittsburgh has always played the Bengals tough. Yet with that invasive thought rattling in my head, the defender of light, prince of awesome reminds: The Bengals are 4-5 at Heinz Field during the Marvin Lewis era.
So there's that.
ON A DALTON STRUGGLE DOWN THE ROAD:
Robert from our Facebook Page (make sure you check that out too).
"I predict a huge flop for (Andy) Dalton once they play a tougher defense."
Not that we're one's to condone baseless prognostications (as least meteorologist have computer models), of the 11 games that the Bengals have played this year, they've faced only three defenses (Denver, Pittsburgh, Kansas City) with a top-15 ranked passing defense in the league. During those games against the Broncos and Steelers, Dalton has only compiled a passer rating of 62.2 and 404 yards passing combined. Additionally of the 21 possessions between the Broncos and Steelers (22 if you count the knee to end the first half against Pittsburgh), 13 ended in a punt, turnover or missed field goal (not that that is Dalton's fault).
Yet it wasn't like the Bengals defense did their part. Sure they generated four turnovers, including three interceptions, Cincinnati was sporting a lead early in the fourth quarter when Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense charged with two touchdown drives to win. Cincinnati was also leading 14-3 against the Steelers in the first half, but the defense allowed Pittsburgh to tie the game before halftime and yea, the Bengals offense collapsed in the second half (five punts on six possessions).
That being said, both games ended within one A.J. Green touchdown away from being tied. So yes. There was a struggle at times. Welcome to the NFL. Players, especially second-year quarterbacks, struggle. Yet against the No. 10 ranked passing defense in Kansas City, Dalton generated a passer rating of 109.8 without an interception and a comfortable 21-6 half-time lead. But that doesn't matter. Because it's the Chiefs and that may risk partial neutralization on said prediction.
The passing defenses that Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals will face to close out the regular season are the San Diego Chargers (ranked No. 20 against the pass), the Dallas Cowboys (ranked No. 8), the Philadelphia Eagles (ranked No. 15 and did you see what Cam Newton did to them?), the Pittsburgh Steelers (ranked No. 1) and Baltimore Ravens (ranked No. 23).