Most of you probably remember how exciting it was to be a Bengal fan in 2005. The team had all the potential in the world. They had what many would call an elite quarterback in Carson Palmer, an elite receiver in Chad Johnson, and a clutch receiver in T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Head coach Marvin Lewis also had a chain moving back in Rudi Johnson, an effective offensive line, and the late Chris Henry, who stretched the field like a young Randy Moss. I did not even mention the potential of the defense yet. In 2006, the Bengals did not meet expectations. After a playoff appearance last season, coach Lewis does not expect the team to fail to meet expectations again.
Many thought that 2005 was a rebirth of sorts for the Cincinnati Bengals franchise. Many of the same people likely think that 2011 was another rebirth. The team, for the most part, is completely changed from the 2005 version. Marvin Lewis, at the NFL's Spring meeting, says that the 2012 team is going to be completely different from the 2006 team. When asked how different this team is from the one in 2006, Lewis said:
"This team is much better because your leadership are stronger character guys. They are humble players and you are being led by the linemen."
When told that the 2006 team was also trying to get back to the playoffs, just like this team, Lewis said:
"We had guys beating their chest that they had arrived and then the Pro Bowl was the most important thing, not the Super Bowl. This group understands the most important thing is the Super Bowl."
Lewis was hesitant but optimistic when he was asked if this team is more talented than the 2006 team:
"It’s hard to determine. I think we’re better in the secondary and up front. We’re a lot better defensively and we have a chance with (Terrelle) Wharton to be a lot better on the offensive line. Whatever development we have at receiver will be there. A.J. Green is so much better than everybody else that it doesn’t matter. The stable of backs is probably a better group."
This team does appear on the surface to have much better character than previous teams, lead by left tackle Andrew Whitworth. They may not be as explosive on offense, though with A.J. Green you always have a chance. They also may not be as talented, but this years draft will have a lot to say about that. Either way, the team showed heart coming back to win games last season. As long as they do not get too high on themselves, improvement should be expected. As a side note, who do you think Marvin was referring to when he was talking about the Pro Bowl being more important than the Super Bowl? Could that have been one last jab at Chad Ochocinco?