Our mother site, SB Nation, has been conducting comprehensive 2012 offseason reports for every NFL club. Recently, Joel Thorman at SBN released his report on our beloved Cincinnati Bengals. While it reiterates a good chunk of the news we've shared here at CJ, it also provides some unique, national perspective on things revolving around the club.
Predictably, Thorman first points out how the Bengals were a surprise team in 2011 and how the Bengals are looking to take another big step this year. He chalked up the 2011 success to the rookie tandem of Andy Dalton and A.J. Green, as well as the play of the defensive unit. For a team that lacked an identity going into the year, they sure established themselves quickly.
Moving into free agency, Thorman points at BenJarvus Green-Ellis as the team's best free agent pickup. Of the acquisition, Thorman wrote:
The running back market was light in the 2012 free agency period but the Bengals still had a solid signing in. He's a short-yardage specialist who racked up 24 touchdowns in the last two years. He's young (26) and only has 510 carries in four career seasons, which means he has plenty of tread left on his tires.
The Bengals allowed Cedric Benson to walk so Green-Ellis has a clear role with the Bengals.
Green-Ellis was definitely the team's big-name free agent for 2012. Some could point to the defensive backs as big signings because of uncertainty at the position, but there's no doubt that that the team needs it's running game to be revamped. Green-Ellis provides the juice that this still-young offense will likely need.
Thorman was also on the ever-growing Bengals 2012 draft bandwagon, labeling it one of the league's best.
I loved the Bengals draft. They picked up a number of good players and, even better, a few of them can start right away.
Dre Kirkpatrick, a cornerback out of Alabama, was their 1st round pick and he'll help with the loss of Joseph in free agency two seasons ago. Kevin Zeitler is the next great offensive lineman out of Wisconsin and he was selected in the 1st round by the Bengals after they traded down. Devon Still in the 2nd round is one of the best values in the draft. Mohamed Sanu is not only a good player, but also incredibly charismatic, as SB Nation learned earlier this year. Orson Charles, tight end out of Georgia, could be a steal in the 4th round. George Iloka, a safety picked in the 5th round, has landed on a few best-value lists as well.
There's a strong argument that the Bengals had the best draft of anyone in the NFL. This comes on the heels of last year's draft, which included both Green and Dalton. The Bengals are building their team to last.
There's an ever-growing list of NFL writers, analysts and draft gurus that share Thorman's opinion here. There are many of these players who will start and/or contribute in some fashion in 2012, and that's saying a lot when you're looking at a playoff roster from last season.
Lastly, Thorman points to what the Bengals need to do to achieve a back-to-back playoff appearance and make some postseason noise. In a somewhat obvious declaration, Thorman says that the Bengals simply need to win more divisional games--namely those against the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers.
They Make The Playoffs If...
They can beat the Ravens and Steelers.
Last year, three AFC North teams make the playoffs, which won't happen every year, and the Bengals were 0-4 against the Steelers and Ravens. Three of those four games were within one score, so they're not that far off. They're built to last on defense, so they fit in well in their division. The Bengals will need to improve by at least one or two games in their own division if they want to compete for the AFC North title.
Really, the lack of 2011 success against the Ravens and Steelers was a microcosm of the season. The Bengals didn't beat any playoff teams and defeated only one team that had a winning record (Tennessee Titans). This will definitely need to change if the Bengals want to be a legitimate contender in 2012 and it will start right away in the Week One Monday Night Football matchup against the Ravens.