Seems every off season I go in to the year with concerns about the Bengals. Recently reminded of how we haven't had back to back seasons in my life time and our last play off win being two decades ago. I'm reminded to walk in to every season skeptically excited. I've done these in the past and my concerns were often dead on. I predicted before the start of training camp that Antonio Bryant was dealing with something more severe than we knew, that Andre Smith wasn't ready to be the guy we wanted him to be, and that there was something wrong with Carson Palmer that I couldn't put my finger on. I've called for the real Keith Rivers to please standup, he never did. Anyways going in to this season I have somethings I'm concerned about.First up, Is Andy Dalton the real deal?
Now that opponents have a season's worth of tape on Dalton, they will try to take away what he does well (anticipation and accuracy, to quote NFL Films' Greg Cosell) and exploit his weaknesses (which Cosell identifies as "his inability to drive the ball with velocity"). Then the question becomes: is Dalton good enough to overcome schemes designed to make him uncomfortable? He wouldn't be the first NFL quarterback to experience growing pains in Year 2 after a stellar start to his career."
This question is one I know a lot of you are sick of hearing. The truth of the matter is, he failed to throw for 200 yards for half the season. He seemed to throw the ball away more often than I preferred. While this can be considered wise for not taking the sack. It's not something you want him to make a habit of throughout his career. He needs to step up, or scramble to find the open guy more often. He was the perfect example of a guy that didn't hurt us a lot last year, but wasn't spectacular either. The one trick he had was a deep chuck to a guy that always comes down with the ball. Often not placed where you'd like it to be to make it easy for that guy to catch. Saying more about A.J. Green's ability than it does Andy Dalton's. It's very apparent that Jay Gruden's game management did a great job at minimizing the opportunities Andy had to make mistakes. That will change this year and I think it's something to be a little concerned about. For us to be a Championship team we can't have an offense designed around minimizing the mistakes that can be made. With that said I'm know the Red Rifle knows he's got to keep getting better and from what I've read he's working hard at that. Where he goes... We all go...
Second Up, Can we compete and win against the best?
The Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers are in the middle of the pack, tying for the 14th-hardest schedule. Their opponents went 128-128 last season. The Bengals, however, have the fewest games (five) against quality opponents (teams with at least nine wins) in the AFC North.
Let's face the cold hard facts here people. I love you all around here. However, our success last year is sometimes exaggerated by some of the extreme orange drinking Kool Aid homers that reside here. We beat nobody and when I say nobody... I mean nobody. Sure we come close to beating the 49ers, the Broncos, and the Texans twice. But the fact of the matter is, when we faced someone that end the season as a winning team we failed. We didn't fail miserably but we failed. Wait, we did fail miserably against a winning team. The Steelers, I believe the score of that game was 35-7. We thought we had beaten winning teams in Tennessee and Buffalo. However we would all find out later in the year. They weren't as good as advertised at the time we beat them. Those accomplishments now aren't as impressive as they were at that time. When it comes down to it we had to depend on other teams to lose to get in to the playoffs. We showed that we didn't belong there right away. Last year we had the fortune of playing arguably the worst divisions in football in the AFC South and the NFC West. This year we don't have that fortune and though it may not seem like an extremely hard schedule. It surely isn't filled with the perennial losers we faced last year. Strength of Schedule debate is often argued to be a moot one. However on December 23rd 2012, two days after we're all dead. We face the Steelers late in the season and then go on to face the Ravens the week after. If we find ourselves in a win to get in situation... I think it will be something for us all to be concerned about. While of course we're watching the game in the sports bars they have in heaven waiting for us :)
Third and final one, Did we do enough to upgrade our team?
Cincy Jungle (June 2012)
According to Pro Football Talk, the Cincinnati Bengals currently rank fifth in the NFL with $16.58 million available under the team's salary cap for 2012. Jacksonville ($25.1 million), Tennessee ($19.97 million), Philadelphia ($18.02 million) and Cleveland ($17.7 million) round out the top five. During the last public release of the team-by-team salary cap, the Cincinnati Bengals had roughly $19.1 million under the cap, third behind Jacksonville and Philadelphia at the time.
We've made a lot of moves this off season. The question is did the moves we make upgrade our team? We got rid of Cedric Benson and signed The Law Firm. We went out and signed some Cornerbacks that were either considered to be over the hill or busts with their previous teams. We drafted an eventual replacement for Jonathan Joseph and got some other guys that are considered to be great prospects. Are these upgrades that will manifest on the field in 2012? That is the question. "Who Dre" Kirkpatrick as Tru calls him is likely not the immediate impact we need him to be. Rookies for that matter are a coin toss no matter what it said after the draft. It's my fear the Dre may never be as good as J.Joe and Mike Brown may have made a big mistake by not overpaying a little to keep him. It's my fear that we didn't do enough to get an experienced wide receiver to along with A.J. Green. It's my fear that a lot of the moves we made were lateral moves and not necessarily upgrades. Upgrading this off season was a must because we were outmatched when we played teams with a winning caliber. We're largely depending on the progress of the players we already had. We're also depending on guys that have proven to be not very dependable in the past. As of right now, we are depending on TOO MANY of our players to have breakout seasons this year and to me... That's something to be concerned about.. :)