The Cincinnati Bengals and Bengals fans have many reasons to be optimistic about the rest of this season. I have four reasons that I am optimistic about the defense (yes the Bengals defense) and four reasons that I am optimistic about the offense.
I’ll start with the defense:
1. Nate Clements will only improve at the SS position. He looked decent in the week 3 game against the Redskins and he will only improve with experience. If he can shore up the pass protection at this position and Taylor Mays can play smart football on obvious running downs then SS is removed from my list of weak positions.
2. The Bengals are still missing players from injuries and suspensions. The return of Sims, Moch, and Kirkpatrick should energize the defense. Sims will make an immediate impact in the run game, Moch should provide depth, and Kirkpatrick will hopefully become the physical corner that the Bengals need. The return of these guys should give the defense a necessary boost at a critical point of the season.
3. In Zimmer we trust. With Mike Zimmer in charge of the defense I am sure that they will improve every week this season. He is not going to stand for the current stats that the defense is putting up and he will do something about it. He already started by “fixing” the SS position with Nate Clements, and I personally think he will “fix” the MLB position next. Zimmer alone gives me hope.
4. The defensive line is finally returning to form. Carlos Dunlap showed up in Week 3 and made an immediate impact. His energy and pressure created opportunities for other guys and allowed everyone to make more plays. They had 6 sacks in week 3 on a mobile quarterback that normally doesn’t take sacks. This rotation will once again be the strength of the defense.
Now on to the offense:
1. The Cincinnati Bengals have the best up and coming group of WR’s in the NFL. AJ Green is an absolute star. Andrew Hawkins provides a spark every time the Bengals need it. Mohamed Sanu is a versatile young receiver with fantastic hands and a great arm. Marvin Jones is a big receiver with strong hands that will become a huge part of this offense over time. Armon Binns is taking advantage of the opportunity that he earned this year by making big catch after big catch. Brandon Tate is proving to be far more than just a return man. And Ryan Whalen hasn’t been given too much of an opportunity this year, but he has a ton of potential. The best part about this group is their age. They are all young guys. They have an average age of 23. They will only get better.
2. Running Back was a position in question going in to this season. Cedric Benson left and the Bengals brought in BenJarvus Green-Ellis from New England. BJGE was known as a short yardage red zone back and not necessarily your typical work horse back. This made a lot of Bengals fans nervous. While BJGE has not been a superstar, he has been effective. In the WCO with all of the receiving talent that the Bengals have, they only need an effective back. BJGE picks up the tough yards, puts the ball in the end zone, runs hard every play, and can catch out of the backfield. So far he has been a perfect back in this offense.
3. The offensive line is holding up really well. With Wharton and Cook going down early I was really worried, but Boling and Faine have stepped up and done a nice job. Dalton is getting time and BJGE is getting some decent holes to run through. This is another area of the team that went from a possible weak spot to doing a pretty good job.
4. No sophomore slump for Andy Dalton. Before the season people were whispering of a possible sophomore slump for quarterback Andy Dalton. They also said he didn’t have the arm strength to be an elite NFL quarterback. Well, Dalton is doing what he does best, quietly proving his critics wrong. Dalton has had career games in the past 2 weeks. He has put up QB ratings of 128.2 and 132.9 with 3 TD’s in each. That’s not too shabby for a guy who was supposed to have an off year.
As you can see I have high hopes for the Bengals this year. I think the first game of the season was the perfect storm against them and it will not happen again. The offense is hitting on all cylinders and the defense is improving. When everyone returns from injuries and suspensions and Mike Zimmer has time to make a few adjustments this team will be scary. I’m predicting a 10-6 finish with a wild card birth and a playoff win. Who Dey!