If you weren't one of the privileged Bengals fans that attended Sunday's practice that included the famous "Oklahoma Drill", you could get some good insight elsewhere. Of course, we are partial to our own Cincy Jungle correspondents that were in attendance, Brennen Warner and Andrew Miller, given the great job that they did giving us updates. Otherwise, you could have tuned into the NFL Network and get some video footage at the practice.
Before, during and after the handful of practices that the network aired, they asked their panel of analysts their predictions and observations on each team. Seeing that the Bengals have some lofty expectations placed on them this year and that they will be the stars of HBO's "Hard Knocks", the network made the rare decision to give the team some extensive exposure.
In a roundtable discussion including LaDainian Tomlinson, Brian Baldinger, Solomon Wilcots and Paul Burmeister, the crew discussed the outlook of the 2013 season for Cincinnati. The consensus opinion was that the team definitely looks the part of a playoff squad, but the questions about success in the postseason lingered. When given his turn, Tomlinson labeled the Bengals as "the best team in this division (AFC North)". That's pretty lofty praise, given who the team has to play for one-third of it's schedule every year. He also added that he "loves the direction that this team is heading."
Predictably, the questions that surround the team revolve around quarterback Andy Dalton and offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. "I think that this is a team that is more than capable of getting to the postseason," Baldinger said. "When they get there, can the offense deliver? And that's where Jay Gruden comes in this year--with the additions of Tyler Eifert and Giovani Bernard, how quickly can they become weapons? And weapons that really make this offense more diversified and explosive...In the trenches, both on offense and defense, they are as talented as anyone else in this league right now."
Those two rookies were the other focal point of the discussion between the four men on NFL Network. Again, it's a predictable sentiment, but getting some contributions from these two players has to be a top priority. In fact, we labeled it as one of the top-ten keys to a successful 2013 season.
You can view the NFL.com video of the roundtable discussion here. One thing is for sure: the expectations have definitely been raised for the 2013 Cincinnati Bengals. Now they just have to play the games.