The Enquirer ran a piece: 5 Questions facing the Bengals for the 2008 season. I'll prompt the questions to you also. But I wanted to respond with my opinions. Their responses are on the link above.
Do the Bengals keep their coordinators or make a change?
Reader Bengalmadness made an interesting observation after Brian Billick was fired on New Years Eve. It's not that I believe Billick should come to Cincinnati. In fact, a part me realizes that the Bengals won't pay for a high-priced coordinator -- or even a high-priced head coach. And I'm not sure if he'll take a position other than head coach. Would he even be productive? I think so. He was never the coach that could acquire the talent in Baltimore to keep the nickname earned as the Vikings offensive coordinator. But like Minnesota, the pieces will be in place for him in Cincinnati. He could find a way to make the Bengals even more vertical. Like I said, I just don't see it happening knowing ownership. But in Billick's case, what better scenario do you have to remake your image as "offensive genius"? Also, I'm not sure if Billick's polarizing attitude would mesh well with some of our players. In the end, there's more reason to decline this option than to keep it.
Realistically, I believe there's two options at offensive coordinator. Either keep Bob Bratkowski or promote Ken Zampese. On defense, I'm not sure. I think a lot of the defensive troubles were a result of injury, mental mistakes and talent. Schemes? Yes. But I don't believe that's a very powerful argument when considering the above. When the Bengals started hitting their stride on defense during the last half of the season, it made you believe that the scheme works, only if the players buy into it and "do their jobs." In the team's last eight games, they only allowed one 100-yard rusher (F.Gore, 138). The Bengals went 5-3 during that stretch. In that same stretch, the pass defense only allowed two quarterbacks to record a passer rating of 100 or better in two games (Warner, 104.9; Hill, 105.8) -- both losses. And no quarterback threw for three touchdowns or more in the last ten games (5-5).
If there's any indication from Marvin Lewis, then Bresnahan likely stays. And I'll bet that has everything to do with the defense's performance in the last half of the season.
What to do at offensive tackle?
There's a ton of scenarios here.
If Willie Anderson retires... then the Bengals re-sign Stacy Andrews and draft a guard. This isn't their plan. It's my thinking. Andrews has shown to be a productive blocker, but I think if Anderson leaves, the Bengals should think about moving Whitworth to right tackle and draft a guard. I like the idea of keeping players in their natural positions and we need a guy that's quicker to the outside on the infamous "Power O". It's not that I thought Whitworth was bad. But we should think about getting a quicker natural guard. This would also apply if the Bengals decide to cut Anderson.
A more likely scenario is that the Bengals sign Andrews and keep him at right tackle and leave Whitworth at left guard.
If Willie Anderson doesn't retire... then the Bengals will start Willie at right tackle. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. There's two reasons. One, there's a level of loyalty that Anderson will regain his starting position -- don't lose your job to injury. Two, they don't want to sit his contract on the bench. And I believe if Anderson is healthy, he's still the best option for the position. So what to do with Andrews? You sign him and make him your number one backup at tackle and guard. But how much do you offer a backup?
Who will be the number one running back?
Like above, there's variables that needs to be eliminated to clear a foggy picture. The lack of production and money Rudi Johnson is due, has all but sealed his career in Cincinnati. Kenny Watson was one of the bright surprises this season. He should be the leading contender for the feature back competition. Will Kenny Irons come back? Will his body allow him to be a full-time feature back in the NFL -- he shared time throughout college. Was DeDe Dorsey's perceptive upswing the result of a few plays or a forecast of potential talent? Chris Perry? You know the question, don't you?
If I were to make a wild guess, this would be it. RB depth (assuming Rudi Johnson is gone)
- Kenny Watson
- Kenny Irons
- Chris Perry
- DeDe Dorsey
- Quincy Wilson (I just don't see him being on the active roster in any scenario)
Another thing to consider is drafting another running back and dumping Rudi and Chris Perry. However, I'm discounting that theory simply because we need to see a season with Irons and there's other spots on the team that need to be addressed.
Do they re-sign Defensive End Justin Smith?
No. Absolutely not. Don't get me wrong. I like Smith's work ethic and love his motor. But I just don't see the production for the long-term contract he'd receive to stick around Cincinnati. And honestly, this would have been the year to convince us. Playing another contract year with an established pass rusher in Robert Geathers (also disappointing) forcing the defense to balance their pass protection should have given Smith plenty of one-on-one situations.
There is a point to be made that Smith's tackles were up this year. Is that enough? Perhaps. But I'm not so sure.
And do they extend the contract of receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh?
Yes. Absolutely. Houshmandzadeh is the grit while Chad Johnson is the beauty. Between the two, they compliment each other. And if Johnson does stay, then T.J. has to be signed. There's no player on this team that picks up third downs like he does and no receiver in the NFL caught more passes. If the Bengals don't make a strong push to give Houshmandzadeh an extension this offseason, then I worry that he could take it personal. But, we'll see.
This is all my opinion.