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Cincinnati Bengals Need Better Plan B's

Y'know, if Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator "Sideshow" Bob Bratkowski ever wants to know why so many fans have a low opinion of him (and that's putting it mildly), all he has to do is visit the team Web site.

"We’re trying to do different things and we’re moving guys around trying to create mismatches by alignment. That’s new to us," [Bengals QB Carson] Palmer said after practice.

Woah. Moving guys around trying to create mismatches? Man, Bob, that's some cutting-edge stuff right there. How you come up with it, I just don't know.

"Getting a big guy that is supposed to be on the outside on the inside," Palmer said. "Or moving Antonio (Bryant) around all over the place. No. 2, No. 3, No. 1. You don’t want them to know where he’s going to be every time. It’s not so much getting him on a mismatch. We don’t think it matters if it’s going to be a nickel (corner), linebacker, or starting corner. We think it’s going to be a mismatch. But just getting him in a spot where the defense isn’t sure where he’s going to be once we break the huddle."

Wow, wow, wow. I think this is the moment we finally acknowledge that when it comes to offensive geniuses, franchise founder Paul Brown must now take a back seat to Sideshow Bob.

But wait! There's more!

Bratkowski says the Bengals may use more no-huddle this year.

The no-huddle? There's a departure. The Bengals never ever went anywhere in the regular or postseason when heavily employing a no-huddle approach. Bob is just getting further and further out on that limb.

"I think that is yet to be determined, but I can see us maybe doing a little more," he said.

Yeah, with these untried and untested concepts, it's best not to rush in.

What, too much snark? Okay, I apologize. Really, I'm not a big Brat-hater, but when I read things like this, I just can't help myself. And yes, I understand why this has been such a (relatively) long time in coming: once upon a time (think 2005) the Bengals had the kind of talent on offense that meant you don't need to worry about mismatches, because everyone was a mismatch. We dare you: stop us. But those days are long gone. By last year, it was opposing defenses saying, we dare you: complete a pass.

But that only emphasizes how the Bengals coaching staff needs to be better prepared to switch gears fast if something unexpected happens. One of my disappointments back in 2008 was how long it seemed to take for the play calling and game planning to tailor itself to QB Ryan Fitzpatrick's strengths (such as they were). And if history is any guide, we can count on something important going wrong over the course of the season.

RB Cedric Benson has yet to put in one complete season as a "bell-cow." The closest he has come was last year, when he played in 13 games. So the odds are that we can expect Benson to miss some time in 2010.

How about QB Carson Palmer? No, I’m not hopping on the "is something wrong with Carson Palmer?" bandwagon, but instead the "what will it be this time?" cart. If it’s not his thumb, it’s his elbow. If it’s not his elbow, it’s his ankle. If it’s not his ankle, it’s his knee. I don’t know if I would go so far as to call Palmer "injury-prone," because most of his injuries can be traced to breakdowns in protection and either freak or dirty hits, but really, aren’t we all waiting for the next one?

Every time Palmer drops back to pass, I pray. From the first snap of the season to the last, the most common words out of my mouth during games are, "Throw the (expletive deleted) ball, Palmer!!!!" as he holds it…and holds it…and holds it. And every time he gets hit, I steel myself against words like "favoring" or "hobbling" or, worst of all, "…and Palmer is still down."

TEs Reggie Kelly and Ben Utecht going down for the count in training camp. DE Antwan Odom going from "not human" to injured reserve. Odell Thurman. David Pollack. Buckethead. Chris Henry. It's a rare year when something important doesn't go wrong, and that's true for most team, not just the Bengals. The difference is that other teams seem to deal with disaster better. Not always, but when you see a team like the New England Patriots lose a Tom Brady and go right on ticking, well, it ticks you off.

If the Bengals want to make a run for the Lombardi in 2010, building better Plan B's is a must. The team has been derailed too often in recent years because some key cog breaks and they either can't or don't adjust. Yes, sometimes circumstances do spiral beyond anyone's control, but again, when I read things like Brat's comments above, I have to question the coaching staff's ability to adapt. That doesn't mean they are a bad coaching staff overall, but if adaptation is a limitation (and it seems to be), then it needs to be addressed.