(Editor's note: This is the first installment of a weekly series where Cincy Jungle's own Anthony Cosenza will answer emails and "tweets" sent to him, talk about Bengals topics of the week, and/or respond to our reader's comments that were posted on the site over the course of the week. This post will likely morph in its layout and content over the next few weeks, so we are excited to see where it take us and you -- the readers. This is meant to be a more interactive article involving our readers, so feel free to email Anthony any topics and/or questions that you'd like to see kicked around on this feature at email@example.com, or send him a "tweet" @CUIBengalsFan.)
Welcome to this first installment of the "Cincy Jungle Mailbag". Since we didn't give you all a proper heads up to allow yourselves time to send emails and tweets my way, I'm going to use this initial post solely to reply to our readers' comments on some of our articles that caught my attention this week. I want to applaud the readers of this site and Bengals fans in general, as they definitely seem to know their football.
Now, on to some of your comments from this week:
Regarding the topic of the increase of Bengal false starts of the past couple of weeks, commenter "ItsAlwaysSunnyInDayton" weighed in:
False starts by linemen have to be blamed on Alexander
It’s his job to discipline his players on the basics of the position, false starts have been a problem for this team for a long time now and something needs to change. Maybe they should come up with some kind of punishment for the player that false starts.
A great point, for a variety of reasons. When rumblings began about the Bengals possibly replacing some assistant coaches this offseason, I called for Alexander's head. He's been here for almost twenty years, and subsequently named the assistant head coach and I'm wondering why. His heyday was with the offensive line of the mid-2000s, but the unit now is a shell of what they once were. Seeing the delayed development of Andre Smith and the preference of starting an inferior Nate Livings over Evan Mathis at the left guard position infuriated me. Beyond that, the false starts have been killer for the team for years now. It's the offensive line coach's responsibility to cut out these mental mistakes.
To be fair to Alexander, these penalties were relatively low in the beginning of the season, but have reared their ugly head at the critical juncture of the season. There's never a good time for a false start, but it's especially unacceptable that they occur inside the opposition's five-yard line in two consecutive games. That's a lack of discipline and focus--two critical aspects to any offensive lineman's game. With Jay Gruden's new style of the West Coast Offense and the struggles with consistency this line has had this season, one has to point at Alexander's coaching. In short, the running game has struggled this year due to inconsistent blocking, and many fans are wondering if the five best offensive lineman are even starting for the team right now. So, what "needs to change" is the personnel on the field, the punishments for mental errors to drive the point home (up-downs 'til ya puke!) and possibly a coaching change. The coaching change is unlikely though, as Alexander is a Mike Brown holdover.
On the Andre Caldwell Injury situation and the decrease in Injured Reserve players, a number of you weighed in. First, commenter "ticalcaldwell" pointed out a quote from Paul Dehner, Jr.:
Interesting perspective on our current IR status
Dec. 20, 2011 5:03 p.m. – by Paul Dehner Jr. – Bengals see dramatic drop in IR cases from 2010 to 2011. At this point in time last season, the Bengals had 18 players on Injured Reserve. As of Tuesday, only seven players reside on that list. Marvin Lewis continues to knock on wood every week. "We’ve got good numbers," he said. "We’ve lost some guys, as we know, but for the most part our bumps and bruises have been limited. … It’s been great." Bengals RapidReports
Great statistic here. In my humble opinion, this is a direct correlation to the medical staff being completely overhauled in the offseason. Injuries are apparently being treated more adequately and the team doesn't seem to be so quick to jump the gun and place a player on IR that merely has a "groin injury" or "hamstring injury", which we've seen all too often in years past. There's also being lucky. Aside from providing better medical treatment, the Bengals have just plain avoided "the injury bug". I think that that's a combination of luck and the fact that they have a much younger roster this year. However, the handful of players who are on IR this season have hurt the team. Leon Hall and Jordan Shipley have been the two biggest casualties.
On this same post, many of you bashed Andre Caldwell as a detriment to the squad and want him gone in 2012. I don't share the same notion. I feel that Caldwell has actually received a raw deal while in Cincinnati, never really being placed in the proper position to make plays here. Caldwell is an outside receiver and they've attempted to make him a slot receiver. Though he may have questionable hands, every drop he's had (the amount of those have been drastically overstated by Bengals fans) have been when going across the middle. But, let's not forget that the two biggest touchdown receptions of his career (and two biggest of the last half decade) were against Pittsburgh and Baltimore in a three-week span in 2009.
Want some stats? The Bengals are 4-2 in games that Caldwell has caught a touchdown in a game. The two losses were this year, against Denver and Baltimore and both of those touchdowns were huge in the comeback attempts in those respective weeks. Let's also not forget the three game stretch when he was a starting wide receiver last season. Against Cleveland, San Diego and Baltimore those last three games, Caldwell racked up 15 catches, 270 yards receiving and a 19.1 yard-per-reception average. And where was he playing? On the outside. Caldwell is not a slot receiver, as the Bengals have tried to mold him into--he's an outside threat with good speed.
And, lastly, a weigh-in on the attitude towards Mike Brown and the impending blackout this week. There are some great comments on this article. Commenters "keithp", "occams_tiger_teeth", "shibacle" and "steveinct" all made compelling arguments in support of or against the fans' actions in not selling out this weekend's game. There was also an interesting FanPost from "peko'sponytail" on the subject. And, though I weighed in on the Mike Brown subject, I have a few more final thoughts on it.
Though I see both sides of the argument (fans fault vs. ownership's fault), I am inclined to place more blame with Mike Brown's ownership. If not for the twenty years of ineptitude that has come with Brown's reign as owner/G.M., fans would flock to Paul Brown Stadium--bad economy and all. While the at-home experience has made it much more convenient and comfortable to watch your team while sitting on your couch. Regardless, the powerhouse franchises in the NFL routinely sell out their stadiums come rain or shine. Fans brave the weather and drunken buffoons to see their team in person because their beloved franchise rewards them for attending. This reward is in the form of pregame and/or halftime festivities, as well as consistently good play on the field. The Bengals have provided neither over the past twenty years and fans are sick of it. Some of you touched on the Carson Palmer debacle as a contributor of low season ticket sales and I agree with you. Once the Bengals create a consistent atmosphere of winning, as well as embracing their history and their fans, people will come back to PBS.
However, it is a shame that the stadium isn't sold out on a late December weekend in which the Bengals are chasing the playoffs. I get that it's Christmas Eve, but with this year's forecasters predicting a horrible season for Cincinnati, you'd think the fans would come in droves to see these new-look Bengals. But, it appears that cynicism and bitterness have won the day and many Ohioans will not be afforded the luxury of being able to view the game in the comfort of their own homes. It's a cause and effect relationship, really. Unfortunately, it looks as if neither side is wiling to budge on their stubbornness any time soon.
Thanks for your feedback, Cincy Jungle readers. Keep commenting and feel free to fire away comments in my direction for next week's post.