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Clayton: Bengals Are One of the Teams Affected Most by the Lockout

When the 8th Circuit Judges made a 2-1 decision to grant the NFL owners an extended stay until their appeal can be heard on June 3, offensive coordinators around the league began cutting pages out of their play books. With the offseason training programs in jeopardy, it's possible that teams won't be able to get the practice that they usually would during minicamp and, possibly, even in preseason games.

Teams like the Patriots, Colts, Saints, Packers, Steelers and Ravens, the NFL's more established teams, will be affected by the lockout but will likely find their stride soon after they take the field. The lockout will take a much bigger toll on the younger and less established teams, especially teams like the Vikings, Titans and, according to ESPN senior writer John Clayton, the Cincinnati Bengals.

Clayton mentions that it would be a different story if it wasn't Andy Dalton poised to run the offense in 2011 and it was Carson Palmer instead. However, Palmer's pending retirement after his trade demand has ruled him out. Instead, the Bengals will probably start a rookie for the first time since they started Greg Cook in 1969. Dalton's college system could hold him back as well. Clayton mentions that Dalton will be forced to make the transition from the college spread offense to a pro-style west coast system in a very limited amount of time. That combined with a new offensive coordinator that has limited NFL experience, could make the Bengals' 2011 road very bumpy.

The problem is trying to get rookie QB Andy Dalton on the same page with new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden without a true offseason. Converting a spread offense quarterback into a West Coast system is hard enough, but to do it with no offseason prep is nearly impossible. Because most of Gruden's time has been spent in Arena football, it's not as if he can buy Dalton time and bring in a veteran who has worked with him in the past. Some believe the Bengals might go for a Jim Sorgi to help out, but is that going to be good enough?

If the Bengals plan on having a successful 2011 season, they're probably going to have to put as little pressure on Dalton as possible and lean heavily on a running game and on their defense, just like they did in 2009. That makes the re-signing of Cedric Benson, or a Benson-like back, extremely important. The play of the offensive line will be extremely important too.

The more the Bengals control the clock on offense with a power running game and the more their defense keeps opposing offenses out of the end zone, the more successful the Bengals will be in 2011 -- at least that will be the case until the coaches feel confident that Dalton gets it. 

The 2011 blue print for the Bengals won't win them a Super Bowl; teams will elite quarterbacks and vertical passing attacks win Super Bowls. That doesn't mean that they won't have a successful season, though. Honestly, with a rookie quarterback at the helm, I would consider an 8-8 season in the AFC North a fairly successful one. At least it would be a good building block for the 2012 season, which will be their last chance, because we all know the world is going to end next year.