Cincinnati Bengals fans are upset over multiple perceived slights from punditland that the team has recently endured. So in an attempt to correct this injustice, I offer one man's list (i.e. mine) of the Top 10 Cincinnati Bengals players.
10. WR Chad Ochocinco. Yeah, I know, I know. And I put him at 10 in deference to the half, or more, of Bengaldom that desperately wants him to just go away. But he's still a potential Hall-of-Famer, and those aren't exactly growing on trees in Cincinnati. I just wish that guy Johnson hadn't vanished and left us with this bozo. I liked that Johnson guy. Even have his jersey. Ocho? Not so much.
9. LS Clark Harris. Who? Exactly. If he's doing his job, no one knows his name. Harris came in smoothly and efficiently when Brad St. Louis broke down and deserves some props. Now, if we could only find the second coming of Jim Breech, we'd be all set. Memo to Mike Nugent: hope all is well.
8. DE Frostee Rucker. Look, the guy's name is Frostee. Like the non-dairy dessert. Or the snowman. How cool is that -- literally? You have to give it up for the guy just for that. Throw in the fact that he's damn productive when he can stay healthy and get on the field and you've got a guy with the potential to terrorize opposing QBs.
7. RB Brian Leonard. I actually want this guy back more than RB Cedric Benson. Not only does he have a knack for making the clutch play, but he has good hands. In 25 games with Cincinnati, he's got 30 catches for 354 yards, and I think he would flourish in the kind of West Coast scheme that new OC Jay Gruden is installing.
6. WR Andre Caldwell. One word: underrated. He can play, he's got speed, he'll fight for the ball, but in many ways looks like the odd man out on a team that just drafted AJ Green, still has Chad and Jerome Simpson, and picked up Jordan Shipley -- who just misses this list -- last season. I have a feeling that he's going to do well long-term, but it won't be here.
5. DE Carlos Dunlap. After notching 9.5 sacks in the last eight games of 2010, Dunlap is a presumptive starter who needs to take his game to the next level as his snaps increase. Cincinnati has not had a "sack artist" in a million years, and fan hopes are high.
4. DT Domata Peko. Good, solid, consistently productive player. Isn't going to get named to any Pro Bowls, isn't going to rack up big sparkly stats, just rolls out there and does his job. And plays a pretty good fullback to boot.
Give the Bengals 50 more guys like this and they win for a decade.
3. CB Leon Hall & 2. Johnathan Joseph. The Frick and Frack of football, Hall and Joseph are one of (if not the) league's top cornerback tandems. The Bengals' defense took a big step back in 2010, but it wasn't because they couldn't stop the pass, it was because they got run over. Keeping these two guys is key, but Joseph is a free agent right now and Hall's contract is up after this year. Especially when the team is looking at starting over at QB and focusing more on the run, which will produce more low-scoring games, the Bengals can hardly afford to let their pass defense slip and invite shootouts that they can't win.
1. OT Andrew Whitworth. Not only has Whitworth successfully transitioned from guard to tackle in the NFL, he's raised his game and become the team's leader as well. Someday, hopefully soon, this spot will be occupied by a quarterback. Really, it has to be. But for now, Whitworth is the man, and even when he hands off the reins to someone behind center, he'll only slide down one slot.
Here's looking at you, Andy Dalton.