It's the political mechanism for all campaign speeches. "Things are wrong", they shout. They're stale! Say the world change and watch the brand/party loyalty flock to the speaker like the running of the bulls with messiah-like applause. Politicians are like WWE superstars at campaign speeches: "It's great to be in Cincinnati again, the Queen City baby. Can I get a hell yea!" Thousands of people overreact to a narcissistic rich person saying the city's name. It's awesome.
Change is a very real forecast for Cincinnati and it should be the lexicon at every position. We're not talking ownership or coaching... sorry, those reality are set in stone. But the Bengals have two paths set before them: Stick with the status quo and grow old or stage a youth movement with players that you already have on the roster.
1) Will Terence Newman retire?
It's frustrating to get old. One can only imagine a veteran like Terence Newman playing for a significant portion of his life only to emotionally call it quits. Newman, who becomes a free agent on March 10, 2015, will turn 37 this year. After spending nine seasons in Dallas as a former fifth-overall pick in the 2003 NFL draft, Newman signed a one-year deal in 2012 with the Cincinnati Bengals, who had one of Newman's favorite defensive coordinators in Mike Zimmer. Newman signed a two-year deal in 2013 worth $5 million, in what was presumed to be his last.
"I talked to some guys that when they started kind of thinking of retirement and whatnot, it was more so about them waking up and wanting to go to meetings and feeling how the body was, if the knees gave out or the ankles gave out or shoulders or whatever it was," Newman said via ESPN. "That was part of their deciding factor -- the body just gave out."
Newman said he'll make his decision before the start of the new league year.
2) Should the Bengals sign Leon Hall to an extension and restructure his contract?
We mentioned this here (note: That was originally one of these points but as you can imagine, it got a little out of hand). To review or conduct a walk of shame by missing it entirely, go here... then go here.
3) Promoting Dre Kirkpatrick and Darqueze Dennard as the team's starting cornerbacks.
Cincinnati selected Dre Kirkpatrick in the first-round of the 2012 NFL draft and Darqueze Dennard two years later. Kirkpatrick, who missed most of his rookie season with injuries, finished tied for the team-lead with three interceptions in 2013 and won the AFC defensive player of the week award in Week 16 this year with two interceptions against Peyton Manning, including one returned for a touchdown.
Over the last two years combined, Kirkpatrick has scored two touchdowns, recorded six interceptions, has 12 passes defensed and held opposing quarterbacks to a 77.1 passer rating. What else does this kid need to do to convince old coaches that young players are ready? Why do we keep asking stupid questions like this every 2-3 years?
We're still not sure what to expect out of Darqueze Dennard. We can say with certainty that the Bengals were impressed enough to use a first-round pick on him. During his rookie season, Dennard played 61 snaps on defense in only six regular season games. He defensed nine passes and allowed five completions for 49 yards, 41 YAC, a touchdown and an opposing passer rating of 108.1. There isn't enough of a sample to really render intellectual judgement.
"Dre came along pretty damn good," said defensive coordinator Paul Guenther via the Cincinnati Enquirer. "He's going to be a guy we'll have to count on in the future. Proved he could be a starting corner. (Dennard) I thought that he could play, but when you've got veteran guys that have game experience - Terence and Leon and Dre's knocking at the door - it was just tough for him to get in there. I never thought that hey, if he had to go in the game and play 40 snaps and finish a game or finish a half (it would be bad). I had all the confidence in the world in him. He's going to be a great player. We're very high on him."
Promoting Kirkpatrick and Dennard could lead to one of the league's top cornerback duos if there's significant offseason development... and a little bit of trust.
4) The roller coaster season of Adam Jones
Adam Jones had one of the best years as a returner in the NFL, but as a cornerback, his season was a bit up-and-down. Jones allowed 54 completions (on 87 targets) for a completion rate of 62.1, with 576 yards receiving allowed and two touchdowns. His opposing passer rating of 74.7 was given a significant assist from his interceptions against the Denver Broncos, Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens.
Whereas Jones played well against the Colts (Week 7), Browns (Week 15), Patriots, Texans, Buccaneers and Broncos, he struggled as much against the Titans, Browns (Week 10), Saints and Colts (wildcard weekend).
Would it be in bad taste to suggest that Jones drop to the No. 4 spot on the team's depth chart, becoming a primary returner, while Kirkpatrick and Dennard start with Leon Hall playing the slot?