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MMQB reviews Bengals history, Geno Atkins and Andy Dalton

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Monday's MMQB kick starts an inevitability; we're dangerously close to the start of training camp. Peter King tells a few stories about Cincinnati's history while capturing two Bengals who need to step up this season.

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Football doesn't rely on poetry like baseball, where heartwarming stories capture the essence of spring's arrival with corny animation of flowers blooming and kids sprinting through sprinklers. Winter is usually a boring affair for most, trapped inside toasty homes where inconsequential NBA games are played and the NHL speaks to only its most hardened fanatics. Baseball consumes a little of our attention, especially those of us supporting the Reds, until football is momentarily reborn during free agency, the NFL draft, and spring camps.

Yet football's arrival is tedious and slow, sometimes indeterminate, and without the poetry. Previews will sprout up at magazine stands initially before websites offer generic previews. What Sports Illustrated, ESPN and even the Cincinnati Enquirer offer, you've studied, composing an opinion and refining talking points for the eventual debate about Dalton. You've inhaled stories, film and debates during the slower moments, even becoming infatuated with the choreography of the team's depth chart.

Get ready for these stories; perhaps they're just summaries to remind your overfilled football brain of what to look for. Maybe there's something new. Such as Peter King's latest MMQB. King finally transitioned from the impatient stories, some beautifully written, into the conveyer belt of previews with a media organization expecting to cover all 32 teams during the course of training camp. He might visit Cincinnati in early August, when the New York Giants roll into town. Or he'll go to Cleveland; his planner hasn't been written in pen.

However, King told an interesting story on Monday, dipping into Cincinnati's history, where he was a beat writer for the Cincinnati Enquirer in the early 80s. It covers Bill Arnsparger, a former coach for the Ohio State Buckeyes, Miami Redhawks and Kentucky Wildcats before his expanse into the NFL. The story captures Dick LeBeau's transformation, where he learned the "zone blitz" from Arnsparger.

In 1984, the Bengals had an imaginative rookie head coach, Sam Wyche, and an imaginative first-year defensive coordinator, Dick LeBeau. In those days—and still today, for the most part—the Bengals used their coaches as scouts for the draft. In 1984, the Bengals had three first-round draft picks, and the assistants were beating the bushes to see every prime prospect in America. So LeBeau journeyed to LSU to scout a meager crop of Tigers that spring, and spent an afternoon with LSU defensive boss Arnsparger. At the time, who could blame LeBeau for simply inheriting a good defense—the ’83 Bengals allowed a league-best 270.4 yards a game, 23 yards fewer than the number two Saints—and being a caretaker. But he didn’t. That day in Baton Rouge, LeBeau looked at lots of things LSU was doing that the NFL wasn’t. Namely, dropping defensive linemen and linebackers into shallow zones, covering mostly backs and tight ends on wheel routes and shallow crosses, while unexpectedly blitzing corners or safeties off the edges. When LeBeau left campus and flew on to his next stop, he took a napkin on his Delta flight and began doodling X’s and O’s, imagining dropping traditional but athletic defensive ends Eddie Edwards and Ross Browner into coverage, while letting his defensive backs apply pressure. A few years ago, talking to LeBeau about it, I recall him telling me, "I owe a lot of credit to Bill Arnsparger. He really taught me a lot about the scheme." Think of the Zone Blitz’s effect on football, and you’ve got to think of Arnsparger’s last effect too.

Arnsparger, viewed as the architect of the '72 Miami Dolphins defense, passed away on Friday. He was 88-years-old.

King takes a moment to discuss expectations from Geno Atkins, playing on a defense that "needs to see that penetrating force back" from an ACL tear on Halloween night in 2013. Despite not missing any games last season, he clearly wasn't the same player; the talking point is he spent the offseason last year rehabilitating, instead of training. This year he spent the offseason training.

Then there's the Andy Dalton mention:

Regular-season record in 64 NFL starts: 40-23-1 (four straight winning seasons). Post-season record in four starts: 0-4 (average margin of defeat: 15.0 points). Booed at a celebrity softball game during baseball All-Star Game festivities last week, Dalton begins again, in year five, to try to show Cincinnati, and the football world, that he’s made for prime time. Haven't seen it yet. This is an important summer for him, but the more important time will be the cold winter that’s coming if he fails again.

At least winter will give way to poetic baseball stories... which absolutely won't help.