Perhaps no team in the NFL is the butt of more jokes than the Cincinnati Bengals. Using Mike Ditka's standard of "you are what your record says you are" as a standard, it's certainly justified in many ways to assume the worst about this franchise. Add in a team coming off a 4-12 season, losing their franchise quarterback and two all-pro caliber wide receivers and breaking in a new offense with a rookie quarterback and no offseason preparation…. well, you see what I mean. Who in their right minds could possibly see any reason for optimism for 2011? Given that they've been outscored 61-10 in the first two preseason games, what on earth could possibly convince anyone that this won't be the worst team ever in franchise history?
First of all, being the worst team in Bengals franchise history will take some doing. I mean David Shula did coach this team after all with David Klingler at quarterback. The current Bengals look like Lombardi's Green Bay Packers by that standard. There are some other memes floating around, however, that I believe just won't hold water as the season unfolds.
The Bengals' offensive line can't protect the quarterback. I honestly don't know where this one comes from. Perhaps it's that they were protecting a quarterback who looked like Betty White before eating the Snickers bar, or that the offensive coordinator was having receivers run 20 plus yard routes and calling play sequences that left the team forever in third and long. Whatever the case, the facts don't bear this out. The Bengals were actually second in the AFC last year and sixth in the NFL in LEAST sacks allowed by percentage of passes attempted. As Joe Reedy reported today, the Bengals only allowed a sack on 4.53 % of passes attempted last season. With a more mobile quarterback in Andy Dalton and an offense predicated on getting the ball out quickly, I don't see the pass blocking capabilities of this offensive line being called into question.
You can't win in the NFL with a rookie quarterback. Really? Do people not watch the Bengals play division games. Who was quarterbacking the Baltimore Ravens when the advanced to the AFC Championship game in 2008? A rookie, Joe Flacco. Who, by the way, didn't complete a pass until his third preseason game. Bengal fans should remember Flacco's first regular season game when he completed only 50% of his passes for a measly 129 yards, but scrambled 38 yards for the game winning touchdown. And there's this other guy in Pittsburgh that goes by the nickname "Big Ben" who did a pretty fair job his rookie year, taking over in the second game and not losing again the rest of the regular season. Bengals fans would be wise to withhold judgment on Andy Dalton until he starts playing in some games that matter.
Marvin Lewis can't coach. it's unbelievable that people could say this about someone who took THIS organization to two division titles. Ask Hall of Famer Dick Lebeau how easy that is. Lewis took over a franchise that really was a joke and righted it. In the process, he's managed Ochocinco, TO, Chris Henry's death, linebackers with broken necks and meth addictions, and a franchise quarterback walking away from the team. All the while he's wrested more control from Mike Brown than any other coach in Brown's time as owner. Yes, I quarrel with his clock management at times and he can't seem to win a replay challenge to save his life, but the man can flat out coach.
The Bengals will be the worst team in the league this year. This is patently false for three reason. First, the NFC West will play in the NFL this season, and what's more, they're on the Bengals schedule! Second, the Bengals can run the football with Cedric Benson. That will help offset Andy Dalton's growing pains. Third, Mike Zimmer's defense is going to be pretty good. They've made good, if not splashy, personnel moves in the limited offseason and have a good young nucleus of players to work with.
Will the Bengals be representing the AFC in Indianapolis in February? I doubt it. That would shock even the most die-hard Bengal fan. But given the schedule they have and the staff working with them, this Bengals team will definitely surprise some people who are looking for abject failure.
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