INDIANAPOLIS – Thoughts on a bus:
» The Bengals rolled up Interstate 74 Wednesday afternoon in about as good a shape as they’ve been 24 hours before a Marvin Lewis preseason finale.
If the burning issues are kicker, backup quarterback, the fifth and sixth receivers, and the fourth safety, things can’t be all that bad. It’s not ideal, but there are teams in their own division grappling with much larger issues. The Ravens are piecing together a secondary, the Steelers are trying to get to 2-2 without Ben Roethlisberger and maybe a veteran right tackle, and the Browns are trying to find a running game because if they put it all on Jake Delhomme…
» That said, those are concerns. I love kicker Mike Nugent’s track record, but not his injury history. I love backup quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan’s experience but not his stats (55.4 rating). I love Jerome Simpson’s stats (13.5 yards per catch), but not his experience.
» It’s all fine and dandy and Brett Favre to have a speculative roster plotted out: In a nod to injuries, four running backs, no fullbacks, four tight ends. In a nod to special teams, seven linebackers. In a nod to Peyton Manning not playing Thursday night but in the Lucas Oil Stadium return engagement Nov. 14, six cornerbacks.
Who knows? Those may not be the numbers. Besides, in an instant everything can change Thursday night. And it doesn’t have to be an injury to a starter, which is going to be tough to happen since they are probably all going to be out of there midway through the first quarter. If they ever get in at all.
Still, think back to Lewis’ first preseason and that finale, also in Indy. When holder Nick Harris let one slide through his hands, everything changed. Kicker Neil Rackers got hurt chasing down the ball, couldn’t kick in the opener, and Shayne Graham came to Cincinnati via the waiver wire.
Knock on wood, throw salt over the shoulder, wear a Bengals T-shirt backwards, whatever you have to do to ward off the fates. But a lot hinges on about 35 guys getting out of Indy healthy.
» How much different will the roster look at Saturday’s noon cutdown compared to Sunday’s noon finalization? Probably not much. First, the Bengals claim 21st off the waiver wire. How many guys can get they get that far down? They wouldn’t have gotten Graham. They were first that year. Maybe they could get a young fullback.
And it would be hard to see them signing any vested free-agent veterans before the opener because their full season salary would be guaranteed if they’re on the 53 Opening Day.
Unless, maybe, if it was a kicker and they’d just be exchanging the same salary.
But no way would they trade for a quarterback making in excess of $2 million, a la Matt Leinart. Now if they decide they need a backup, maybe they’d pursue a guy like that after the opener, but it’s more likely if they trade it’s going to be for a younger guy they can develop and that won’t mind sitting. They aren’t alone. No one is going to give Leinart or guys of that ilk their current salary.
If there is a major change it would no doubt come the week after the opener.
» Guys to keep an eye on Thursday?
Obviously the kickers. O’Sullivan. Safeties Kyries Hebert and Rico Murray. Can either guy amp up their play from scrimmage to match what they do on special teams? Fourth-round pick Roddrick Muckelroy. The Texas linebacker has been saddled by hamstring problems. But he had a good night in Buffalo. Can he put together back-to-back games? Center-guard Reggie Stephens, the seventh-rounder, and right guard Otis Hudson, the fifth-rounder? Can both make it?
And who knows, maybe they’ve made it or they haven’t made it according to The List that only the powers that be know. But like Nugent said, if they already made up their minds, they probably would have done something by now.
And, oh yeah, you’ve got to watch Simpson and Quan Cosby. They are the most fun to watch of the receivers battling for the final two spots. So different, but fun. It’s interesting to see if they’re the two guys that make it. You could see where it may be a weekly decision on which one the Bengals keep active depending on the opponent. On Tuesday, Lewis talked about how difficult it is for foes to prepare for three different kind of returners, Cosby’s strength. And what if you play a club struggling with short corners in the secondary and you think you could exploit Simpson’s hops if he can harness the snap-to-snap consistency with routes and assignments the coaches keep harping on?
» One of the great reasons to say goodbye to the preseason is that you can sense The Ocho getting jacked up for the regular season with his Tweets. On Wednesday he revealed his plan to grab the rifle of the “minute man” and fire it like the guy does when the Pats score if he’s able to score in the opener. What’s wrong with that? Good, harmless gag. And I’m really impressed he called the guy a “minute man” and not a Patriot. Good local knowledge. Don’t fire until you see the lights of the scoreboard.
Maybe he just doesn’t want to talk to me, but every time I’ve wandered over to his locker the last couple of weeks with the tape recorder out, he just shakes his head and says, “Got nothing to say, Hobs. The season hasn’t started yet.”
So, that’s another reason to hold a goodbye bash to five preseason games.
» As you guys know, I love Peter King, the sage of Sports Illustrated. But I just don’t get why he’s so down on Carson Palmer. OK, OK, he was throwing wilder than the Wild Card Game. A bad first half. But with no tight ends, one wide receiver, and a new offensive line, he engineered seven last-drive points for the lead, the win, or a tie, to craft a division title. Is that a guy on the downside of his career? I’ll keep saying it: If he did that on either Coast, there would be a statue of him in time for this season and, maybe, a Sports Illustrated cover in September to match Joey Votto.
» Here are three items showing that with 11 days before the opener, Bengaldom is in high gear:
The Cincinnati Rec Commission is bannering “Who Dey Sundays” at Neumann Golf Course with shotgun starts early enough to play 18 holes and get home by kickoff to watch the first six games. They are at 7:45 a.m. Sept 12, 19, and 26 and 8 a.m. Oct. 3, 10, 24. Golfers have to call 513-574-1320 by 6 p.m. the Saturday before for tee times.
Monty Montague, the maven of Bengals merchandising, sends along a note that says sales in the club’s Pro Shop (“store, stadium, Internet”) is up more than 30 percent over last year. A large factor, he says, is the signing of Terrell Owens. Coming off Rey Maualuga’s wildly popular rookie season, Owens’ jersey sales have passed Maualuga’s by nearly 50 percent. Quite a feat, he says, because numbers for Maualuga’s No. 58 are some of the best the Pro Shop has ever seen. He also says the T.O. Factor has also helped with sales of The Ocho jerseys. No. 85 sales are up five times over what they were last year.
Bengals.com is also riding the T.O. factor as well an AFC North-winning roster that has been tweaked just enough to provide Who Deyers with a heavy whiff of potential back-to-back titles.
Cyberspace guru Andy Ware says the site “continues to far outpace last season’s record-setting numbers.” August recorded the second-most total visits ever for a month (next to last December) with just over three million. Ware also said August had the site’s second-most unique visitors ever in a month (also next to last December) with more than 1.4 million. By comparison there were 2.5 million visits and 820,000 unique visitors in August of ’09.
Ware also says that Comscore reported earlier this month that the only NFL team site that had more unique visitors in July was DallasCowboys.com. The ‘Boys logged 868,000 to the Bengals’ 427,000 and the Steelers’ 384,000.
It shows the power and passion of Bengaldom, for which we are forever grateful. Not to mention the fascination with T.O., a Hall of Fame player that has crossed the Rubicon into popular culture.
Tags: power of bengaldom, roster numbers, t.o. players to watch
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