Growing Pains

Posted by Dan Hoard on September 26, 2011 – 6:31 pm

As the radio voice of the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox for the last six summers, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know some of the best young talent in the game including Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, and Clay Buchholz.

I hope I’ll be saying the same thing about my new job.

As lousy as we’ve all felt after each of the last two games, it’s easy to be encouraged by Cincinnati’s young nucleus and optimistic about the potential of the AFC’s youngest roster with an average age of 25.74.

Courtesy of the Associated Press

“They are young, but boy are they talented,” said six-year veteran Thomas Howard.  “From Andy to A.J. to Gresham…they’re going to be good for a long time.  You’re going to watch those guys score a lot of touchdowns.  I’m definitely excited about them.”

But let’s face it – there is going to be a learning curve.  Whether it was the two false starts by A.J. Green, or a pair of 4th quarter interceptions by Andy Dalton, the Bengals made mistakes against the 49ers that come with inexperience.

“We’re all learning a new offense, we have a rookie quarterback, rookie receivers and first-year receivers playing, so we’re going to have some growing pains,” said Green.

“Sunday they weren’t their best of course, but I was really impressed by what they did in Denver and they’ll just continue to get better,” said Howard.  “This is the National Football League and you want things to go perfectly but they don’t.”

The key is to learn from those mistakes, accept responsibility, and get better.

“Things that were done early on my part hurt the team,” Jermaine Gresham told me after the game.  “Key blocks in the run game and things like that.  To be honest with you, I’m hurting the team right now.  I need to reevaluate things and put more into the week and help out a little more and be consistent.”

The kiddie corps would also be wise to study a respected veteran like Nate Clements who is in his 11th year in the NFL.

“Actions speak louder than words,” said Clements.  “I go out there every day and prepare myself for practice and go out there and play hard.  Hopefully the way I carry myself and approach this game is contagious and rubs off on guys.”

“These young guys are professionals,” said Howard.  “They do a good job of taking care of their bodies and they understand how important it is to get in the cold tub and stretch extra – I didn’t do that my first couple of years.  They get it – they’re being pros and they’re going to be good for a long time.”

That’s the goal…as long as it’s not a long time until they’re good.

“I’m happy with a lot of the things we’re doing,” said head coach Marvin Lewis.  “I know our football team will work, we’ll play physical.  We’ve just got to make sure we execute for 60 minutes, we don’t beat ourselves by penalties or turnovers or missed assignments.  Just keep doing that and we’ll be fine.”

“Everyone is holding everyone else accountable,” said Howard.  “I like it man.”

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I hope you’ll join Dave Lapham and me for Bengals Game Plan on Wednesday night from 6 to 8 on ESPN 1530-AM.  Our guests will include the Voice of the Buffalo Bills John Murphy.

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