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Thinking and Believing…again

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on November 29, 2011 – 5:32 pm

Jay Gruden

Again in honor of Listen to Lance A Lot and Peter The King, here are some things I Think I Believe:

I THINK I BELIEVE the Bengals must be having a very good year. It is not even December and already the name of a Bengals assistant coach has surfaced as a candidate for a head coaching job. In the wake of Jack Del Rio’s firing in Jacksonville on Tuesday, Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com tweeted the names of Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden and former Titans head coach Jeff Fisher.

It’s not just an idle report because Prisco lives in Jacksonville, covered the Jags forever at the Florida Times-Union, and still has good ties to the club. Plus, connect the dots. Jags general manager Gene Smith and Gruden’s father are both Heidelberg College football guys.

And it makes sense. Gruden and his staff have done a remarkable job with rookie quarterback Andy Dalton, while in Jacksonville franchise QB Blaine Gabbert, the guy the Bengals thankfully passed at No. 4 for A.J. Green, is backsliding.

Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer figures to get some interest, too, as the defense sniffs a top five ranking for the second time in three years. Especially since Bill Parcells is so staunchly in his corner.

It only happens when people take notice what you’re doing and the Bengals have made them do that.

I THINK I BELIEVE Geno Atkins has a shot to be the first Bengals defensive tackle to make the Pro Bowl since nose tackle Tim Krumrie in 1988. Players and coaches are no different than everyone else and vote off stats, so his NFL-leading 6.5 sacks among tackles are huge. And you’ve got national media writing that Atkins was the best defensive tackle on the field in Baltimore the other week, not Ravens Pro Bowl tackle Haloti Ngata.

I THINK I BELIEVE that Sunday’s 51-yarder from Andy Dalton to A.J. Green showcased the kind of chemistry between a QB and receiver that hasn’t been seen around these parts since Carson Palmer was throwing to T.J. Houshmandzadeh in 2007, when Houshmandzadeh shared the NFL receiving title with 112 catches.

I THINK I BELIEVE the offense’s not-so-secret weapon is tight end Jermaine Gresham. The guy is a matchup nightmare when you also have to cover the speed of Green and Jerome Simpson downfield. It is shaping up to be the best season by a Bengals tight end since Rodney Holman went to the Pro Bowl in 1990. Gresham isn’t going to the Pro Bowl, but he’s on pace for 58 catches for 575 yards and while Tony McGee had 754 yards receiving on 55 catches in 1995, he only had four TDs. Gresham already has five. Holman also had five TDs in 1990 and 14.9 yards per his 40 catches.

I THINK I BELIEVE one of the most underrated stats of this season is Mike Nugent’s 8-for-9 effort on field goals in the fourth quarter. How good has Nugent been? He’s 35-for-40 from all over for an 87.5 percentage since he became the Bengals kicker in 2010. When he arrived before the season, his career percentage was 79 percent on 79-for-100.

I THINK BELIEVE if I’m left alone in the draft room with a box of Cap’n Crunch and Stephen King’s Nov. 22, 1963, I go cornerback, wide receiver, guard, D-lineman, running back in that order with those five projected picks in the first three rounds, the guess being that extra pick in the third ends up as the compensatory pick for cornerback Johnathan Joseph.

The Bengals have to think about D-line, too. With tackle Pat Sims and DT/DEs Frostee Rucker and Jonathan Fanene looking at free agency, how many stick around to keep being part of a rotation instead of a starter? One thing, though. Every lineman gets a pretty significant number of snaps.

I THINK I BELIEVE this is a scheme league. How else to explain that quarterback Carson Palmer is winning the kind of games in Oakland in his first month that he didn’t win in Cincinnati for several years, if ever? On Sunday in the win over the Bears he threw for 301 yards without his top running back (Darren McFadden) and two of his top three receivers in Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore.

Running back Michael Bush had just 69 yards on 24 carries. And there’s the nut. The Raiders are pounding the ball and mixing play-action for deep shots downfield with short throws to the backs as Palmer averages a whopping 8.9 yards per throw. Against the Bears he threw nine times to his fullback and running back.

He had back-to-back 100 passer rating games against Minnesota and San Diego. The last time he did that was the first two games of 2007. The last time he threw for 300 yards in a win was the last game of 2007.

The reports of his demise were clearly false. The guy can still play.

So, as it turns out, can Dalton.


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