Our next five issues facing the Bengals after Tuesday’s re-signing of head coach Marvin Lewis:
1. FIGURE OUT THE COACHING STAFF: Even though the Bengals are the favorite to coach the Jan. 29 Senior Bowl that begins its practices Jan. 23, they don’t have to make changes to the coaching staff by then. With Lewis hinting at changes, he may need time to see some dominos fall in the next few weeks, so lightning probably isn’t going to strike within days on that front. Given that it’s all-star-game-playbook-101 stuff in Mobile, the thinking is you wouldn’t need a full staff to function.
But there has been enough thunder in the form of a low rumble in the Bengals locker room to make you think they are taking a close look at the offense after quarterback Carson Palmer threw a franchise-record 586 passes in 2010.
Certainly running back Cedric Benson has made it clear all season he’s not coming back if that philosophy does. On Monday he declared of the running attack in the last three games, “We found ourselves doing the things that made us successful a year ago. It’s clear obviously that’s the identity of this team and it’s important that this team grows in that fashion. We were able to find some success here and I think we can find a lot more.”
And Benson isn’t the only player talking up the running game like that. The Bengals said they are going to look at everything, from scheme to personnel to coaching, and it starts this week when Lewis meets with his coaches.
It’s a bit ironic that offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski’s name is drawing public heat. When Bengals head coach Dick LeBeau hired Bratkowski in 2001, he interviewed him at the Senior Bowl when he was working the game as the Steelers receivers coach.
2. TV SCHEDULE CHANGE?: The Bengals are sending out mixed signals on wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, so are they are going to cancel his decade-long reality TV now and go with the Sesame Street young receivers?
There is a school of thought out there that believes the Bengals already exercised the team option on The Ocho and he’s under contract for ’11. That would mean there would be no timetable for a decision and if anybody is looking to get him they may have to trade for him. Plus, the Bengals are going to make sure all their ducks are healthy, lined up, and ready to go if he’s not coming back. So that may linger awhile.
3. JOHNATHAN JOSEPH DERBY: One starting cornerback, Johnathan Joseph, is a free agent. The third corner, Adam Jones, is coming off a herniated neck disk. (The brace comes off in two weeks.) The fourth corner, Morgan Trent, went to injured reserve with a recurring knee problem.
So what do you want to take with that fourth pick? If you said “Corner,” that might not be a bad way to go. Don’t say “wide receiver.” Not that high. Ten years ago the Bengals had the fourth pick in the draft and needed a wide receiver just as badly. They still went D-end (Justin Smith) and ended up getting their all-time receiver in the second round at No. 36 in The Ocho.
Look at the NFL’s top four receiving yardage leaders this season The champ, Brandon Lloyd, is a fourth-rounder. Runner-up Roddy White went late first round (27th). No. 3 Reggie Wayne also went late first (30th) and cleanup hitter Greg Jennings went in the second round.
The Bengals need one. But not at No. 4.
Corner or another pass rusher. Two spots you can truly never have enough.
4. THE ANDRE FACTOR: No one knows how Andre Smith’s foot is going to be after its second surgery and no one knows what kind of shape he’ll be in. But they do know that third-year player Anthony Collins played well at right tackle once they got him in the lineup in December at the end of the year. Hey, if you’re a tackle and your club doesn’t allow a sack on 45 passes against Baltimore, you must be pretty good.
Good enough that they may be looking to move Smith to guard, where they have concerns. Bobbie Williams turns 35 early next season, Nate Livings is a gutty and smart but limited mauler who struggled at times, and Evan Mathis is a free agent.
One of the things that came up in the Tuesday news conference is that Lewis and Bengals president Mike Brown want to make a bigger effort to get younger players on the field sooner if they are worthy, a la Jerome Simpson and Bernard Scott. Smith may fit in that category. He better be one of your top five lineman as a top 10 draft pick, and if you’re already getting solid play from your tackles, a 350-pound guard athletic enough to be a tackle would interesting.
5. FISHER-PRICE POCKET SCHEDULE: Get the copyright from linebacker Brandon Johnson and start pumping out some Fisher-Price billboards on the side of 471, 275, 75, 71, not to mention, 96 and 97. The last two numbers are the numbers of Carlos Dunlap and defensive tackle Geno Atkins. Dunlap led AFC rookies in sacks and Atkins was second among AFC rookie defensive tackles. The “Fisher-Price Package” is Johnson’s name for the young defensive players that include right end Michael Johnson and linebacker Rey Maualuga, heading into their third seasons.
But throw in tight end Jermaine Gresham and slot receiver Jordan Shipley, who tied for the AFC rookie receptions lead, and running back Bernard Scott, heading into his third season, and you could have a nice playground shot of the kids sprawled around the equipment.
Call it something like “No Kidding Around in 2011,” or something like that.
Just a rough sketch. Get your people with my people and let them have at it.
Tags: Bengals offseason items
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