Questions. From immediate to big picture.
The Bengals go back to work Monday with the most immediate question revolving around their kicker. As in, who is it going to be Sunday in the 1 p.m. Paul Brown Stadium game against the Super Bowl champion Saints? Marvin Lewis sure made it sound like it won’t be Aaron Pettrey.
The next most pressing question is the state of the secondary. As in, will there be more of one than has played the last seven quarters? The Saints come marching in with their cadre of receivers and quarterback Drew Brees’ deadly 105 passer rating on third down, so they’ll need to get at least a couple of defensive backs healthy. Cornerback Rico Murray (ankle) has indicated he’ll be ready to go and safety Roy Williams would have two weeks rest after his concussion. It would also be two weeks since cornerback Johnathan Joseph reaggravated his ankle sprain.
Plus, are they looking at a second straight blackout? Of the three remaining home games, the thinking had been this one has the best shot of selling out. As of Monday morning, they don’t expect it to be sold out.
The Bengals are 4-3 against Super Bowl champs in the last decade. They knocked off the Steelers twice last year, split with them in 2006, and in between lost to the Giants in overtime on the road. The 21-10 win over Baltimore at PBS came in the first game since 9/11 on Sept 23, 2001. Not a good 43rd birthday for future Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, then the Ravens defensive coordinator.
(But one of the touchdowns came on linebacker Takeo Spikes’ interception return.)
Then there are the longer-term questions that won’t be answered until after the season ends Jan. 2. The coaching situation figures to be resolved one way or another that week, but there are other questions pending a new collective bargaining agreement and that’s a question in itself.
The biggest on-field question is no doubt the offense. It has never hit stride since the first two games of 2007. In the 46 games quarterbacked by Carson Palmer since, the Bengals offense has scored three or more touchdowns eight times.
The next question – how to fix it – isn’t so easy.
It is easy to start with the quarterback, particularly when you look at the Monday morning passing stats. Carson Palmer’s 15 interceptions are fewer than only Brett Favre’s 17 and Eli Manning’s 16, and he’s ranked 30th in average gain and 26th in passer rating, behind former backups Jon Kitna and Ryan Fitzpatrick.
But out of all the pieces, the quarterback is the hardest to get. And there are those that insist the majority of the picks aren’t Palmer’s fault. Although, there seems to be no doubt the two in the end zone in the last two games fall squarely on his shoulders.
Yet here’s a guy that through those first two games in ’07 had 86 TDs and 45 interceptions in his first 47 starts and that doesn’t include the ’05 Wild Card Game. In the 46 games since (including the ’09 Wild Card game), he has 61 TDs and 50 interceptions. Palmer is a guy that has obviously been there, done that.
Personnel? Timing? Protection? Scheme?
Those are all factors impacting the quarterback and, at some point, that is the ultimate question facing the franchise.
Does fixing the factors make the quarterback better or not at age 31?
Not an easy answer, although the numbers would say the QB is in his prime and he can still wing it. Those guys don’t grow on trees.
Just some of the questions. Big and small.
Tags: kicker, quarterback, questions
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