Sunday, November 6, 2011

Cincinnati Bengals at the halfway point of the season

It's time to eat crow. Yeah, I'm going to admit that I was wrong about a lot of things about the 2011 Cincinnati Bengals. Let's go over the Bengals after eight games.

1. The Offense.

I said that if the Cincinnati Bengals were to win the Super Bowl, rookie QB Andy Dalton would have to be the Mozart of quarterbacks. It's obvious, he's the Mozart and Bach of quarterbacks. He's accurate. He's got moxie. He's a leader.

I've said the Bengals should not draft A.J. Green. Time for me to eat crow. Green's offensive production as a rookie has led to more victories than a defensive tackle. The Dalton-Green combination will be one of the most potent attacks in the NFL for years to come.

Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden has shown more imagination than his predecessor. The result? Defenses can no longer predict whether Gruden will pass or run in his West Coast offense. While I want to see a better running attack, Gruden can be excused because teams are putting eight in the box to stop the run. When that happens, Gruden and Dalton have been able to adjust and throw the ball.

2. Special Teams.

Special teams are solid. Brandon Tate is a good kick returner. He's got a punt return for a touchdown. And with Pacman Jones coming back, the Bengals have a dangerous kick returning tandem. Punter Kevin Huber is good again. Kicker Mike Nugent has range and accuracy.

3. Defense.

Free agent linebackers Thomas Howard and Manny Lawson are playing like Pro Bowlers. The cornerbacks are solid. Corner Nate Clements may be over thirty but he's playing like he's been rejuvenated. Leon Hall covers as well as anyone in the league. Safeties Reggie Nelson and Chris Crocker are everywhere.

But it's the defensive line that is spectacular. The Bengals have a rotation that is fast, tall and big. This no name line includes Michael Johnson, Geno Atkins, Domata Peko and soon to be Superstar Carlos Dunlap. (Pictured.) What they do is provide tremendous pressure on the quarterback.

4. The Coaches and management.

Both head coach Marvin Lewis and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer are marvelous motivators of men. It's clear the Bengal players are listening to the coaches. And the players love playing for Marvin and Mike.

Oy Vey. Here comes a painful tip of my Bengals cap to Bengals owner Mike Brown. Yeah, he exercises some of the worst judgment in the history of professional sports. So it's hard for me to praise him. But he's had some good drafts over the last four years. This year, he listened to his offensive coordinator Jay Gruden and drafted Andy Dalton over Ryan Mallet. Brown wanted Mallet but thankfully he listened to Gruden. Brown set aside pride and jumped at the offer of a first round and second round pick for disgruntled Carson Palmer. I'll admit this is a good year for Mike Brown.

5. Conclusion.

I projected three victories this year. The Bengals are now 6-2. They've just won five games. They could easily have been 8-0. So my projection is more crow for me to eat.

Can the Bengals get in the playoffs? Yes. Can they win the Super Bowl? Yes. Just remember that defense wins championships. And the Bengals have an excellent defense. Rookie QB Andy Dalton plays like a veteran who's been around the league for years. This season and the future looks bright for the Bengals.

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