>\n\nWorst to First: 6. Cincinnati Bengals \n\n\n\n

Worst to First: 6. Cincinnati Bengals

Written by Ben Morgan on 04/12/2009

Seeing the Cincinnati Bengals this far down the pecking order is only surprising in so far as they're actually not one of the 5 worst teams in the NFL this year. Sorry to give the Bengals fans a hard time, you have my eternal sympathy, but this is a franchise that just seems utterly unable to climb out of the doldrums. There was that brief flash a couple of years back but since then, nada. This is possibly the only team in the league with more arrests than TDs over the past 3 seasons. Chris Henry is running around 1.000 on that score anyhow. After a ton of talk last year about Ocho Cinco leaving town it's ended up being the good guy on his way out of town. Housh will be sadly missed. I've a lot of admiration for that guy and Carson Palmer is as classy off the field as his play is on it. Every year I look at the Bengals and think this is a team that could do something this year. Every year it seems they play well below the level of their talent. Every year the off field distractions seem to mount up. I seriously doubt Marvin Lewis is the guy demanding all these problem kids on his roster but they seem to end up with them nonetheless. Their drafts usually follow a pattern, draft these spectacular athletes who are dropping on draft boards because of attitude problems. A lot of the time the attitude stuff is overblown and the product of too much scrutiny on players in the offseason but the Bengals? They sure seem to know how to pick the real jailbirds. I see Leon Hall has been arrested and to add to the lineup Tank Johnson's been signed from the Cowboys. Would it surprise anyone to see Mike Vick throwing option passes to Plaxico Burress, Chris Henry, and Donte Stallworth in 2010? OK rant over. Let's get down to business....

2009 Free Agent Losses
2009 Free Agent additions
Stacy Andrews OT (Eagles,UFA), Ryan Fitzpatrick QB (Bills,UFA), Glenn Holt WR (Vikings,UFA), T.J. Houshmandzadeh WR (Seahawks,UFA), Corey Mays LB (Chiefs,UFA), David Rayner K (Redskins,UFA)
Laveranues Coles WR (Jets), Tank Johnson DT (Cowboys), J.T. O'Sullivan QB (49ers)
2009 Unsigned Free Agents
2010 Potential Free Agents
James Blair OG (cut), Marcus Brown CB (cut), John Busing S (UFA), Victor Degrate DL (cut), Eric Ghiacuic C (UFA), Dexter Jackson S (cut), John Thornton DT (UFA)
Shayne Graham K (Franch), Rashad Jeanty LB (2009 RFA), Brandon Johnson LB (2009 RFA), Chris Perry RB, Kenny Watson RB, Chris Henry WR, Reggie Kelly TE, Bobbie Williams OG, Darryl Blackstock LB

Roster Breakdown
Quarterbacks No Need
This all comes down to one thing. Carson Palmer's elbow. If he's healthy he is flat out one of the best QBs in the league and I firmly believe if he gets a good team around him he could be the best in the league. There's just not much sign of that happening in Cincy. Even so it's hard to call this anything but a No Need as of right now. Palmer says his elbow feels great, 100% blah blah. They all say that, we'll see for real once training camp starts. By that time it'll probably be too late. I have a tough time seeing the Bengals thinking QB with the #6 pick. A real tough time. Underneath him they've lost Ryan Fitzpatrick and gained J.T. O'Sullivan from the 49ers. That's pretty much a wash. One average backup type for another average backup type. Little Bro Jordan fills out the #3 slot.

Runningbacks Major Need
Cedric Benson got a new contract, a 2 year job at $7m total. That sounds a lot but it's probably not enough to guarantee him the startign gig, nor a roster spot beyond this year. In fact with a cap hit of $4m in 2010 this looks more like a real world 1 year deal. What this means is don't rule the Bengals out of an early pick on a RB. Benson did manage 3 100 yard games last year but don't get too excited, they were against the Jags, Browns and Chiefs, and even in rushing for 171 yards against the Browns he only averaged 4.5ypc (his season high). Some of it without doubt comes down to the OL but this is clearly a situation that could be improved upon. If they were smart about it the Bengals would use their picks on their OL and DL this year, use Benson as a sacrificial lamb in 2009 and draft a stud RB in 2010. Asking this franchise to be smart doesn't generally work though. Chris Perry was awful last year but is a good receiver. Kenny Watson is still on roster as is DeDe Dorsey. They have numbers but not much hope of putting up big numbers. This is clearly a Major Need but I'd wait to address it. They do have two 3rd round picks though and there are a number of talented guys slated for day 2 at RB. It's a possibility.


Wide Receivers
Minor Need
The loss of Houshmandzadeh is a killer blow, but in response they went out and signed Laveranues Coles. He's still a good WR but he's not likely to put up the number of TDs Housh could. Remarkably, Chad Ocho Cinco-Johnson hasn't been traded. it remains to be seen if this might happen or not but given the loss of Housh I'd say it's unlikely. For all the trash talk and off field nonsense 2008 was the first time 85 has been under 1000 yards since his rookie year, and that was due in no small part to the loss of Palmer. With a healthy Palmer he's still a legit #1 WR. Coles is a good #2 guy and Uber Bad Boy Chris Henry, on yet another last chance, can be an excellent #3 when he's not sitting in Roger Goodell's doghouse instead. Throw in a decent collection of #4 tyoes like Andre Caldwell and Antonio Chatman, they look fairly set for this season. There's also the intriguing draft prospect from last year Mario Urrutia (6'6" WRs don't grow on trees), he ended up on the practice squad last year but could fight for a roster spot this year. While this isn't a need this season per se, with WRs typically taking 2 or 3 years to flourish in the NFL and questions about Ocho Cinco and Chris Henry's future with the team, Michael Crabtree could look appealing.

Tight Ends
Minor Need
It's not really a big position in the Bengals Offense but Reggie Kelly does a solid job. Ben Utecht came in from Indy prior to last season. He'd been pretty handy for the Colts but the Colts actually threw a lot to the TEs. Cleveland don't. As such, even though clearly this could be upgraded significantly, until the include the TE in the offense a lot more I can't raise it much above Minor Need. I'm only lifting it that high because of Reggie Kelly being a 2010 free agent.

Offensive Line
Major Need
With the amount of sacks given up last year (51) Carson Palmer's comeback from injury may not last too long. Rookie Anthony Collins showed a lot of promise at RT once he replaced the now departed Stacey Andrews and the Bengals seem keen to let him continue there. On the left side it's a different story. Rumours are the Bengals will look to trade Levi Jones if they can land one of the top 2 or 3 LTs in this draft. Jones has had a bad run of luck with injuries and at this point in his career I think he might be better suited playing RT. But with Collins anteing up on that side time may be short for Levi in Cincy. He gave up on average a sack every other start in 2008 which isn't great but it isn't bad so he may be a nice carrot to dangle to teams on draft day. Andrew Whitworth is a pretty good Guard, though he wound up on IR last year too. If they can't draft the Tackle they want they may even move Whitworth to LT, so highly do they rate him. Aside from the desire to get a top Tackle the Bengals could also use a starter at Center. It looks like last year's guy Ghaicuic could be gone. Where they sit in round 2 might be a great place to grab one of Alex Mack or Max Unger (if they fall that far). Their early round 3 pick might be a nice spot to land Eric Wood. Look for them to have Jason Smith and Eugene Monroe at the top of their draft board but the chances of either being there at #6 currently look a bit slim. Would they think Andre Smith or Michael Oher good enough value at #6? Debatable. If the top 2 are off the board I'd expect them to do something to improve their Defense instead.

Defensive Tackle
Minimal Need
Holding your opponents to 3.9ypc on the season isn't a bad return in rush defense. Even so they gave up a smidge over 120 yards a game. I think a lot of that probably comes from teams being ahead on the Bengals early and just killing the clock in the second half of the game. When you have Baltimore and Pittsburgh in your division that kind of thing can happen. They do need to apply more pressure on the QB though and the addition of Tank Johnson will help there. Assuming he's not sat next to Chris Henry in the NFL doghouse. With last year's 3rd rounder Pat Sims and the recently extended Demato Peko that's a nice rotation which should do really well. Depth under them may be a little lacking but it's tough to see the Bengals going DT early. As tempting as B.J. Raji may look at 6.


Defensive End
Major Need
Antwan Odom earned about $2m per big play last year. 3 sacks is not what you pay out a $30m contract for. They got even less out of Robert Geathers. This is not good. They need to move on from at least one of these guys and assuming those 2 top tackles are off the board they can start doing that by uttering 2 words when their pick is up in the first round: "Brian Orakpo". That would go a long way to helping this defense. Adding another pass rusher type later on couldn't hurt either. This is a huge need unless Odom and Geathers suddenly remember how to play.

Linebackers Minor Need
Keith Rivers was an early pick and should be a future star once he recovers from a Hines Ward inflicted broken jaw. Dhani Jones played really well last year, finishing up one of the top tacklers in the NFL. On the other side Rashad Jeanty surprised with some solid play as well. Even Brandon Johnson stepped up and played pretty good when Rivers got hurt. Overall this is a fairly solid group. The only thing that might worry them is that 3 of them, Jeanty, Johnson and Blackstock are all free agents in 2010. With that in mind a later round pick on an atheltic guy who maybe could play special teams in the meantime would be wise.

Cornerback Minimal Need
We've already mentioned the pitiful pass rush so you'd expect the CBs to struggle. In actual fact the CBs, led by Leon Hall, did a bang up job. Unfortunately Hall's decision to go driving whilst almost twice the legal limit might just mean he's banged up instead. If he isn't Mister Roger might have a few words to say. Hall and Jonathan Joseph are two first round picks from 2007 and 2006 respectively. They both played well, though Joseph got hurt, and both are on the books for at least a couple more years yet. Given Cincy's history with first round selections this is pretty surprising news. Even more surprising is that the Bengals gave up fewer big plays last year than anyone but the Steelers. I'm sure it didn't escape your attention that the Steelers have an altogether more formidable pass rush than Odom and Geathers. Underneath the starters David Jones stepped up but there isn't a huge amount of depth there. Given the length of time it can take Corners to develop and start a day 2 selection on the position would be a good idea. But I can't see anything being used on Day 1 to bolster the Corners.

Safety Major Need
Chris Crocker is a guy with really good versatility. He can backup strong and free safety, is a decent special teamer and you can throw him in at nickelback in a pinch. He's not really a starting FS though which is where he's slated to be. Marvin White probably isn't either really. Ndukwe is a really good young SS, he can make some big plays but he's not played a full 16 games in either of his first 2 seasons. Injuries hit this unit hard enough in 2008 that they signed Mike Doss in December. He's still on the roster but following a promising rookie season his career's hit the skids in no uncertain terms. It remains to be seen if he can even make the roster. This is a tough one to call. Crocker/White + Ndukwe doesn't look half bad but if they could find a genuine ballhawk to complement Ndukwe and allow Crocker and White to be good depth they would look an awful lot stronger. With 2 third rounders, using one on a safety is something I'd seriously consider. If he's still there Sherrod Martin would look pretty good in stripes.

Specialists Major Need

Ryan Plackermeier was signed to provide competition for Kyle Larson. If it's a competition to see who can have the worst average in the NFL it'd be an interesting competition. Painful would be a better word though. Shayne Graham's still really good but they need to give him some more opportunities. He's their franchise player and they'd do well to sign him longer term. With three 7th round choices they should proabably use one to get a punter with some leg into camp but being as they've already got 2 guys it might not happen.

Return Game
Minimal Need
Glenn Holt was the primary returner last year. He's moved on. Antoine Caldwell put in a respectable 26 yards per return but like all their other returners, he failed to take it to the house. Clearly this is something that could be improved upon, but most likely by an undrafted rookie.

Dream Day One

1.6 Brian Orakpo DE Texas
2.35 Alex Mack C California

Player Visits
Michael Mitchell S Ohio
Knowshon Moreno RB Georgia
Johnny Knox WR Abilene Christian
Al Afalava S Oregon State
Cornelius Lewis OT Tennessee St
Jeremy Maclin WR Missouri
Billy Malone QB Abilene Christian
Bernard Scott RB Abilene Christian
Javon Belcher DE Maine
Derek Kinder WR Pittsburgh
Derek Cox CB William & Mary
Beanie Wells RB Ohio State
Michael Oher OT Ole Miss
Dudley Guice WR Northwestern St
Aaron Curry LB Wake Forest
Donald Brown RB Connecticut
Nick Reed LB Oregon
Colin Dow OG Montana
Eric Eood C Louisville
DeAngelo Willingham DB Tennessee
Connor Barwin DE Cincinatti
Bill Rentmeester FB Wisconsin


Last Edited: 04/12/2009

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