With training camp now fully under way, it’s easy to cast an eye toward the season ahead. Already, the internet is full of predictions from experts who are breaking down every single aspect of every single team.
This is not a prediction column. I’ll write one of those as we get closer to the season and we’ve had a chance to see players actually hit players on other teams. What this column is about is myths and specifically the ones that swirl around the Cincinnati Bengals.
The fact remains, nobody nationally is sure of what to make of the Bengals. Sure, they were a playoff team last year, but they backed in with a record of 9-7 against an easy schedule. They also heavily relied on rookies and second-year players. Surely they won’t do so again.
That’s just one of the myths surrounding this team. Another involves sophomore slumps to both quarterback Andy Dalton and receiver A.J. Green. The lack of an effective running game is another myth that floats around.
Let’s take a look at all three myths, starting with the Bengals’ playoff chances.
The Bengals Can’t Make the Playoffs Two Years in a Row
This is a common statement often heard around the watercolor. Why can’t the Bengals make the playoffs this year? Why? Because they haven’t done so in 30 years.
My first love is history and nobody has a better appreciation of the past than I do. But past results don’t always indicate future results and it’s dangerous to base predictions on what a team did 30 years ago, or even three years ago.
There are a lot of reasons why the Bengals may not make the playoffs. Among them are that they face a much tougher schedule, expectations are higher and opposing defenses have had a year to watch Dalton and Green and learn how to take them out of the game.
But the fact that they haven’t made the playoffs since the early 1980s is not one of them.
Speaking of Dalton and Green...
Andy Dalton and A.J. Green Will Suffer from Sophomore Slumps
Dalton and Green both had spectacular rookie seasons in the NFL and exceeded everybody’s expectations. It’s natural to think that one or both will struggle in year two.
But the fact remains that most high-end quarterbacks and receivers struggle in their first year and then steadily improve after that. Dalton and Green should be no different.
A.J. Green has the look of a guy that will take off and become an elite receiver in 2012 while Dalton will be handed more of the offense and is smart enough to take advantage of the opportunity.
The one thing that may get in the way of the pair’s ability to raise their level is the lack of a second receiver to take the pressure off of Green. But even that thought could be a myth in itself since Jermaine Gresham should emerge as a serious target this season and several of the young receivers could bloom into solid contributors.
The Running Game Will Not Be Effective Enough
The Bengals let a 1,000-yard rusher walk and replaced him with a guy who averaged less than three yards per carry last season. That fact alone is enough for some to reason that the Bengals will tank this season.
But Cincinnati should actually be in better shape without Cedric Benson. As good of a runner as Benson was, he wasn’t much of a factor in the running game and his personality could rub some the wrong way.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis is a much better blocker and receiver than Benson and as an added bonus, he has never fumbled in an NFL game. He was mostly a red-zone and short-yardage specialist for the Patriots in recent seasons but he should fit in much better with the Bengals’ West Coast offense.
Joining Green will be Bernard Scott who has shown a tantalizing amount of big-play ability in recent years. The pair should be enough to keep defenses honest and provide two more weapons for Dalton.