Bengals: Can Cincy's stars earn their stripes?
As usual (or, as long as Chad Ochocinco/Johnson has been around), it has been a turbulent offseason in Cincinnati.
First, the departure of T.J. Houshmandzadeh and LT Levi Jones meant the Bengals were saying good-bye to two cornerstones of their former high-flying offense. The signing of Lavaranues Coles and re-signing of Cedric Benson ushered in the Bengals' offense of the immediate future. The draft netted a veritable college all-star team (T Andre Smith, LB Rey Maualuga, DE Michael Johnson, TE Chase Coffman). And, of course, Ochocinco ran his mouth and bickered with QB Carson Palmer.
Such is life for a team that has made the playoffs just once since 1990.
Is there any reason for hope in '09? Yes and no. Palmer says his right elbow, which did not require Tommy John surgery, is fully healed. Ochocinco says he has actually worked out this offseason (as opposed to doing nothing last offseason, which he freely admitted) and is in great shape entering training camp. Coles and Chris Henry, who reportedly has been working out hard and has no looming suspensions, should help Ochocinco in forming what looks to be a potent receiving corps. And Benson, who ran for 747 yards in 12 games as a Bengal last season, just might have found the right place for a fresh start.
But every football fan knows it takes more than a decent set of skill-position players to achieve success. The Bengals' offensive line is still in transition, and despite the drafting of Smith, could rank in the bottom three in both sacks allowed and fewest rushing yards/carry again this year. The defense offers little in terms of fantasy value, though all the points it gives up assures that the Bengals will be in some shootouts.
As it stands, a healthy Palmer and motivated Ochocinco will go a long way in improving an offense that ranked dead last in total yards per game last season. Both players could be primed for fantasy revivals, and if the offensive line can toughen up, both players could be key members of fantasy championship teams given their relatively low draft positions.
Last year is in the past, and the time is now to take advantage of what the Bengals have to offer. Almost every player could be classified as a "bargain," so what do you have to lose? Unlike the Bengals themselves, you can be a winner with some of their players.