We at Razzball realize that exporting our views across the country has damaging consequences on the blogosphere. To help make amends, we are reaching out to leading team blogs and featuring their locally blogged answers to pressing 2010 fantasy football questions regarding their team. We feel this approach will be fresher, more sustainable, and require less energy consumption (for us anyway). The 2010 Cincinnati Bengals Fantasy Football Preview comes courtesy of Cincy Jungle.
Doc’s note: It was just reported today that Cincinnati running back Cedric Benson had been arrested and charged with assault. My questions to Cincy Jungle were asked before the incident, but their answers reference it and are a good start to understanding how the backfield in Cincy will play out if Benson is suspended. On to the show.
1. It seems that as goes Carson Palmer so go the Bengals. He was not sharp against the Jets in the playoffs which led a lot of people to question the health of his arm. He seems to be getting good press in OTAs as far as his arm is concerned. Are these reports just your normal OTA hype or do you feel like he will be more on target this season?
The questions about his arm have always been suspicion, an excuse for his lack-of-production in 2009 based on the elbow he injured in 2008. There is good reason for that suspicion to exist; not hitting receivers in stride underneath, overthrowing the deep pass. On the other hand, he did have flashes of brilliance last year. Against the San Diego Chargers, roughly three weeks before the team’s Wild Card loss to the Jets, Palmer completed 27 of 40 passes for 314 yards and two touchdowns.
Along with the suspicions about the health of his arm, the Bengals pass protection was average at best. Consistently under attack and at times forced out of the pocket, Palmer was rarely able to sit in the pocket and find the open receiver. Furthermore, the Bengals run-first philosophy gave the team a decided advantage on the ground, rushing the football 28 times more than Palmer passed it. Lastly, the talent at wide receiver wasn’t in a position to help Palmer succeed. Laveranues Coles appeared slow, Tight Ends were untrustworthy, Andre Caldwell disappeared and the general loss of Chris Henry caused most defenses to worry less about the deep pass, covering everything 15 yards and in.
Palmer’s OTA reports have been solid this year, as much as they were last year. It’s every other component in the team’s passing game that’s going to make Palmer much improved and perhaps put to rest any suspicious of an injury. If anything, this is one of those make or break years. No more excuses.
2. Cedric Benson surprised a lot of people last season with his strong play. Injuries hurt his overall numbers, but he ran very well. Do you see a repeat this season?
If he’s found guilty after his recent assault charge, he could miss at least a quarter of the season based on violating the league’s personal conduct policy. However, like you said, the only real damage injuries did to him last year was killing his overall participation. Only Chris Johnson recorded a higher yards-per-game average and it took him over 2,000 yards rushing to do it. If he can carry the football 20 times or more per game, the Bengals will win nearly every game. However, one area we’d like to see him, and generally the offense improve, is rushing touchdown production.
With most of the team’s offense back from last year, including pieces that should make the passing offense exponentially better, Benson is entering the second year of a two-year contract, which means he’s playing for a new contract beyond this season. Provided injuries and off-the-field issues don’t get in the way, as they have in the past, then I’d suspect Benson to have another career year.
3. Palmer has praised Jermaine Gresham, do you see Gresham starting this season or will there be a mixture of Coats, Kelly and Gresham? With the Bengals history of using tight ends do you see him becoming viable for fantasy teams?
Gresham has received a ton of praise for his work since joining the team during rookie camp after the NFL Draft weekend. His blocking is roughly still average. However, Reggie Kelly is considered by many as the league’s best blocking tight end; he signed back with Cincinnati this year to help mentor Gresham.
Kelly will likely start the season at tight end Gresham easing into the offense. Once that happens, expect Kelly to play more of an H-Back role. Finally, I don’t believe Coats makes the squad. He was one of the league leaders in dropped passes and his blocking isn’t irreplaceable with the parts we have. Furthermore, Chase Coffman figures to have some influence on the team’s offense, possibly as the second tight end in double tight end formations. Palmer has the weapons at tight end and once they get experience and the fundamentals of blocking down, these weapons could be potent.
4. Jordan Shipley has been getting a lot of praise, if Antonio Bryant continues to be nagged by injuries do you see Shipley making some noise this season?
Based on OTA reports, I’d still find it surprising if Shipley would at any point in time replace Bryant if he’s unable to go. It’s not that Shipley couldn’t do it, but he’ll thrive as a slot receiver. Guys like Jerome Simpson (once he learns the playbook) and Andre Caldwell would be the more likely candidates to replace Bryant.
However, we’re fully expecting Shipley to make noise as soon as the season kicks off as the slot receiver.
5. Do you see him overtaking Caldwell in the slot?
I think the competition between the two will be the closest in camp. Caldwell knows the playbook and he spent most of the offseason doing intense offseason conditioning. Whereas Shipley might be the better of the two suited for the slot receiver role, which is where both receivers will be competing during training camp.
6. Bernard Scott backed up Benson last season; do they feel confident in his ability to step in or would we see a shift to more passing if Benson goes down?
Scott doesn’t have the bulk or the patience that Benson has to become the team’s workhorse. Granted, he recorded 21 carries against the Raiders and followed that up with an 18-carry day against Cleveland the following week. However, in that game against the Browns, Scott suffered a toe injury and sat our three weeks afterwards. Scott’s a great change-of-pace shifty back that can make a lot happen in the open field. However, he’s not the workhorse that this team would need if Benson is unavailable.
So it’s very plausible that if Benson isn’t available for any reason that the Bengals will start focusing on being a passing offense again, using Scott, Brian Leonard and perhaps a fourth running back to take over as a committee for spot duty until Benson returns.