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2011 Team Report: Cincinnati Bengals


Starter: Andy Dalton [R]
Backup(s): Bruce Gradkowski, Jordan Palmer

Starting QB: It appears almost certain that a new era has arrived in Cincinnati. Exit stage right, Carson Palmer who has said he will retire before he plays for the Bengals again and has demanded a trade. The years of frustration and drama has caught up to him and he wants to play for a winner now. Enter stage left, rookie QB Andy Dalton from TCU, the Bengals 2nd round pick. Dalton appears to be wonderfully suited for new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden's West Coast Offensive system. He is an intelligent player that makes the correct reads on the field, is a good athlete and has a strong arm. He has also demonstrated strong leadership tendencies while playing for the Horned Frogs. He will get every opportunity to start out of the gate and has the intangibles to be a very good professional quarterback. Expect the normal rookie jitters from him in 2011 but he should get better as the season wears on.

Backup QB: Everyone knew the Bengals would be bringing in a veteran QB to help mentor Dalton this season. To land a young, talented quarterback in Bruce Gradkowski to do so however is a nice pickup by the Bengals. He isn't a top quarterback by any means but he has enough experience to help with Dalton and enough talent to step in if needed and do a decent job. His career completion percentage is low (53.2%) with 20 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. Not terrible numbers but serviceable for a young quarterback. He could wrestle the starting job away with a good camp but most likely will be the backup and help out Dalton. Jordan Palmer is likely a distant third in this competition and not likely to have an impact.

Running Backs

Starter: Cedric Benson
Backup(s): Bernard Scott, Brian Leonard, Cedric Peerman
Fullback(s): Chris Pressley, Fui Vakapuna

Starting RB: Cedric Benson has without question resurrected his career in Cincinnati after performing like a major bust with the Chicago Bears. He signed a one-year deal in August with the Bengals but is looking for an extension. The one-year deal was just to get him into camp on time. He has put up back to back 1100 rushing yard campaigns and become an important part of the Bengals offense. A real caveat to be aware of last year however was the plummet in his yards per carry statistic. He averaged a miserable 3.5 yards per carry average while Bernard Scott in limited action averaged 4.9 yards per carry. Benson only has a 3.7 yards per carry career average but he needs to approach 4.0 YPC to truly be an effective weapon for the team.

Backup RBs: The Bengals are blessed with very good running back depth if Benson does indeed re-sign. Bernard Scott is a quick, difficult to tackle running back who has real potential to be a complimentary weapon this season. He averaged an excellent 4.9 yards per carry on 61 carries last year and should have an increased role in 2011. Head coach Marvin Lewis himself has said the team made a big mistake last year not getting the ball into his hands more often. Brian Leonard is a proven veteran journeyman who can do a serviceable job when called upon. He had a 6.9 yards per carry average and 20 receptions a year ago. Cedric Peerman is a depth player that will only see the field if injuries ravaged the squad.

Fullback: The Bengals have two bruising, effecting run blocking fullbacks on the roster. Both Chris Pressley and Fui Vakapuna are big, nasty pieces of business plowing their way through the holes. Neither has showcased any running or receiving skills up to this point but perhaps a new offensive coodinator will try and get them involved more. Neither player has real fantasy value however.

Wide Receivers

Starters: A.J. Green [R], Jerome Simpson
Backups: Jordan Shipley, Andre Caldwell, Ryan Whalen, Quan Cosby

Starting WRs: The Bengals grew tired of the antics and strangeness of WRChad Ochocinco and determined that the diminishing talents are not worth the headache. The Bengals drafted an elite receiver with the 4th overall pick this year in A.J. Green whose talent is undeniable. He has a remarkable blend of size, quickness and receiving intangibles and he appears destined to have a great NFL career. He only had 23 collegiate touchdowns which is a little baffling but that is more likely due to the systems in place than his ability to catch the football. He'll immediately slot in as a starter in Cincinnati. Jerome Simpson put up some big numbers late last year, but his upside is capped by the presence of Green, although he is a talented young wideout in his own right.

Backup WRs: Second-year receiver Jordan Shipley put together a wonderful rookie campaign last year. His 600 receiving yards was best amongst rookie receivers in the AFC and he scored 3 touchdowns. He is a good slot receiver and will be a nice compliment to Green. Andre Caldwell looked like a good downfield threat at the end of 2010 and he should get some time in three and four-wide sets this year. An interesting wildcard in this mix is 6th round pick Ryan Whalen. He has a good blend of size, strength and hands and could factor into the equation this season.

Tight Ends

Starters: Jermaine Gresham
Backups: Bo Scaife, Chase Coffman

Second-year tight end Jermaine Gresham is poised to enter the picture as a top fantasy tight end in the next couple of seasons. As a rookie last year, he caught 52 receptions for 471 yards, scored 4 touchdowns and was a real impact player for the team. It usually takes tight ends a couple of years to really make their mark in the NFL so expect him to really begin putting up special numbers by 2012. He runs marvelous routes, has terrific hands and really gets after defenses in the running game. Scaife should be a good outlet in two-TE sets, but he has no fantasy value in Cincinnati unless Gresham gets hurt.

Place Kicker

Mike Nugent : Although Mike Nugent is coming off a season ending torn ACL it doesn't appear to be an issue. Through the first week of camp he had not missed a single field goal. ST coordinator Darrin Simmons noted, "I like his mental state more than anything. It's important for him to have success early on but right now his confidence has to be as high as its been." Nugent will be working with the same co-specialists gain this year: long snapper Clark Harris and punter/holder Kevin Huber. After ranking in the top ten in kicker scoring opportunities for four straight years, the Bengals have been in the bottom half of the NFL the past three years.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Bernard Scott, Andre Caldwell, Quan Cosby

Punt Returners: Quan Cosby, Jordan Shipley

RB Bernard Scott handled the majority of the teams' kickoff returns last year and WR Quan Cosby handled the majority of the punt returns. That should be the case again this year, although both have missed recent practices and the preseason opener with minor injuries (Scott with a hamstring and Cosby with a muscle pull). Playing in their absence were WR Jordan Shipley, rookie RB Jay Finley and rookie RB John Griffin. WR Andre Caldwell and Shipley figure to be the primary backups this year.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Andrew Whitworth, LG Nate Livings, C Kyle Cook, RG Bobbie Williams, RT Andre Smith
Key Backups: Evan Mathis, Reggie Stephens, Anthony Collins, Dennis Roland, Max Jean-Gilles

Team Defense

Up front for the Bengals, the best player is tackle Domata Peko. He is an above average pass rusher for an inside player. This defense can improve from their middle-of-the-pack numbers last year with help from pass rushers Robert Geathers and Carlos Dunlap. Dunlap, a second-year player from Florida, was an excellent college player the Bengals grabbed him in the second round, where he fell due to character concerns. In the second level, the Bengals have another second-round pick who they're relying on for production in middle linebacker Rey Maualuga. The Bengals also hope to get a spark from Manny Lawson -- a former first-round pick by the 49ers. The Bengals need him to fulfill the potential for which he was drafted and not be the guy who had only 14.5 sacks in four seasons (plus two games of an injury-shortened one) with San Francisco. The Bengals secondary is a unit in transition. Leon Hall is probably the team's best defensive player and a very solid corner. Reggie Nelson goes into his second year on the team at safety after being a relative flameout as a first-round pick of the Jaguars. The Bengals lost Johnathan Joseph to Houston this offseason but brought in Nate Clements. A few years ago, that might have been a great acquisition, but Clements is considered past him prime. This defense should remain at or below the middle of the pack in the NFL this season.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Carlos Dunlap, DE Michael Johnson, DT Domata Peko, DT Tank Johnson
Backups: DE Robert Geathers, DT Pat Sims, DT Geno Atkins, DE Frostee Rucker

Starting DL: At the end of 2009 the Bengals defense seemed on the verge of becoming something special. After last year's plummet back to mediocrity, they seem to finally be going with a youth movement. Antwan Odom was finally released making room for Carlos Dunlap to step up. All Dunlap did as a rookie was lead the club in sacks despite playing in only eleven games. In fact all 9 of his sacks came in the final eight contests... Robert Geathers entered camp at the top of the depth chart on the other side but Michael Johnson is going to have a significant role at that position. It will be somewhat of a surprise if he is not starting opposite Dunlap by the opener. Johnson was not as impressive last season but he did record 11 solo tackles and 2 sacks in three starts over the final month. These guys are the future for the Bengals and it looks like the future may be starting now... Domata Peko has become a fan favorite in Cincinnati. He is a solid player but is not a guy who will post big numbers. The same can be said for Tank Johnson who finished last season on IR and is not a lock to have the starting job come week one. The Bengals will rotate three or four guys at tackle on a regular basis.

Backup DL: Robert Geathers may hang onto the title of starter into the season but he will put up backup type numbers at best. He does however, provide the team with a veteran presence. The same can be said for Frostee Rucker who has never been able to capture a starting job but has been more than adequate as a spot player. Pat Sims and second year pro Geno Atkins are listed as backups but either or both could make their way into the starting lineup at some point. At worst they will both be used in the rotation. Sims is a road grader at 325 pounds, yet he still managed 2.5 sacks in 2010. That's 2 sacks more than either of the starters. Atkins is a smaller (290), more athletic type. He turned some heads late last season when he put up 3 sacks in very limited action. He may become part of the youth movement that is sweeping the team and is worth keeping an eye on.


Starters: MLB Rey Maualuga, WLB Keith Rivers, SLB Manny Lawson
Backups: WLB Thomas Howard, SLB Dontay Moch, WLB Brandon Johnson, SLB Dan Scuta

Starting LBs: The move fantasy owners and Bengals fans alike have been waiting for has finally happened. Rey Maualuga has finally been moved into the starting MLB role. The question now becomes, how will they line up on passing downs. Maualuga should be very successful and productive in his new role but he has not seen many coverage snaps over the past couple of seasons. It is hard for a player to assume the role of team leader when he is not on the field full time. It would seem obvious that Maualuga needs to take that role for this unit to be successful, but the Bengals have been known to shoot themselves in the foot over and over. The situation is very similar with Keith Rivers. Despite being the ninth overall pick in 2008, Rivers has been relegated to a two down role. It looked as if he and Maualuga might both get their opportunities but a late flurry of signings at the position brings it all into question again. Manny Lawson was one of those late additions. After spending the first five years of his career as an OLB in a 3-4 scheme, Lawson will try to transition to SLB in the Bengals 4-3. It is hard to say how that move will go over long term but it safe to say that Lawson is not going to put up big numbers.

Backup LBs: Thomas Howard spent four years as the starting WLB in Oakland before being benched last season. He is a talented player and was a great pickup for the Bengals. Howard played on the strong side during his college career at UTEP. With the injury to backup MLB Rodderick Muckelroy, Howard could end up being the top backup at all three positions. He can get the job done and could be pretty productive if he somehow lands an every down role anywhere other than the strong side. Brandon Johnson has been a favorite of the coaching staff for the past three seasons. It was Johnson who paired with Dhani Jones in the nickel packages during that span. With the new faces in the mix it is hard to say if Johnson will continue to see those snaps. What we do know is that he is not very productive in the box scores even when he plays full time. He replaced an injured Keith Rivers for a stretch of games in 2008 and was unimpressive. Rookie Dontay Moch is a raw talent that the club will try to shape into a starting SLB down the road. He is unlikely to see much action this year.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Nate Clements, CB Leon Hall, FS Reggie Nelson, SS Chris Crocker
Backups: CB Brandon Ghee, CB Trent Morgan, CB Adam Jones, S Tom Nelson, S Gibril Wilson, SS Robert Sands

Starting DBs: If there is a glaring problem for the Bengals it is their secondary, and particularly at the safety positions. FS Reggie Nelson is an ankle biter who brings no intimidation factor at all. After spending three unspectacular seasons with the safety needy Jaguars, Nelson was sent packing by Jacksonville last season. That alone speaks volumes. Injury prone journeyman Chris Crocker will open the season at SS. Neither of these guys are going to impress anyone. In fact, it would come as little surprise to see Gibril Wilson in the starting lineup when the season opens. Cincinnati basically traded Jonathan Joseph for Nate Clements in free agency. That was a step down for them but they still have Leon Hall who is an excellent cover man. Clements may not be the player he was early in his career but he is not really a liability. Both of these guys are capable of putting up pretty good numbers for a corner. In fact Clements has been a top twelve fantasy corner four times in his career including last season.

Backup DBs: The Bengals have the luxury of quality depth at the corner positions. Both Adam Jones and Morgan Trent are solid veteran guys, and Brandon Ghee was their third round pick last year. Jones would be a capable starter if called upon and Trent has done a good job as their nickel corner in the past. Just two short years ago Gibril Wilson was a highly regarded safety in the league. He was a scapegoat for the Dolphins struggles in 2009 then was injured before the 2010 season started. If he can get back to form he could emerge as a very productive starter. Rookie Robert Sands is a raw talent who will be groomed to possibly take over the SS position down the road. If the team struggles early he could even get a look this season.

Last modified: 2011-08-26 09:20:39

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