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2010 Team Report: Cincinnati Bengals

Quarterbacks

Starter: Carson Palmer
Backup(s): J.T. O'Sullivan, Jordan Palmer

Starting QB: Carson Palmer is the leader of the Bengals' offense; his job security is about as good as any quarterback's in the league. He has a couple of 4,000-yard seasons on his resume, but the most recent was in 2007. Since then, an injury in 2008 and a loss of several trusted receiving targets in 2009 have kept Palmer out of the fantasy limelight. Palmer has a strong arm and good accuracy, and has good command of the huddle. In his NFL career, he has completed over 63% of his pass attempts for over 7.1 yards per attempt, with better than a 3-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Even though the Bengals added Antonio Bryant and Matt Jones to the WR corps this offseason, Palmer is unlikely to approach the 4,000-yard mark. The Bengals have become a much more run-oriented team than they were in Palmer's fantasy heyday, so realistic expectations for Palmer are probably no higher than 3,400 yards.

Backup QB: J.T. O'Sullivan is no threat to beat out Carson Palmer for the starting job. He's bounced around the league a bit, his most extensive playing time coming with the 49ers in 2008 when he averaged an impressive 7.6 yards per attempt over roughly half a season's worth of snaps. Carson Palmer's little brother, Jordan Palmer, is likely to remain the third QB if the Bengals do not shake up the roster by adding former Raider JaMarcus Russell to the mix. Rumors have linked Russell with the Bengals, and if he does sign, his athleticism and raw ability will make him a serious contender for the number two job. Russell did not live up to his potential with the Raiders (to put it lightly), but his release could be the wake-up call that inspires him to take his career more seriously with a new team.

Running Backs

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

Starting RB: Cedric Benson was originally the fourth overall pick in the draft by the Chicago Bears, but his three-year stay in Chicago was marked by disappointment. He has found a home in Cincinnati, however. Benson joined the Bengals in 2008, and after finishing that season strong, he broke out in 2009. Benson was the Bengals' best offensive player last season, and he led the way in a rushing attack that gained 2,056 yards. (His 189 yards against the Bears was particularly sweet.) Benson is a no-nonsense power-runner who does his best work between the tackles. His style of running will always test his durability (and he has yet to play a full 16-game season); but on the bright side he has relatively little tread on his tires for a 28-year-old back. The Bengals will rely heavily on Benson again this season to keep the chains moving; if he can stay healthy, he should be in the ballpark of 1,200 rushing yards. In late June, Tony Plohetski and Kevin Robbins, from the Austin American Statesman, reported that Cedric Benson was arrested and charged with assault with injury early June 29 after an incident last month at Annie's West at 706 West Sixth Street, where officials said he punched a bar employee in the face.

Backup RBs: Brian Leonard and Bernard Scott were both impressive in limited roles last season. Leonard played mostly on third downs; he was effective as both a runner and receiver, and was a solid pass-blocker as well. Bernard Scott was used more in the running game than Leonard. He is mostly a change-of-pace back, but looked pretty good in the featured role, filling in for Cedric Benson against the Raiders and Browns, before a turf toe injury made him give way to Larry Johnson (now with the Redskins). Leonard and Scott were both impressive with limited touches, but neither one may be capable of handling a large workload for a sustained period. If Cedric Benson misses extended time, Leonard and Scott may work as a committee, or the Bengals may bring another RB to be the workhorse. In early June, Bernard Scott suffered a twisted ankle during practice Thursday, June 3, but said he should be ready for the team's upcoming minicamp, according to Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson.

Fullback: Fui Vakapuna takes over the fullback position for for Jeremi Johnson, who has not been re-signed. The Bengals don't make extensive use of their fullback, so there is no fantasy value here.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Chad Ochocinco, Terrell Owens
Backups: Antonio Bryant, Matt Jones, Andre Caldwell, Jordan Shipley [R], Jerome Simpson, Quan Cosby

Starting WRs: Chad Ochocinco finally has someone on the roster with a bigger resume and ego, than his own. After weeks of lobbying, Ochocinco successfully lured Terrell "Ocho Uno" Owens to Cincinnati, where he'll help try to bring the Bengals beyond last year's division title and push for a Super Bowl. Ochocinco had five consecutive top-ten fantasy seasons before Carson Palmer's injury shortened 2008 season (which was a disaster for Ochocinco owners). He bounced back last year with his seventh 1,000-yard season. The Bengals became a run-oriented team, but Ochocinco was still a solid starter in leagues that start three WRs, and a borderline starter in leagues that start two. Owens will turn 37 years old during the season, but is still a physical marvel and capable starter. He's 3rd all time in receiving touchdowns and will provide Carson Palmer with another weapon in the red zone, not to mention he'll command the respect of opposing defensive backs thus leaving Ochocinco less frequently double-teamed.

Backup WRs: The Bengals had intended on lining Antonio Bryant up as the starter opposite Ochocinco, and signed the mercurial talent to a 4-year, $28 million contract. But he's been bothered the same knee injury that limited him at times in 2009, and although the team is maintaining a positive outlook, clearly they wouldn't have made signing Owens a priority if Bryant was 100% healthy. He'll technically compete for the starting job but no one in their right mind would sign Terrell Owens without planning on making him a starter. They would more likely cut Owens if Bryant plays well enough to displace him. More likely, Bryant will be one of the league's best 3rd receivers when healthy. When Bryant is healthy, he has excellent hands, body control, and field awareness. With three spots locked up, there will be a fierce training camp battle for the final spots in the rotation. The most interesting candidate is Matt Jones, the former college quarterback drafted in the first round by the Jaguars. Jones has an excellent combination of size, speed, and athleticism, and appears to be a natural at adjusting to the ball in the air. He is not always a crisp route-runner, however, and substance-abuse issues may have kept him from reaching his full potential thus far. Andre Caldwell will also be in the running, although he has not developed as quickly as the team had hoped. Rookie Jordan Shipley has the strength to become a tough, possession receiver who can work the middle of the field. Jerome Simpson has not proven to be as good a football player as he is an athlete, and is in danger of missing the final cut. Quan Cosby has value as a return man, but with the signing of Adam Jones and the drafting of Shipley, his odds of making the final roster have also declined.

Tight Ends

Starters: Reggie Kelly
Backups: Jermaine Gresham [R], Dan Coats, Chase Coffman

The Bengals got poor play from the TE position last season, so they signed Reggie Kelly and drafted Jermaine Gresham in the first round to try to fix that. They'll also get back last year's third-round pick, Chase Coffman, who spent his rookie year on injured reserve. Kelly is an experienced blocker who may win the starting job, but he's unlikely to be used in the passing game enough to be relevant in fantasy circles. Jermaine Gresham will likely lead the Bengals' tight ends in receiving -- although that may not be saying much. Unlike Kelly, Gresham has some downfield playmaking ability, and should earn playing time very quickly. Dan Coats is okay as a blocker, but he is an atrocious receiver. Chase Coffman, meanwhile, has the athleticism to be a fine receiver, but he lacks the wide base to ever be much of a blocker. Coats and Coffman will likely battle for the third roster spot at TE, and the fact that the Bengals have become more of a power-running team may give Coats the advantage. In early June, Geoff Hobson, from Bengals.com, reported Carson Palmer continues to be high on Jermaine Gresham. "I don't know if there is anything that any tight end in this league does that he can't potentially do," Palmer said. "Not that he's mastered anything yet. Not that he's got everything down. But I don't see a weakness. If he had to play in Pittsburgh's offense and block a guy every single time and run little quick seam routes, out routes, he could do that. If he played in Denver's offense and got to run a lot of routes, he could do that. "The sky's the limit for him," he said. "God has given him the natural physical tools and ability to do anything in this league. He's given a lot of guys that. The next step is those guys maximize their physical potential and that's all in the heard and in the heart. And if he's got that, which I think he does, then the sky's the limit."

Place Kicker

Mike Nugent, Dave Rayner : Last year Shayne Graham was one of several veteran kickers in the final year of his contract and who ended the season with missed field goals in the playoffs. The Bengals elected to go the proverbial different direction this year. In 2008, Dave Rayner filled in briefly when Graham was ailing. In 2009, he lost out in the preseason to Shaun Suisham for the Washington Redskins kicking job. The Bengals re-signed Rayner this February to compete for the job. Mike Nugent began last year as the Buccaneers kicker, but was released after missing 4 of 6 FGs in the first four games. He resurfaced in Arizona at the end of the year to fill in for an injured Neil Rackers for two games. In the midst of this year's draft, the Bengals opted to sign Nugent rather than drafting or signing a rookie. After having ranked in the top ten in kicker scoring four consecutive years, the Bengals dropped to 31st and 23rd the last two years.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Bernard Scott, Andre Caldwell, Quan Cosby, Tom Nelson, Johnny Sears

RB Bernard Scott emerged as the Bengals top kickoff return threat last year, averaging 31.5 yards on 16 returns and scoring once. WR Andre Caldwell averaged 20.3 on kickoff returns during his career at Florida, and averaged 18.4 yards on 13 returns last year. Two second year players are potential backups. WR Quan Cosby averaged 23.7 yards on kickoff returns during his career at Texas and scored once. Safety Tom Nelson averaged 24.7 yards on kickoff returns during his career at Illinois State and scored once. Undrafted rookie CB Johnny Sears averaged 22.9 yards on 33 kickoff returns for eastern Michigan last year.

Punt Returners: Quan Cosby, Adam Jones, Jordan Shipley, Tom Nelson, Leon Hall

Quan Cosby averaged 11.7 yards on punt returns during his college career and scored once. As a rookie last year, he handled all of the Bengals punt returns (40 returns, 11.9 avg., 19 fair catches). CB Adam Pacman Jones' 12.9 yard average with the Titans in 2006 led the NFL that year. He also scored three times. Third round draft pick WR Jordan Shipley could factor into the mix this year. He averaged 13.0 yards on 24 returns and scored twice for Texas last year. Tom Nelson averaged 15.6 yards and scored once during his senior year in college. CB Leon Hall (3 returns, 5.3 avg. in 2008) should once again be available as a backup. The Bengals 9th place ranking in fantasy returns last year was their first top ten finish in many, many years.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Andrew Whitworth, LG Nate Livings, C Kyle Cook, RG Bobbie Williams, RT Anthony Collins
Key Backups: T/GL TE Dennis Roland, G Evan Mathis C Jonathon Luigs

The Bengals had an average performance in regards to offensive line play in 2009. They finished 15th in run blocking and 14th in pass protection. Bobby Williams, the veteran of the group has started each game over the past three seasons while LT Andrew Whitworth and C Kyle Cook played in all sixteen games last year. Nate Livings earned 9 starts last year and the 330-pound bruiser at guard did a good job in the running game. At right tackle, Anthony Collins started seven games and played in fourteen. He did some good things and will be given every chance to win the job this season. Dennis Roland is a dependable backup tackle and the goal-line tight end. Evan Mathis started some games and did a fine job. He'll compete for the left guard position. Expect more of the same from this unit in 2010.

Team Defense

For years the Bengals defense carried much of the blame for their lack of success. In 2009 this unit virtually carried the club to a division title. The ball started rolling when Mike Zimmer took the reins as defensive coordinator in 2008 and while the team is still not completely finished with the makeover, they have made huge strides. The '09 campaign saw Cincinnati double the sack total from the previous season and land in the top six in both scoring defense at 18.2 points per game, and total yards allowed at 301.4 per game. Over the past few years the Bengals have drafted well defensively and sprinkled in some quality veteran additions. As a result the talent level and depth of this unit are very good. There are no new projected starters for 2010 but the Bengals continue to stockpile talent with the additions of Florida DE Carlos Dunlap, and free agent DBs Adam Jones and Gibril Wilson. The Bengals are very happy with the direction they are headed but have not yet reached their full potential and still have room for improvement. Their 34 sacks in '09 were solid but they need to put more pressure on the QB and they recorded a league low 11 forced fumbles. No lineup changes are imminent so the improvement for 2010 will depend on the players continuing to grow as a unit. In fantasy terms the Bengals were middle of the road in most scoring systems last season. Expect improvement in their big play statistics and a top 12 finish in 2010.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Antwan Odom, DE Robert Geathers, DT Domata Peko, DT Tank Johnson
Backups: DT Pat Sims, DT Geno Atkins, DT/DE Jonathan Fanene, DE Michael Johnson,, DE Carlos Dunlap

Starting DL: The Bengals are very close to being mentioned among the leagues elite defenses. To take that next step will require better production from the front four and particularly the DE positions. Antwan Odom was off to a great start in 2009 with 8 sacks in just 6 games before tearing his Achilles. Unfortunately the rest of the DL could muster only 16 sacks between them over the entire season. Robert Geathers was the last Bengal to record double digit sacks in a season but that was back in 2006. He's managed just 10.5 over the last three seasons combined. Odom has a long history of injury and neither he nor Geathers are guaranteed to keep their starting jobs. The club added Michael Johnson in last year's draft and Carlos Dunlap this year. The youngsters could push for playing time in camp. Domata Peko and Tank Johnson are the starters at DT but the Bengals also use Pat Sims in a three man rotation. This trio gives Cincinnati a very solid but unspectacular interior line that lacks a dominating playmaker.

Backup DL: One thing that is certain, the Bengals starting ends had better not falter. Cincinnati is loaded with talented youth looking for a chance to get on the field. It is believed by many that Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap are the bookends of the future for this club. Both are very talented guys who fell in their respective drafts due to character concerns. Johnson was a third round pick in '09 and played sparingly last year, posting 10 solo tackles and 2.5 sacks. Even in limited action he was able to impress. Dunlap recorded 19.5 sacks in 40 games at Florida and was the team's second round selection in April. Both players will be in the thick of the competition for playing time during camp and the coaching staff is even tinkering with Johnson at SLB in an effort to get him on the field. Pat Sims is officially a backup but saw just as much playing time in the rotation as the starters last season. Jonathan Fanene is a versatile lineman who took over for an injured Odom at DE last year, but frequently moved inside on passing downs. If everyone stays healthy his role will likely be diminished this year though he could still see time as an inside rusher on passing downs. Geno Atkins was the club's 4th round pick. He's an athletic interior lineman who the coaching staff hopes will eventually become a playmaker for them.

Linebackers

Starters: WLB Keith Rivers, MLB/SLB Dhani Jones, MLB/SLB Rey Maualuga
Backups: WLB Rodderick Muckelroy, WLB Brandon Johnson, MLB Abdul Hodge, SLB Rashad Jeanty

Starting LBs: Last year's second round steal Rey Maualuga was the final piece of the puzzle at the linebacker position for the Bengals. His talent shined clearly and his intensity was infectious in 2009. Together with with former USC teammate and 2008 first round selection Keith Rivers, and the veteran Dhani Jones, this may be the best LB unit the Bengals have fielded since the days of Reggie Williams in the 70s. There are no new additions to the mix for 2010 but there may still be some change. Maualuga was drafted to be the MLB of the future in Cincinnati. However, as it often happens, the Bengals elected to start him at the less mentally demanding SLB as a rookie. The coaching staff now find themselves with a dilemma. The defense worked so well they must decide if they want to upset the apple cart by moving the pieces around. This is going to happen at some point and chances are it will be during this year's training camp. Jones is a very intelligent and versatile player who has played most of his NFL career as a strong side LB. The switch to the middle was an even bigger success than the coaching staff had expected. Though he only put up 77, Jones led the club in tackles last season. If everything remains the same he should put up similar numbers. However, if Maualuga is moved inside he has the potential to put up much more impressive numbers. Rivers took over the starting WLB job as a rookie and has played very well. Unfortunately his play has not been reflected in his box score production largely because he is often replaced on passing downs. Rivers continues to work on his coverage skills in hope of becoming an every down player but he may continue to be replaced by Brandon Johnson this year.

Backup LBs: The Bengals are in pretty good shape for depth depth at the linebacker positions. In the event of an injury at any position Brandon Johnson will be the first off the bench. He is a dependable veteran who is already seeing time in the nickel packages. Johnson got an opportunity to start four games last season when guys were banged up. He did a solid job on the field but made little splash in the box scores. Rashad Jeanty is a solid if unspectacular backup with a couple of years starting experience but little upside. Rookie 4th round pick Rodderick Muckelroy is a player the club thinks can develop into a quality player for them. He'll work mostly on special teams this season. Abdul Hodge showed a lot of potential with the Packers a couple of years back but his career has been derailed by injuries.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Johnathan Joseph, CB Leon Hall, SS Roy Williams, FS Chinedum Ndukwe, FS/SS Gibril Wilson
Backups: CB David Jones, CB Brandon Ghee, CB Trent Morgan, CB Adam Jones, FS Chris Crocker, S Kyries Hebert

Starting DBs: In Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall the Bengals have one of the best and most productive corner tandems in the league. Their numbers were nearly identical last season when they combined for 116 tackles, 12 interceptions and 44 passes defended. If you are an owner in a corner required league both of these guys should be near the top of your list at the position. The Bengals safety positions have also been very productive over the past several years but there is a dilemma here for fantasy owners in that its a crowded position with no way to know how the playing time will break down. Roy Williams is a very good in the box SS who projects to start. He is however, somewhat of a liability in coverage and could come off the field in some passing situations. Chinedum Ndukwe has proven to be very productive when given an opportunity. He was the projected starter at FS until the late addition of Gibril Wilson who can play either safety position very well. Unless the Bengals make this some sort of committee situation, someone is going to put up strong numbers here. Hopefully training camp will clear up the picture for us.

Backup DBs: The Bengals have the luxury of quality depth in the secondary as well. Trent Morgan did a good job as the third corner last season and David Jones made a few starts when Johnathan Joseph was injured in '08. Those two will compete with rookie third round pick Brandon Ghee and free agent Adam Jones to determine the pecking order behind the starters. It's a good problem to have if you are the Bengals. Chris Crocker will likely be in the mix for a starting job during camp but the veteran journeyman has never been able to hold a starting job for long and the addition of Wilson probably sends him to the bench.

Last modified: 2010-07-29 20:57:11