2010 CINCINNATI BENGALS PREVIEW PART 2
By Don Stokes contributing writer Southeastern Ohio region-Football Reporters Online
Other than the Head football coach I normally do not point out any individual members of a coaching staff of any team that I cover but I believe a special mention should be made to Bengals Defensive Coordinator Mike Zimmer. “Zim” as he is affectingly called by his defensive players became extremely popular from both the visibility of the “HBO Hard Knocks” show and also the sudden passing of his wife in October 2009. The Bengal team defense closed their ranks and played as a cohesive unit for the remainder of the season. This defensive turnaround was completed with no real impact lineman, linebackers or secondary players in their system (No All-pro or pro bowlers from this group). Cincinnati’s defense rose from ranked 19th in the NFL in 2008 to number 6th during the 2009 campaign. In 2010 the Bengals will employ a 4-3 defense (with a 4-4 sprinkle), so they must get maximum effort from their down linemen, which at times was a concern in 2009.
On the Defensive Line starting from the Left side is 7 year vet 6’3 280 Robert Geathers. He started 15 games in 2009 and registered 3.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. The Bengals could use a 7 to 8 sack season from Robert to balance the QB pressure from the left. On the right side a big return to form will be 6’5 275 Antwan Odom who was injured and lost for the year during game 6 with an Achilles tear. Odom was having a fantastic start in 2009 but his unfortunately his season ended in October. Despite the injury Antwan still led all Cincinnati players with 8 sacks (A Bengal record 5 in one game against GB during the season 2nd game) A clean bill of health from Odom should bring double digit sacks from both DE’s. The Defensive End backups are 6’4 292 Jonathan Fanene who had 6 sacks in 2009 from the Left defensive side. On the right side is 4 year vet 6’3 280 Frostee Rucker. He played in 12 games and contributed with 1.5 sacks. Also seeking to contribute is 2010 2nd round pick 6’6 270 Carlos Dunlap a physical specimen from Florida. The Defensive Tackles starters are solid run stoppers who are both similar in size and strength. From the left is 6’3 320 Damota Peko (23 tackles) and the right is 6’3 315 Tank Johnson (29 tackles and 2 sacks). The DT backups are 6’3 308 Orein Harris, 6’1 293 Geno Atkins, 6’2 325 Pat Simms who led the linemen with 34 tackles in ‘09 and 6’2 297 Clinton McDonald.
In 2009 The Bengal Linebacker play was what would be best described as steady but not spectacular. On the left side 6’2 255 Ray Maualuga who will play the “SAM” (strong side) must continue his growth as an impact NFL linebacker. Maualuga, who had 59 tackles from the LLB position, started 15 games in 2009. Ray had his season cut short in week 15 snapping his fibula. The Bengals were expecting a bit more big plays from their 2009 3rd round pick who was 2009 NFL Defensive Rookie of the year MLB Houston Texans Brian Cushing teammate at USC. MLB was manned by the veteran 6’1 236 Dhani Jones who led the team in tackles (113) and had a career high 3.5 sacks in 2009. The now 10 vet has played with 4 different teams over his career appears to found a home and has now become a solid defender for Cincinnati. At RLB former 1st rounder 6’2 232 Keith Rivers is the incumbent starter. The former USC alum after missing 9 games in 08 played 13 games in 2009 and recorded 72 tackles. The Linebacker backups are 6’5 240 Brandon Johnson who had 58 tackles in 2009. 6’7 268 Michael Johnson, 6’0 236 Abdul Hodge, 6’2 240 Vincent Rey, 6’2 252 Dan Skuta and 6’2 243 Rashad Jeanty.
With a former All-pro and some possible future ones, other than the wide outs this is the deepest position on the team. Cincinnati’s DB picked 16 passes in ‘09. At the SS position the starter is the former All-pro 6’0 222 Roy Williams. Williams has battled forearm and back injuries the past 2 seasons. He has played but 7 of 32 games since his last pro bowl season in 2007. A return to form by Williams would really give the Bengals a shot in the arm (no pun intended) in the secondary in 2010. At FS is NFL journeyman 5’11 202 Chris Crocker who in 2009 had 38 tackles and 2 INT.
The real Bengal strength is the CB’s. The cornerback tandem of 5’11 195 Leon Hall and 5’11 190 Jonathan Joseph who had similar numbers in 2009 and is considered two of the league’s best. On the right side Hall, who normally drew the toughest assignment against the opponent’s top receiver had 24 pass defended 71 tackles and 6 INT. The left corner is the steady Joseph with 20 pass defended, 69 tackles and 6 INT. Pressure from the pass rush will really make both shine brighter in 2010. A trip to the Pro Bowl in Hawaii awaits both in the near future. The backups are also solid with the return to the NFL of 5’10 188 LCB Adam (Pac man) Jones. Once considered a bright and up and coming star with fantastic talent, Jones (who will also help with the return game) has missed numerous games and an entire season because of suspensions. If Jones can stay clear of these past transgressions the Bengals will get a solid contributor on defense.
If Roy Williams continues his recent injury woes then ball hawk S 6’0 210 Gibril Wilson can take over. Wilson who had 93 tackles for the Dolphins in ’09 and with 13 NFL INT makes Wilson a nice insurance policy. Another backup is last season’s SS starter6’2 224 Chinedum Ndukwe. He had 89 tackles in ’09 starting 12 games. The rest in the defensive backfield are 6’1 193 Morgan Trent, 4th year pro 6’0 197 David Jones, 3rd yr pro 6’3 222 Kyries Herbert, 5’11 202 Rico Murray. Special team ace 5’11 200 Tom Nelson, and rookies 6’2 210 Jeromy Miles, 3rd round pick 6’0 Brandon Ghee and 6’0 184 Johnny Sears rounds out the secondary.
The Bengal Punting duties should be taken care of for many years to come. 2009 rookie P Kevin Huber with a 43.2 yard average and 36.3 net is as good as they come in the tough AFC North with the cold windy December months to come. The PR position is in good hands with both Quan Cosby (47 ret 470 yd 11.9 avg) and Adam Jones (4 lifetime punt returns). At KR Bernard Scott (16 ret 504 yds 31.5 avg 1 TD) and Andre Caldwell (29 ret 18.6 avg) who handled kickoffs in ‘09 are the incumbents.
With their recent additions (Owens, Pac man, Bryant etc.) the Bengals are making a strong push for a trip to SB XLV at Dallas. Unfortunately Cincinnati will not sneak up on anyone as they did last season. On their 2010 schedule the Bengals play 6 playoff teams from 2009 (Ravens, Jets, Saints, Colts, Patriots and Chargers) plus the annual 2 game challenge from the Steelers will make it tough. This should test whether Cincinnati is a serious contender or pretender. With the situation Pittsburgh must content with (QB Roethlisberger’s pending 6 game regular season suspension) this should help Cincinnati get off to a good start within the AFC North. A repeat 10-6 record from 2009 is attainable but it will be a reach. This would be enough to bring Marvin Lewis back for 2011 season and beyond. A 6-10 record will surely sign Lewis his walking papers for good.