Thursday, March 11, 2010

Offseason Curl Routes #1.5 (Bengals!)

It struck me that I forgot to mention just how excited I am to watch the Bengals play football next season (if you're not following me on Twitter, and why would you, you missed my 140 character freakout about this). I have loved the way this team has decided to view last year's ground game renaissance as a strengthening of the offensive foundation rather than a total shift in philosophy. Certainly, Benson and Scott (who sound like an early 90's cop duo) give this offense the much needed hard-nosed credibility they've historically lacked, but to focus on them would be to give up too quickly on the ethereal dream that Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco have worked all these years to make real.

So to say that I'm pleased with the signing of Antonio Bryant (and MATT JONES because WE DO NOT FORGET MATT JONES) would be an understatement. The move represented not only an acquisition of weaponry, but also admirable discernment in choosing the less heralded, less easy-on-the-eyes game of Bryant over the celebrity of T.O.. Owens will land someplace (I hope), but Bryant represents the final piece of the matchup nightmare jigsaw killer trap that the Bengals have quietly been constructing. Defenses that choose to focus on Ochocinco now will find themselves spread awfully thin against Antonio Bryant (who can go down the field and force safety attention), Matt Jones (who has the tools to do the same, except with more speed and size), and the underrated Andre Caldwell (the sneakiest slot man in the game last season). Throw in Jerome Simpson (whose vert is going to get respect sooner or later), and the supporting cast should finally give Ochocinco the room to do what he does best: Humiliate defenders with the ability to run complex routes with a quickness and precision that might not be matched in the league. The 2007 Pats proved that frustration is as effective an offensive weapon as any one player, and this team has the versatility to keep defenses on their heels.

If you think this sounds like a fantasy, just remember that the Chargers have had one of the most potent offenses in the league on the strength of mismatches at WR alone, and they never had the ground game the Bengals did last year working in tandem with those mismatches, nor did they have the combination of size AND speed that the Bengals will have in Cincy. If Marvin Lewis's culture of hard lessons leading to redemptive growth (which has done wonders for Cedric Benson and Tank Johnson) can be translated to something as graceful as the passing offense Carson Palmer was born to run, last season's success will go from a fever dream to a frightening prelude. In the sequel, the monsters can fly.

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