It's too early for '09 season previews, and too late for '08 season reviews. What's an NFL blog to do in the never-ending quest to overcover the bejeezus out of the NFL? Offseason progress reports. Let's go in alphabetical order. Today, the Cincinnati Bengals.
Drafted: OT Andre Smith(notes), LB Rey Maualuga(notes), DE Michael Johnson, TE Chase Coffman(notes), C Jonathan Luigs(notes), P Kevin Huber(notes), DB Morgan Trent(notes), RB Bernard Scott(notes), RB Fui Vakapuna(notes), DE Clinton McDonald(notes), WR Freddie Brown(notes)
The Bengals might be in the most unique state of any team in the league at the moment. There are perfectly good reasons to think that '09 could be a bounce back year, and there are perfectly good reasons to think that it could be just as miserable as most others in franchise history. With the Bengals, it's not so much about what they should be in 2009, it's about what they should avoid being.
You know how after a particularly bad game, a coach might say he's going to burn the game film? Because there's nothing good about it and there's nothing to learn from it? The Bengals can do that with the entire 2008 season. Carson Palmer(notes) was hurt, Chad Ochocinco(notes) – for whatever reasons – had an abysmal year, very little went right and there was no reason to be happy about being a Bengals fan.
So why would anyone be excited about 2009? Because Palmer will be healthy. Because there's still talent there. Because it looks like Cedric Benson(notes), of all people, might have fixed their running game. Because the draft gave them what could be a dominant offensive lineman, and some quality young help on defense. Because as bad as last year was, it still never felt like they were that far away from being decent again, if that makes sense.
If the leadership is there (we've yet to see it from Carson Palmer, and I have even less faith in Marvin Lewis), and this team comes together, I feel like they can win some games. The tools are in place, at least to be competitive. This isn't a situation like Detroit, where they're starting from scratch.
No, the Bengals are starting with a handful of capable weapons, they've just got to scrape out all the negativity, distractions and nonsense. They can't have any of the usual garbage coming from Chad Ochocinco, or anyone else on the roster.
Progress: When I think about the Bengals' offseason, I don't think about it in terms of "Oh, they lost this, but they added this!" I think of it in terms of, "It's no longer 2008, and therefore, it has to be better." How much better depends on the amount of focus they can muster, and how much negativity they can avoid.
Plus 3½ games. From 4-11-1 to 8-8.