Year of the orange and black?


photoshop Hester

Inside man on the orange and black

Twenty four years ago, The Simpsons was just starting to air on television, Vanilla Ice recorded his hit single “Ice Ice Baby”, and The Cincinnati Bengals defeated the Houston Oilers in the AFC Wild Card game in historic Riverfront Stadium. Unfortunately, the Bengals are 0-5 in playoff games since that season.

Although some Bengal fans’ may be diagnosed with depression looking at the lackluster Bengal teams in the past, this team has the pieces to put together a solid season. This Bengals team has talent and depth at almost every position, and will attempt to use their mistakes and successes from previous years to get back into the playoffs.

The talent starts at the quarterback position with the infamous “Red Rifle”. Andy Dalton is entering his fourth season as an NFL quarterback. Despite receiving harsh criticism, Dalton has lead the Bengals to three consecutive playoff appearances, and got paid big bucks this offseason. Mike Brown and the franchise has gone all in on Dalton, and fans everywhere have crossed their fingers, praying that Dalton can be the man in Cincinnati.

Chances are, you’ve probably heard of the Dalton’s favorite target, some guy by the name Adriel Jeremiah Green, who is quickly becoming one of the NFL’s top receivers. The wide receiver core is also lead by Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, who has big shoes to fill after the departure of Andrew Hawkins to Cleveland.

The Bengals failed to keep several important pieces that they had the previous years, including defensive end Michael Johnson and offensive tackle Anthony Collins to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. When Johnson decided to take his talents to West Central Florida, the pressure moved to defensive end Carlos Dunlap’s shoulders, who needs to continue the success he has had his first couple years in Cincinnati if the Bengals want to remain a top tier defense.

One of the big concerns that people seem to have with the Bengals are the two new offensive and defensive coordinators. Mike Zimmer, who had been the backbone of the Bengals’ defense since 2008, took the head coaching job in Minnesota. Paul Guenther, who has been the assistant coach since 2005, fills the position.

With Jay Gruden leaving for the head coaching job in our nation’s capital, my personal favorite Hue Jackson is promoted to offensive coordinator. Jackson was the wide receivers coach for three seasons (2004-2006), and was close to former Bengal receivers Chad Johnson and TJ Houshmandzadeh.

Jackson has also been a big part of helping second year running back Giovani Bernard develop into the explosive playmaker he has become early in his career. Bernard had a total of five touchdowns in his rookie season, with 170 carries for 695 yards (4.1) and 56 receptions. With the release of Benjarvus Green-Ellis, Bernard will see a huge increase in production.

The Bengals also continued their success in the Draft this offseason. Darqueze (Dar-kwez) Dennard, the stud corner out of Michigan State is atop the Bengals draftees. Dennard will work aside veteran and all pro Leon Hall and last years first round pick Dre Kirkpatrick this season. Other draft notables are Defensive End Will Clarke out of West Virginia and Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, who’s extremely attractive girlfriend Katherine Webb has received most of the attention since McCarron arrived in the Queen City.

Overall, this Bengals team has the weapons on both sides of the ball to do great things as they have done the last three seasons. As long as the players can remain healthy for the length of the season, which has been the Bengals’ Achilles heel in the past, this may be the year we’ve all been waiting for.