Another Cincinnati Bengals season is upon us. Outside of Cincy, the refrain is "Who cares?" So what will make this season any different from the last 20 under-whelming years of "The Bungles"?
Instead of swinging for the fences in free-agency or drafting yet another "problem child", the Bengals opted to bolster the depth of a young team that clearly has great talent to become this year's version of the 2012 Seattle Seahawks. Laugh now folks, all signs point to this being the Year of the Bengal.
Right out the gate, the Bengals selected Tyler Eifert, Tight-End out of Notre Dame. The Bengals are buying into the Bill Belichick school of two TE sets, and with Jermaine Gresham and Eifert the Bengals now have a double threat at tight-end to go along with receiving threat A.J. Green. If you want to compete in the AFC, the two tight-end set appears to be the "hot" scheme.
The Bengals have added to a thin stable of horses in their backfield that will force defenses to stay home with the addition of second round pick running back Giovanni Bernard.
Two offensive tackles, Tanner Hawkinson and Reid Fragel are not going to supplant Andre Whitworth or Andre Smith, but both will provide the Bengals the much needed depth and youth to develop for the future.
A talented, albeit thin, D-line got an upgrade with the pick of Margus Hunt to fill in the holes at defensive end. Not the most flashy pick, but with the injury issues of Carlos Dunlap and Robert Geathers he provides an extra weapon on the defensive line. Hunt also gives Mike Zimmer an absolute monster to crush opposing QB's.
The addition of Strong Safety Shawn Williams will add some depth to the Bengals secondary and he will immediately contribute on special teams.
What does all this mean for the Bengals? Why will they sit on the top of the AFC North when all is said and done?
This is not Ray Lewis’ and Big Ben's AFC North anymore. The Baltimore Ravens are rebuilding (no matter what GM Ozzie Newsome says). The Pittsburgh Steelers failed to improve at any position either in the draft of during free-agency, unless you consider turning players past their prime out to pasture an improvement (or keeping some-ahem-Troy Polamalu). The Cleveland Browns, well there’s always next year for a team that couldn't land their chosen coach, did not improve on offense and now have some ownership soap opera that makes them almost interesting. Almost.
The point is, all the stars have aligned for the Bengals to finally take control of the AFC North and make a push in the playoffs.
It’s no longer wishful thinking for Bengals Fans to start thinking play-off run. Time to wipe away the frustration of the Carson Palmer era and let out a collective sigh of relief and anticipation. These cats are for real. No more excuses, the time is now.