The offseason was not particularly kind to the Bengals. The ongoing Carson Palmer saga forced Andy Dalton into action at the very beginning of the preseason, and Dalton now looks set to start the first game of the season against the Browns. The Bengals also parted ways with Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens, which means they will be breaking in some young and unproven wide receivers.
Offensively, the Bengals are installing Jay Gruden’s offense along with their new quarterback. Like the Browns, the Bengals will be running a version of the West Coast offense, though Marvin Lewis’ influence will probably keep their attack based on the running game, at least to start the season. Cedric Benson gained over 1,100 yards last season, but only averaged 3.5 yards per carry and lost five fumbles. In the secondary, it will be interesting to see whether Dick Jauron has Joe Haden matched up against the 6’4” A.J. Green or someone closer to his height (he’s 5’11”). Jermaine Gresham could cause problems if he’s allowed too much space over the middle.
Defensively, the Bengals look like as much of a work in progress as on offense. Leon Hall signed an extension, and he is very solid in the secondary. However, they lost Jonathan Joseph, which they might not be able to overcome. Keith Rivers has been a disappointment since Hines Ward broke his jaw in 2008. Rey Maualuga has shown flashes, but needs to prove he can stay on the field for every down.
In all, it’s hard for me to find a lot to like about the Bengals. I honestly think they’ll have one of the two worst records in the league this season. They’ll probably have a couple of games with gaudy stats, but I can’t see this defense holding up all season, and if I had to choose a starter from Carson Palmer, Andy Dalton, and Kerry Collins, I would have tried to beat Indianapolis to Kerry Collins. I’ll say the Browns win the opener, 24-13.