The 2011 NFL season finally kicks off tomorrow, and, as you know, the Cleveland Browns open against the Cincinnati Bengals. It’s a game between two teams that are moving full-force into the youth movement, and a number of solid young players will be taking the field on Sunday.
To get a closer look at the Bengals, I talked with Cody Byers of Stripe Hype about rookie quarterback Andy Dalton, the rest of the team’s young players, and his outlook for this season.
1. There is a great deal of uncertainty now surrounding the Bengals organization. How do you feel about where this team is now heading?
Honestly, I’m feeling sort of positive about the direction in which they’re currently heading. Things weren’t working out with the older veterans they had on the team (Carson, Chad, T.O, Dhani, Roy Williams, Tank Johnson, etc) and they turned the page without them. They’re making moves to shore up depth at positions and were for once being highly active in preseason with trading and the waiver wire.
2. From what you’ve seen so far, what are your thoughts on QB Andy Dalton?
He’s a rookie starter going into the season on a team that’s rebuilding all over the roster, it’s exactly what you would expect. He’s looked brilliant at times, but other times when having pressure in his face he may make a bad throw. Each game it takes him less and less time to get into “rhythm” with his offense; hopefully this can continue and he doesn’t regress.
3. Who are a few other Bengals rookies that opposing teams should keep an eye on in 2011?
The two rookies teams need to be on the lookout for are the ones replacing the biggest names: A.J. Green and Andy Dalton. The team has two very good young players and they seem to have good chemistry with each other already. This year is all about growing together. If Dalton can mesh with Green, along with sophomores Jordan Shipley and Jermaine Gresham, there may be some big things to come in the future.
4. What is a key match-up to look for on Sunday?
There are two match-ups that interest me. First, the one most people won’t notice, rookie OG Clint Boling vs DT Phil Taylor. Then the one with more media attention, first round pick WR A.J. Green vs the Browns 2010 first round pick Joe Haden. Both of these match-ups will be the first of many meetings in their careers, so I’m really interested to see how the first one plays out.
5. What is your outlook for the Bengals 2011 season?
Lots of “growing pains.” My guestimate is a final record of 5-11 (+/- 1 win). There’s an easier schedule and the Bengals have enough raw talent to make a few surprising wins. I think both fan bases know by now even in an “off year” the Bengals and Browns can still split a series with any one of their AFC North foes.