Last Sunday’s loss to the Dolphins highlighted a host of considerations for Cincinnati, however; it’s important to keep in mind that several of these concerns were identified prior to preseason play, and even then, many have already come out better than most would have expected. For example, seven wide receivers were kept on the roster because of uncertainty at the position, something that now has become a forgotten worry with the emergence of Andrew “Baby Hawk” Hawkins lining up behind Armon Binns.
Also, what was considered a depleted secondary seems to be holding its own despite being down deep into its second string. While not 4-1, the Bengals are 3-2 and sitting comfortably in second place in the AFC North as the head into two very winnable divisional games and a Bye Week. Even more encouraging as the Bengals face a far more grueling second half of the season, they will likely do it with a bulked-up Dontay Moch, veteran defensive tackle and run-stuffing specialist Pat Sims, incumbent center Kyle Cook, and rookie first-round pick Dre Kirkpatrick whose boost to the corps of defensive backs will likely free Adam Jones to take all punt returns. Provided no major injuries strike, the Bengals could be looking at a major overhaul and upgrade to several key positions as the second half of the season begins.
However, the most encouraging aspect to this Cincinnati team last week was the some very strong displays of espirit de corps by key members of the team. Wayward rookie Vontaze Burfict not only looked like he belonged within the defensive unit, but on several plays he looked like he was actually leading it, directing and calling out developments forming on from the opposing offense. In the early third quarter Jermaine Gresham got emotionally heated about a missed call, but rather than let it throw his game, he rallied himself and his team mates, making several clutch catches down the stretch. Also apprehension of rookie guard play has largely melted away, thanks to the tutelage of veteran center and reportedly ‘nicest guy in the world’ Jeff Faine, a leader whose influence in New Orleans heralded the rise of that organization.