Rather, they should stay focused on the IR Roster, associated recoveries and likely player retentions. Several areas of need for the Bengals are lying in wait, mending, and if retained could come out the gate hot or making the bench very deep. Dre Kirkpatrick will make his debut soon across from Leon Hall, and with Adam Jones still playing very well in nickel packages and special teams, expect Brandon Ghee to arise and usurp Terrance Newman this off season. Further, Shaun Prater’s upside has yet to be much glimpsed as he looks to fit into the +72” Club that Defensive Coordinator Mike Zimmer seems to be developing from his secondary. Robert Sands and Tony Dye currently sit out as well, but next season, the addition of a single strong safety draft pick will likely be all that is required to give the Bengals a much tighter secondary unit.
Thomas Howard will almost certainly have his services retained, giving a needed boost to a flailing linebacker corps. Unless Travelle Wharton’s knee injury is career ending, he will likely become another veiled presence as the sixth man on the already stout offensive line, which could be a massive X-factor to running game that must be improved upon regardless. Also, the Bengals should opt to keep Jamaal Anderson behind Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson. Andersonwas having a resurgence of sorts before he went down for the season and Robert Geathers is a free agent this year. In short, with the exception of strong safety, outside linebacker, and running back, the Bengals will be extremely competitive and complete once the roster is healthy.
What the Bengals wanted from this season was experience. If that manifestation ended up as wins, great; if a few slip away, then those are lessons learned too. Remember, other than Marvin Lewis and Mike Zimmer, nearly all the leadership on this team is only a few seasons into their NFL careers, hence the coaching call outs earlier this week. At the end of the day, this season is bigger than a single game or a single skid, it was since Week 1 – keep that in mind on Sunday.