In addition to Mike Nugent (who may not even win the kicking battle, but I hope he does), there are a few other candiates for my Bengals Man-Crush of 2010. Here they are, in no particular order:
Antonio Bryant – If he can approach his 2008 stats (83 catches, 1,248 yards, 7 touchdowns) the Bengals offense is going to be flying high again. With his deep speed, Bryant has a chance to be an upgrade over T.J. Houshmanzadeh in the long ball department (and chicks dig the long ball). That would open up things for Chad Ocho-Tango and everyone else underneath.
Antwan Odom – Before Odom ruptured his Achilles against the Texans, he was playing out of his mind (eight sacks in six games). His injury was actually the beginning of the Bengals downfall that gained momentum when Domata Peko lost some games and Chris Henry sadly lost his life. If Odom can regain some semblance of his sack total, an improved secondary should feast on some frazzled quarterbacks. In fact, I think the Bengals’ pass rush, whether it comes from Odom or someone else, is a prerequisite for success in 2010.
Rey Maualuga – If Rey-Rey can emerge as a Ray Lewis-type playmaker in the Bengals defense, the unit could be even better in 2010. Plus, a solid season would help Maualuga to rehab his image in the court of public opinion. Early reports seem to indicate that Maualuga might be more focused this year. Let’s hope that translates into an All-Pro season.
Perhaps all three players, along with “The Nuge” (Nugent), can put together stellar seasons next fall. And why not root for that? I have plenty of love to go around.