Odom Overlooked; Marvin’s Achilles


It struck me yesterday that a lot of people are missing one of the biggest storylines in Bengals camp. Yes, Terrell Owens and Ochocinco are on the field together. Yes, the Artist Formerly Known as Pacman Jones is playing his way back into game shape. And yes, the Bengals have enough firepower to fuel some sky-high expectations. But perhaps the biggest factor that will determine the Bengals’ success this season is the recovery of defensive end Antwan Odom. When Odom was lost for the season last year, he was playing at an elite level, leading the league in sacks and dominating tackles in passing situations. If he returns to that form – or at least close to it – Cincinnati’s defense will also be elite. With solid corners, steady linebackers, and effective interior linemen, the only thing the Bengals are missing is a dominant pass rusher. Odom played that role perfectly before he was hurt last year. Hopefully, he can do it again. Early reports have been positive, but his progress is worth some serious attention. It’s essential to Cincinnati’s success this season.

Marvin’s Weakness: Marvin Lewis is the reigning NFL Coach of the Year and it’s hard to argue that he’s been a pretty good fit for the Bengals. However, when it comes to penalties, I think Lewis and his team are in need of some serious improvement. I’ve thought for many years that the Bengals have been rather undisciplined and Lewis deserves some of the blame for that. Penalty statistics aren’t easily found, but Geoff Hobson gave us a few yesterday.

The Bengals were fourth in the AFC with 24 holding calls last year. And they were first in delay of game penalties with 15 (almost double that of second place San Diego’s 8), and third in false starts (24). Unfortunately, I don’t have access to the penalty stats from previous years, but my gut feeling is that this is a trend that needs to stop. If this team really has Super Bowl expectations – and it should – it needs to be cleaner in the penalty department. Penalties can ruin drives and critical ones can kill an entire game. And when you get to the postseason, every game counts. Big time.

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