Bengals have to get mentally and physically tougher

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PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 18: Dre Kirkpatrick #27 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrates his interception with Adam Jones #24 in the second quarter during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on September 18, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 18: Dre Kirkpatrick #27 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrates his interception with Adam Jones #24 in the second quarter during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on September 18, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /
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There can be no substitute for raw talent. Likewise, there can be no shortage of attitude on the football field. The Bengals need to embrace that toughness.

When talking about the Cincinnati Bengals, the issue of toughness is rarely one that sneaks to the forefront. There are players on the team who are literally branded with the tough moniker. There’s the mountain of a man named Geno Atkins. Then there’s the fierce determination of Carlos Dunlap. A new face in that crowd is Nick Vigil. And how could anyone forget Vontaze Burfict?

Yet, there seems to be something missing from the formula that got the Bengals to the playoffs for five straight years prior to 2016. If you want to be specific, it’s all about toughness. Whether fans want to believe it or not, the loss of key vets has played a serious role in last year’s mental letdown and the possibility of it happening this year.

When Reggie Nelson was allowed to walk away in free agency, it was due to his age. There’s no doubt about it. Say what you will, the Bengals are in the midst of a youth movement. There are too many young studs on the team from successful drafts. It’s time to see what they can do and lock them up with decent contracts. But, I digress. This is about that toughness factor the Stripes have to foster.

Earlier in training camp, there was an incident between Burfict and Giovani Bernard. Rumor has it that Mr. B tackled Gio after a play was over. Yet, Bernard says it was all a mistake. He slipped, fell into Gio and the offense and defense got into a shoving match. Actually, that was a good thing.

Have An Attitude 

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Training camp is about getting ready for the season. The atmosphere is going to be chaotic and fierce. If it isn’t, then there’s going to be some character issues left unchecked. Football is not only about skill, it’s about attitude and anger. Knowing how to focus that anger is the key. Marvin Lewis is aware that he has to get that dynamic to flow from his team. He spoke on the issue, per MMQB.

"“We have been more physical in practice because we have younger guys. We have to reteach guys. I didn’t have to teach Whit how to be physical, or Peko how to be physical. But now we’ve got some new guys, some younger guys, and we have to reteach that.”"

Is that something that has to be taught? If Marvelous Marv says so, evidently, it is. After seeing the Bengals get manhandled–on both sides of the ball–by the Chiefs, there was definitely a lack of attitude in Week 2.

"“We take pride every time we go on the field to play to our capabilities,” said Josh Shaw, after the Week 2 collapse. “Today it’s not a secret we didn’t do that. They were very efficient. It’s nothing we hadn’t seen. Every man in the locker room will tell you that we have to play better. You expect to go out there and build on that and today we took a step back.”"

It’s all about pride and attitude.

Let Em Get Mad

The youth movement is in full effect. The Bengals have to stay young and fresh to compete. But, they need the mental edge that comes with being physically and mentally ready. In essence, more chips on shoulders will make a difference. Of course, that comes with the risk of penalties. That’s where the vets and leadership come in. The rookies need to be shown the ropes.

This could be one of the youngest squads Lewis has tossed onto the field. Moreover, that means his confidence in their abilities is sky-high.

Next: Who Steps Up?

To clarify, this can be a special season if the youngsters are allowed to strut their stuff. Although, that comes with the stipulation of learning how to be tough…physical. There should also be a hunger and desire to make it into the postseason. Once there, it’s all about how you execute and how tough you are.

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