I recently got to pose five questions to Joseph Reedy, a beat writer for the Cincinnati Enquirer who follows the Bengals (to read his blog, click here). He discussed Carson Palmer’s impending return, the team’s receiving corps, Cedric Benson and much more. So, without further adieu, let’s see what he had to say:
1) After missing the majority of the 2008 season, how has Carson Palmer looked thus far? Can we expect him to return to the player he was prior to the injury or will the elbow problem continue to bother him?
Joseph Reedy: Palmer has looked good, and the elbow appears to be 100 percent. If the season would’ve lasted a week longer last season, he would’ve started then. He will be on a pitch count during training camp that is mainly precautionary, but the velocity and spin that he has on the ball looks better than it has the past couple seasons.
2) Can Cedric Benson shoulder the load as the main running back or will the newly acquired Brian Leonard steal significant carries from him?
Joseph Reedy: Benson will be the main running back and should average 20-25 carries a game. With the offseason conditioning, he is ready to shoulder that load, which he hasn’t had in his NFL career but did have at the University of Texas. Leonard, DeDe Dorsey, Kenny Watson and sixth-round pick Bernard Scott are all vying to be that second back.
3) T.J. Houshmanzdadeh left to go to Seattle, but the team quickly replaced him with Laveranues Coles. How do you see Coles and Chad Ochocino performing this season? Do you see Chris Henry putting his past transgressions behind him and contribute this season? Is there any other receiver on the roster that could step up and make an impact?
Joseph Reedy: Coles and Ochocinco give the Bengals one of the most experienced receiver duos in the league. Coles looked good during the offseason OTAs and minicamps while Ochocinco, attitude wise, is ready to bounce back from last year. Henry mostly played Ochocinco’s slot position during OTAs and has mostly gained the trust back of his teammates and Palmer. However, no one knows if he has fully put behind his off-the-field problems. As far as other receivers looking to step up, expect to see plenty of Andre Caldwell as a kick returner and as that inside receiver who excels on third downs much like Houshmandzadeh did.
4) The biggest additions may have been on the defense, with Tank Johnson and Roy Williams being thrown into the mix and drafting Rey Maualuga and Michael Johnson. How much do you think these additions improve them and why?
Joseph Reedy: Tank Johnson should help upgrade a pass rush that has been sorely lacking the past couple years while Williams’ addition gives the Bengals two of the hardest hitting safeties in the league (Chris Crocker being the other). Maualuga and Johnson are still learning, so it is more difficult to get a gage on them.
5) How big of an impact do you think first round pick Andre Smith will have in the passing and running games this season?
Joseph Reedy: The offense will only go as far as the offensive line, which has three new starters along with Andrew Whitworth moving to left tackle. Smith’s impact will be felt more on the run game since Benson likes to run to the right side.
To read our previous Ask the Expert on the New York Giants with Tom Rock of New York Newsday, click here.
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