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07-02-2014, 09:40 AM

Dalton must earn pay raise in Cincinnati

Following two consecutive seasons of disappointing playoff performances, Cincinnati Bengals (http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/teams/cin/) quarterback Andy Dalton (http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/players/24822/) may be on the hot seat when the team begins training camp practice July 24 in Paul Brown Stadium.

Dalton's contract negotiations have been an issue off the field so he literally needs to be a money player this season to make team officials more comfortable shelling over the cash. He is entering the final year of his rookie contract and is scheduled to make just less than $1.7 million.

"I think he's throwing the ball fantastic," offensive coordinator Hue Jackson said. "I really do. He's improved. I see it. I see it on the practice field."

It's hard not to be optimistic in shorts in June at the first day of mini-camp. Everyone looks great this time of year, it seems, and a few impressive practices don't shadow one touchdown to six interceptions in three postseason losses.

But, the chatter among coaches and players has been of Dalton leaving a good impression during the offseason program. His command is noticed. His control of the team is noticed. The compact power of his throw is felt by receivers after an offseason spent working with quarterbacks guru Tom House.

Dalton was drafted 35th overall in 2011, when he signed a four-year, $5.2 million contract. He became one of three quarterbacks in NFL history to throw for more than 3,000 yards in each of his first three seasons, joining Cam Newton and Peyton Manning, and just one of three to pass for at least 20 touchdowns in each of his first three seasons, joining Manning and Dan Marino.
Dalton is the only quarterback to take the Bengals to three consecutive playoff berths, and just one of five quarterbacks to lead his team to the playoffs in each of his first three seasons.

Now if he can just take the team a little deeper into the playoffs, team management certainly would reach deeper into its pockets.
While Dalton tries to prove himself worthy of a big raise, there are these other issues that are worth tracking in training camp:

Offensive line: The battle to figure out who will start at center and left guard began slowly. Mike Pollak, expected to move in as a starting center, missed time with a knee injury. Last year's starting guard, Clint Boling, is rehabbing after an ACL tear.
That leaves Trevor Robinson as the starter at center. Andrew Whitworth temporarily moved from left tackle to guard. That is where he was at the end of last season when Boling and Kevin Zeitler were injured. Fourth-round pick Russell Bodine was running with the twos in OTAs.

--TIGHT END: At this point last year, tight end was supposed to be the game-changing strength of the team with Jermaine Gresham coming off his second straight Pro Bowl and a first-round pick dedicated to Tyler Eifert.
The two-tight end set was expected to power the offense to the next level. Both played well and combined for 85 receptions, but two injuries forced them out of the offseason program. Expectations are both will be healthy for training camp, but lingering injuries cause concern.

--CB Dre Kirkpatrick: Entering his third year, the former first-round pick needs to prove capable of holding down a starting cornerback spot for the next five-to-10 years. The Bengals drafted him to do just that, but after a first season marred by injury he played sparingly last year with a role that increased due to injuries late in the year. He intercepted three passes including a pick-6, but was also exposed in coverage.

The arrival of first-round pick Darqueze Dennard (http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/players/27552/) places even more pressure on Kirkpatrick to prove he can play; otherwise, he could fall back to fifth on the depth chart behind Leon Hall, Terence Newman, Adam Jones and Dennard.

--James Wright (http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/players/27767/), WR, Louisiana State, Round 7/239th overall: Wright caught only 25 passes in his college career, and none last season as a backup to first-round draftee Odell Beckham Jr. and second-rounder Jarvis Landry.
But Wright was a special-teams standout in college and will probably begin his pro career in that role, which may give him an edge over last year's second-round pick, Cobi Hamilton (http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/players/26820/), and perhaps a chance to displace Brandon Tate, originally a third-round pick (New England, 2009) who has struggled since the Bengals claimed him off waivers in 2011.

--Wide receiver Cobi Hamilton, the Bengals' sixth-round draft pick from 2013, didn't finish off camp exactly the way he would like as he dropped a few passes he should have caught.
But that barely diminished what was a strong offseason and strong step toward making the Bengals 53-man roster.

Hamilton drew praise from receivers coach James Urban, who called him the most improved receiver on the team during a season spent on the practice squad. This from a player who rewrote the University of Arkansas record books with 90 receptions and 1,335 receiving yards his senior year.

He displayed flashes of brilliance during this month's offseason training camp, blowing by defensive backs and hauling in acrobatic contested catches in the back of the end zone.

Hamilton will spend much of the next month home in Texas decompressing, but understanding any slack has been eliminated as he returns for the open of camp.

"It's pretty hard trying to come in and get immediate playing time as a rookie," Hamilton said. "There's a lot of stuff you got to know off the field and on the field to earn your time. This year is completely different for me. I know exactly what I have to do to get on the field."

--This year's first-round pick, Darqueze Dennard, signed his rookie contract last Thursday and practiced for the first time as an officially paid member of the Bengals Tuesday.

While little drama was involved in striking a deal because of the rookie pay scale in the new CBA, he did feel better having the situation behind him.

"Yeah, it's a relief," Dennard said. "It's something that's crossed off. Something that I don't have to worry about. We can all just focus on football, and (I'm) doing whatever I can to help the team win. It's not about money or anything like that anymore. We're able to throw all that out of the way and get back to football."

--Head coach Marvin Lewis grew up in Western Pennsylvania learning football watching the era of Chuck Noll's Steelers. Noll passed away last weekend at the age of 82.

When Lewis arrived as an assistant with the Steelers in 1992 he recalls a team with a specific work ethic and toughness as a result of Noll's era that produced four Super Bowls, most by any coach.

"I think obviously the thing coach Noll did was he set a direction, they had a plan, they drafted for the plan, they developed for the plan very effectively and won championships," Lewis said. "That's the key element. He had a great temperament about him. He was a very physical person and he had physical football teams. He was demanding as a football coach. You learn from that."

A closer look at the Bengals' picks:

Round 1/24 -- Darqueze Dennard, CB, 5-11, 199, Michigan State
--The Bengals needed to get younger at corner and felt lucky Dennard slipped into their laps at 24. Most had him projected five to 10 picks earlier, but he fits perfectly into a man-press scheme.

Round 2/55 -- Jeremy Hill, RB, 6-1, 233, Louisiana State
--BenJarvus Green-Ellis isn't getting younger and Hill will provide the power running up the middle and explosive breakaway ability offensive coordinator Hue Jackson desires next to Giovani Bernard.

Round 3/88 -- Will Clarke, DE, 6-6, 271, West Virginia
--The Bengals needed a replacement for Michael Johnson and you can't get a more identical prospect than Clarke. He owns the sprawling wingspan the Bengals desire off the edge.

Round 4/11 -- Russell Bodine, C, 6-3, 310, North Carolina
--Bodine is a powerful man who can handle being the big center in the AFC North. The Bengals thought enough of him to trade up for only the third time in franchise history.

Round 5/164 -- A.J. McCarron, QB, 6-3, 220, Alabama
--The Bengals got their developmental quarterback behind Andy Dalton. McCarron is a proven winner and it wouldn't be insane to see him competing to start next season should problems arise with Dalton.

Round 6/212 -- Marquis Flowers, LB, 6-2, 231, Arizona
--Flowers brings speed and plenty of it. Plays well in space but will have a hard time making the 53-man roster.

Round 7/239 -- James Wright, WR, 6-3, 203, Louisiana State
--Only caught 25 passes without a touchdown for LSU and never broke through as a starter, but Bengals like him for special teams possibilities.

Round 7/252 -- Lavelle Westbrooks, CB, 5-11, 186, Georgia Southern
--A big hitter who plays well around the receivers.


UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
--LB Michael Boley (not tendered as UFA).
--S Chris Crocker (not tendered as UFA).
--P Zoltan Mesko (not tendered as UFA).
--OT Dennis Roland (not tendered as UFA).



--CB Darqueze Dennard (1/24): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--RB Jeremy Hill (2/55): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--DE Will Clarke (3/88): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--C Russell Bodine (4/111): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--QB A.J. McCarron (5/164): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--LB Marquis Flowers (6/212): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--WR James Wright (7/239): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--CB Lavelle Westbrooks (7/252): 4 yrs, terms unknown.

--S Taylor Mays: UFA; terms unknown.
--G Mike Pollak: Potential UFA; 3 yrs, terms unknown.
--LB Vincent Rey: RFA tendered at $1.431M with no compensation); 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--WR Dane Sanzenbacher: RFA tendered at $1.431M with no compensation); $1.2M/1 yr, $200,000 SB.
--TE Alex Smith: Not tendered as UFA; terms unknown.
--WR/KR Brandon Tate: Potential UFA; terms unknown.

--QB Jason Campbell: FA Browns; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--S Danieal Manning: FA Texans; terms unknown.
--DE Dontay Moch (waivers Cardinals).
--OT Marshall Newhouse: UFA Packers; terms unknown.
--CB R.J. Stanford: Not tendered as RFA by Dolphins; terms unknown.
--T Will Svitek: Not tendered as UFA by Patriots; terms unknown.

--T Anthony Collins: UFA Buccaneers; $30M/5 yrs, $15M guaranteed.
--C Kyle Cook (released).
--CB Brandon Ghee: UFA Chargers; $1.65M/2 yrs.
--LB James Harrison (released).
--WR Andrew Hawkins: RFA Browns (tendered at $1.431M with no compensation); Bengals didn't match offer of $13.6M/4 yrs.
--QB Josh Johnson (released).
--DE Michael Johnson: UFA Buccaneers; $43.75M/5 yrs, $16M guaranteed.
--QB Greg McElroy (released/retired).
--QB Zac Robinson (released/failed physical).


07-02-2014, 10:44 AM
I struggle to see how, in any way, tight end is the weakest position group on the team.

07-02-2014, 04:24 PM
Agree. And why does this article imply Trevor Robinson was running ahead of Bodine at center, when by the end of OTAs Bodine was clearly lining up with the 1st team? The Bengals may install Pollak as the starting center in training camp - that remains to be seen - but the top backup in that case would still be Bodine rather than Robinson. It's pretty clear that Jackson is looking for power rather than finesse at the point of attack.

07-02-2014, 04:25 PM
I don't think at any point Robinson was running ahead of Bodine.

I do think Pollak will get the job though.

07-02-2014, 04:43 PM
You could be right. But it at least sounds to me like the coaches want Bodine to win the job and that he will be given a legitimate chance there. I don't think Robinson is even seriously under consideration. We will know so much more when Pollak starts practicing in TC. I expect Pollak to line up at both guard and center, but I imagine he will spend more time practicing at one spot or the other. Guess we'll see soon enough.

07-04-2014, 08:15 AM
2014 NFL Preview: Cincinnati Bengalshttp://www.topbettingreviews.com/wp-content/themes/gamble/scripts/timthumb.php?src=http://www.topbettingreviews.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/2014-bengals.jpg&h=215&w=316&zc=1
The 2013 Cincinnati Bengals won their third division title since 2005. That’s the good news. The bad news is the Bengals last playoff win was in 1990. From a talent perspective, the Bengals are as loaded as any team in the NFL. Elite players such as A.J. Green, Geno Atkins, and Vontaze Burfict, and budding stars like Giovani Bernard and Carlos Dunlap are proof that the Bengals’ front office knows how to draft and develop home-grown talent. The huge question yet to be answered is under center; Andy Dalton has increased his yardage and touchdown totals in each of his three seasons, but 7 interceptions and an 0-3 playoff record have left doubts in the minds of fans and pundits. Regardless of Dalton’s flaws, the Bengals are an ascending team. Here’s a preview of their 2014 prospects.

Outlook: Despite a couple of key offseason departures, Cincinnati has the fewest holes of any team in the AFC North. Green is the division’s most explosive offensive weapon, and stud defensive tackle Geno Atkins is back after missing half of 2013 with a torn ACL. If Gio Bernard is given a larger workload and Dalton finds consistency from week-to-week, the offense will be Top 5. The secondary is somewhat of a concern, though. Aging vets Terence Newman and Pacman Jones are atop the depth chart, while Leon Hall and his two repaired Achilles tendons is the most experienced reserve.
New arrivals: The front office was quiet in free agency, choosing instead to conserve money for impending contract extensions for Green and Dalton. Rookies Darqueze Dennard, Jeremy Hill, and Will Clarke should all receive meaningful playing time. Dennard has the man-to-man cover skills to make an immediate impact if he picks up the defense quickly. Hill is a power runner who enters a crowded backfield picture that includes Bernard and veteran BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
Wave goodbye: Michael Johnson posted one great season in five years. Remove his 11.5 sacks in 2012 and he was average at best, which is why the Bengals allowed him to ink a $44-year contract with the Bucs. Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator Jay Gruden are now head coaches in Minnesota and Washington, respectively. Zimmer will be missed the most, but he was long overdue for a head coaching job. Paul Guenther has big shoes to fill.
Over/Under wins – 9: The schedule is brutal: Atlanta, Carolina, New Orleans, Indy, Denver, New England, and four games against Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Needless to say, the margin of error is miniscule. Andy Dalton can ill afford any of his ghastly efforts if the Bengals hope to repeat as division champs and advance to the playoffs for a fourth straight season. Dennard will solidify the secondary and the Dalton/Green/Bernard trio will shine on offense. Ten or 11 wins, at least.
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