Bengals trying to be more than one-year wonder

Throughout their 44-year history, the Cincinnati Bengals have

rarely been more than a one-year playoff wonder.

The Bengals have gone to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons

only once. They went to the Super Bowl for the first time and lost

to San Francisco during the 1981 season, then made the playoffs

again the following year.

That’s it.

It’s even worse by another measure. Only twice in their history

have they followed a playoff appearance with so little as a winning

record the following season.

This is a franchise short on staying power. And that’s the first

thing they want to change coming off their 2011 playoff loss to

Houston.

”That’s definitely the next challenge,” offensive tackle

Andrew Whitworth said. ”And what does that take? It takes being a

consistent team every week and playing our style no matter who we

play. That’s what it’s going to take for us to take the next

step.”

They’re not getting off on the right foot. The Bengals had an

inordinate number of injuries during training camp and the

preseason games. Both running backs – BenJarvus Green-Ellis and

Bernard Scott – missed games. Starting left guard Travelle Wharton

tore up a knee, and center Kyle Cook had a foot and ankle injury

that could end his season, too. Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, their

top draft pick, hurt a knee and missed all the preseason games.

”You can get an onset of injuries that happen right away; you

can get injuries that happen throughout the year,” Cook said.

”Every team is different. Hopefully with the injuries we’ve had

and the guys that are able to come back, it kind of stops the

floodgates per se. Hopefully we’re done for the year and everybody

stays healthy and people can come back.”

They need to stay healthy – and have a lot of other things go

right – if they’re going to go to the playoffs again this season.

And that starts with their two young stars.

They went 9-7 and won a wild card berth last season with rookies

at quarterback and receiver. Andy Dalton and A.J. Green made the

Pro Bowl together in their first go-around. There will be a lot

more on them this time around.

Green found himself getting tougher coverage as the season went

along. Defenses tried to figure out Dalton’s weaknesses and take

advantage of them. With an entire offseason to analyze the duo,

opponents ought to be able to do even more this season.

Green expects it.

”Yeah, definitely,” he said. ”Toward the end of the season,

they started rolling coverage to my side a lot. But (now) I’m used

to that stuff. Now I just have to be able to execute and not get as

frustrated as I did last year about it.”

The Bengals hoped to get a proven complement to Green, but head

into the season with a lot of young, unproven receivers. The one

advantage over last season is that they’ve been together for a year

now. ”It’s completely different,” Dalton said. ”Guys have been

in this system a long time. They know what they are doing.

”We’ve installed the offense several times. Everyone knows it

by now. We can move guys around.” The core of the defense remains

intact, with top cornerback Leon Hall back from a torn Achilles

tendon. Nate Clements starts at the other spot, with Kirkpatrick

hoping to move into some role early in the season when he’s

recovered from his knee injury.

”It’s a long season,” Kirkpatrick said. ”I’m not worried

about if I’m starting, or am I going to get to play. I can

contribute on special teams. I feel like I do a great job on

special teams.” The Bengals realize they’re going to have to be

much better than last season if they want to make the playoffs

again.

They were one of three AFC North teams to reach the playoffs

last season, taking advantage of a favorable schedule under the

league’s division-vs.-division rotation. Of their nine wins, only

one came against a team that finished the season with a winning

record.

Overall, they were 0-8 against other teams that reached the

playoffs. Essentially, they beat the many subpar teams on their

schedule but couldn’t measure up against the best. This season will

provide a better chance to see where they stand.

”Teams that are good year-in and year-out are probably your

most consistent teams,” Whitworth said. ”Every week, they kind of

play the same way. That’s what it takes to be that kind of

team.

”And this team has the potential to do that, but it’s going to

have to prove that first.”

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