Rookies move Bengals in right direction

BY foxsports • October 7, 2011

The Dolphins are totally clueless.

They need to follow the blueprint of an organization that gets it, like the Bengals.

Did I just write that?

It’s time for our weekly sizzle and fizzle.


Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals shocked the world by beating the previously undefeated Bills last Sunday. And Cincy fans got a great glimpse of their future, and present.

This Andy Dalton and A.J. Green combination is off to a great start in their rookie season, and they will prove to be a spectacular combination. The duo led the Bengals to a comeback win from down 17-3 at the half. They are winners, even as young pups. They have given the Bengals life. Cam Newton is having a great year. But Dalton and Green are legit contenders for rookies of the year.

The clown show of Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens is over. Carson Palmer is "retired." Nobody thinks about Carson. Nobody wants him back. No fan yearns for Chad and his selfish me-first act. Dalton is showing the toughness and skill to make every throw that made him a winner at TCU. Green is going to be the star Chad always wanted to be, except he cares about winning before reality shows and touchdown dances. And he already has better hands.

The Bengals are 2-2 and could go on a winning streak with the Jaguars and Colts the next two weeks. In fact, I predict they win both of these games. Not bad, considering I called for a 2-14 season in Cincy.

Veteran tackle Andrew Whitworth told us on the SiriusXM Blitz that "football is fun again. Veteran guys have stepped up and told the young guys to use their talent and make plays. You are seeing why Jermaine Gresham can be a great tight end. A.J. Green is special. And Andy has total command of the huddle. He understands offense and execution. He makes plays. How about that dive for a first down? He has awareness."

Whitworth says the turning point was the Jets preseason game. It looked so bad early on, but then the kids started making plays. It gave them confidence.

Jay Gruden is the unsung hero. He took over as offensive coordinator and has instilled nastiness and that confidence missing last year. Even though Dalton and Green rightly get the attention, the key is having the offense go through workhorse Cedric Benson, while simultaneously getting Bernard Scott ready for primetime if Benson gets suspended. Benson had churned out key yards, giving the young quarterback much-needed balance.

And that’s just the offense.

In the first quarter of the season, your Cincinnati Bengals lead the NFL in defense. They aren’t good, they are No. 1. If defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer doesn’t get a head coaching job soon, people aren’t paying attention. The Bengals defense is playing great despite defections in the offseason, allowing just 275.5 yards per game.

Look, I still think the Bengals will finish last in the AFC North. But confidence and schedule could instantly change that. They already beat the Browns in Cleveland. They shut down Ryan Fitzpatrick and the high-flying Bills. Dalton and Green will have growing pains. The first half against Buffalo was putrid, which made the second half even more sweet. But, finally, there is hope and direction in Cincinnati. Fans can get excited about the Bengals, knowing Dalton and Green have the entire package. The clown show is over.

There’s a focus. There’s a future. And to echo Whitworth’s commentary, it’s pretty fun to watch.

Titans defense

Matt Hasselbeck rightly gets the pub and credit for the Titans' 3-1 start. Head coach Mike Munchak gets the accolades, too.

But don’t overlook what the defense has done. When Munchak took over for Jeff Fisher, he made two excellent appointments to his staff, choosing Chris Palmer to run his offense and the great Jerry Gray to be the defensive coordinator.

After a couple years of grotesque underachievement and confusion with Chuck Cecil, Gray has this defense flying around. He believes in fundamentals. The tackling is improved. They are much more aggressive. Michael Griffin is moving around and enjoying a strong season. Underrated corner Cortland Finnegan is having a great year. Munchak told us this week on SiriusXM NFL Radio that in addition to the fundamentals, he is thrilled with how clutch the defense has been in short-yardage situations. Munchak specifically cited young Akeem Ayers. The Titans are allowing just 14 yards per game, best in the league.

I’ve been a fan of Jerry Gray for a long time and am thrilled to see him running the defense in Tennessee.

The Titans get the banged-up Steelers in Pittsburgh this weekend. It’s a great opportunity to make another statement by winning on the road for the second straight week after clubbing the Browns in Cleveland.

Ndamukong Suh

This cat has a pure disdain for quarterbacks. And I love it.

He’s the unstoppable force in the middle of the Lions defense. Suh’s the reason why the Lions defense has held up its end of the bargain in the 4-0 start and why they will smash Jay Cutler and the Bears on Monday night.

Talking to Suh on the SiriusXM Blitz on Wednesday, he was thrilled with the way the Lions fought through adversity and persevered in Dallas. He says the tone for the season started last December in the four-game winning streak to close the campaign. And the Lions players were motivated to start hot when they gathered this offseason.

When Suh talked to us on Wednesday, he took a break from his diligent film study. He studies every single offensive lineman. He can’t wait for the game on Monday night at home against Chicago. Suh doesn’t consider it a coming-out party for the Lions. He’s pumped up for the fans. Suh went to the Tigers-Yankees playoff games in Detroit and he wants that environment for every Lions game. As he said, the fans deserve it. When you’ve been rebuilding since 1957, as the Lions have, that’s an understatement.

Detroit is legit and the Lions will make the playoffs. Ford Field is going to be rocking on Monday.


Joe Flacco

Perhaps lost in the shuffle on Sunday night, between the Jets and Mark Sanchez embarrassing themselves and the Ravens defense's epic performance, Flacco was wretched. He missed wide-open receivers. He turned the football over. “Joe Cool” was anything but composed. This was not a credit to the Jets defense. Flacco was so bad he was the Jets' MVP. Flacco was the only reason the Jets even had a chance in this one.

The Ravens have a Super Bowl feel to them. They just need the quarterback to even out his play. So far this year, Flacco has had brilliant games against Pittsburgh and St. Louis and totally unacceptable performances against the Titans and Jets. I’ve always been a Flacco fan, but this won’t cut it.

On a related note, Cam Cameron needs to remember that the Ravens offense goes through Ray Rice.

Jeff Ireland

You can’t predict injuries. It isn’t anyone’s fault that Chad Henne needs season-ending shoulder surgery.

But it is Ireland’s fault that the Dolphins are forced to start Matt Moore after their bye week.

Everyone begged the Dolphins to add to the quarterback position. Henne was coming off of a frustrating season filled with interceptions, bad decisions and losing football. So how does Ireland react? Conventional wisdom said you trade for Kyle Orton. Matt Hasselbeck told us Tennessee was the only team to offer him a deal. He would’ve been great. Donovan McNabb would’ve provided competition and depth. Kevin Kolb was always going to Arizona, but he was available. Carson Palmer was there for the taking. You could’ve convinced Marc Bulger to play another year. Miami could’ve drafted Dalton in round 1 or Ryan Mallet in round 2.

We discussed all of these possibilities as first guesses. Nobody discussed Matt Moore coming off of an injury.

Sure, there are other issues in Miami. Stephen Ross is totally clueless and sources tell me has already turned off some big-name coaching candidates with his meddlesome ways, like his attempt to hire a coach last January when he still employed Tony Sparano.

Jeff Ireland not only will get fired for adding to this mess in Miami, he will never be a general manager again,

Reggie Bush

He gets angry that fans are upset that he went to a club after another brutal loss? He wonders why the media is asking him about going out in LA after a Dolphins loss in San Diego? Here’s an idea, Reggie. How about thinking about public perception and giving a damn about your 0-4 team and your sinking NFL career.

Add signing Bush to the list of disasters for Ireland.

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