Lewis knows Bengals have work to do still

BY foxsports • January 10, 2012

Such is life after losing in an AFC wild-card game for
the third time, as the Bengals did last Saturday in Houston to the
Texans 31-10.

In looking at the season as a whole, a 9-7 regular season
and second playoff berth in three years was better than anyone could
have hoped. If you look at it through the last nine games though, with
six losses and backing into a spot, there is plenty of room for
improvement.

"We've got things to do, and it's with a group of guys
that I think just scratched the surface a little bit this year, and they
realize that," Lewis said. "They are not beating their chest. They
realize we didn't quite get where we want to finish. We've crossed some
hurdles, but we've got more hurdles yet to make."

Lewis, who will be entering his 10th season as head coach
next season, has one year on his contract and said that he has not
discussed an extension yet with Mike Brown. When asked if this could be a
repeat situation to 2010, where it wasn't done until two days after a
4-12 season, Lewis said: "I don't know. We'll see. Not trying to put a
curse on me, are we?"

This could also be the best the Bengals have been
positioned in an offseason since Lewis has been here with two
first-round draft picks at 17 and 21 and plenty of cap room. The closest
in this situation in terms of optimism was after winning the division
in 2005, but the major storyline that offseason was Carson Palmer
rehabbing from a knee injury.

NOTES, QUOTES

--With the end of the season comes uncertainty,
especially with the coaching staff. The Dolphins are interviewing
defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer on Tuesday and Tampa Bay is also
expected to ask for permission.

Lewis did not confirm that the Bengals granted permission
to teams to talk to Zimmer but did say, "If Mike gets an opportunity,
that would be fantastic, and we'll do nothing but be very supportive of
him and any opportunity he gets a chance at."

Safety Chris Crocker, who has been with Zimmer for the
past five seasons in Atlanta and with the Bengals, said he was
appreciative of what Zimmer has done for his career and it was his hope
that Zimmer would become a head coach.

"It's just one of those things where you know that he's
very, very brute and brash and can be harsh, but at the end of the day
he really does care about his players," Crocker said. "It's easy to
respect a guy who will tell you the hard truth. We hope for nothing but
the best for him. Hopefully one day he will become a head coach in this
league."

Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden is on Jacksonville's
radar but as of Monday he had not heard anything. Besides meeting with
players, Gruden's main concern was trying to find a way to decompress
from a stressful season and also wondered if he is ready to be a head
coach after one year as a coordinator.

"I just want time to take a deep breath," Gruden said. "I
haven't had time to do anything yet, just reflect and get this team
better and worry about that first. I'm very happy here and have a lot of
good prospects to believe the future is bright."

--When it comes to offseason injuries, Lewis thinks
everyone should be healthy by the time training camp starts in late
July. Wide receiver Jordan Shipley (knee) and cornerback Leon Hall
(Achilles) are making progress with their rehab.

Said Lewis about Hall: "All things are going good now.
That gave him a great opportunity for a great mend for the injury he
had, and to be as good as it was where it was when it happened. All that
has been positive so far. He is looking good, he is feeling good, we
look for a great mend and a great rehab and for him to be out there
ready to go."

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

--CB Rico Murray, who had various stints with the Bengals
over the past three seasons, was signed to the offseason roster. He was
signed to the practice squad last week.

--FB James Develin, who was on the practice squad all season, was signed to the offseason roster.

--LB DeQuin Evans was signed to the offseason roster. He
was on the practice squad until suffering a shoulder injury.

--WR Vidal Hazelton, who was signed to the practice squad on Dec. 27, was signed to the offseason roster.

--LB Micah Johnson was signed to the offseason roster. He was on the practice squad since Dec. 13.

--OT Matthew O'Donnell, who was on the practice squad the entire season, was signed to the offseason roster.

--QB Zac Robinson was signed to the offseason roster. He was on the practice squad the entire season.

--TE Chase Coffman's three years with the Bengals appears
over. He was on the practice squad the entire season but was not signed
to the offseason roster.

REPORT CARD VS. TEXANS

PASSING OFFENSE: D -- Andy Dalton started off well and
then things unraveled in the second half. A.J. Green had five receptions
in the loss but only one in the second half. Jermaine Gresham had five
receptions for 46 yards but none in the first half. Of the three Dalton
interceptions, the only one to put squarely on him was the last one
where it was underthrown.

RUSHING OFFENSE: F -- Never got any consistency as they
ran it six times and passed it 24 in the second half. If this does end
up being Cedric Benson's last game as a Bengal (he is an unrestricted
free agent at the end of the season), it's not the best way to go out
with only 14 yards on seven carries. Brian Leonard ended up being the
best back of the day (three carries, 34 yards and six receptions, 36
yards).

PASS DEFENSE: D -- Hardly any pressure on T.J. Yates, who
was the better quarterback on Saturday. The Bengals did a nice job
containing Owen Daniels and Kevin Walter but they did not have an answer
for Andre Johnson as Adam Jones bit on a double move and got beat for a
40-yard touchdown in the third quarter that put the game away. Chris
Crocker's inability to come up with an interception in the third quarter
could have changed the tide of the game.

RUSH DEFENSE: F -- No backside containment and not
adjusting when the Texans were attacking the perimeter. Arian Foster's
42-yard run up the right sideline where no one could make a play was the
theme of much of the game. The last nine weeks brought back shades of
2009, where the Bengals started great on run defense and then faltered
down the stretch.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- Mike Nugent ends the season with four
missed field goals in the last three games and Brandon Tate struggled
on returns. The only good things were Kevin Huber averaging 48.3 yards
on punts and Jeromy Miles making a couple nice plays in punt
coverage.

COACHING: D-minus -- As much as Marvin Lewis would like
to say the burning of two timeouts on replay challenges didn't have an
impact on the last two minutes of the first half, it did. The strategy
would have been different if there were at least two timeouts instead of
one.


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