July 29, 2014

The Hunger Games

Andre Smith, a 79 overall in Madden 10, has a healthy hunger this season.

The 2011 Bengals may not have much in the eyes of experts. They’re undergoing transition at several key positions. The former franchise quarterback would rather retire than take another snap. The team’s most prolific receiver in recent memory has been traded for next to nothing. And one of their most talented defenders left for Houston in free agency. Thus, for outsiders at least, there’s not much to be excited about with this year’s team.

But many of their players have one key attribute – they’re hungry. Really, really hungry.

Start with the right tackle. Andre Smith reported to training camp in the best shape of his troubled career. He’s hungry to prove his early struggles have been nothing but a minor mishap. He’s eager to shed the label of “bust” and hungry to prove his worth.

Move on to wideout. Jerome Simpson is in a similar situation. No. 89 is hungry to show his strong finish to last season wasn’t a fluke. He’s eager to show he can replace Chad Ochocinco in the Bengals offense, that he’s a legitimate receiver on his own.

Move on to the defense. There’s Rey Maualuga in the middle, hungry to prove he belongs at the defense’s most important position. His counterparts, Manny Lawson and Thomas Howard are hungry too, eager to show their inconsistencies with other teams were more of a bad fit than an indictment of talent.

In fact, look all over the roster, filled with promising rookies and talented second-year players, one of the league’s youngest teams. And look at the offensive coordinator too. Jay Gruden is hungry for his opportunity after years at football’s lower levels, eager to step out of the Super Bowl shadow of his brother.

Yes, there are question marks at several positions and perhaps a few trouble spots as well. But the 2011 Bengals have a hunger that might give them a chance to surprise, to rise above the little that is expected of them.

If nothing else, it should make the season interesting for the rest of us.

Bring on the hunger games.