Step back with me. Look at what has occurred over the past month with the Bengals:
– The linebacker corps was thin at the start of camp, so the Bengals went out and signed Manny Lawson and Thomas Howard. We thought they would let him languish, but they brought Brandon Johnson back too. Three good moves that solidified the middle.
– They kicked the tires on John Standeford and Calvin Russell, two WRs with ties to Jay Gruden. Standeford is gone and Russell won’t stick, but they took a no-risk look.
– After the JJoe debacle, they brought in the next best available option in Nate Clements. Not an even exchange, but certainly not their usual approach: survey the list of guys slated to be cut and erase the name at the top of the list.
– Unsatisfied with the group at safety, they
signed almost signed Donte Whitner. When that deal went awry, they dealt for Taylor Mays… giving up a draft pick to get him. Giving up a draft pick? The front office knows that they can do that?
– Still not being satisfied with the secondary, on Monday they traded away a solid-looking tackle in Clinton McDonald to bring in former first round pick Kelly Jennings.
All this activity leads me to one question: What in the world has gotten into Mike Brown?
This level of offseason activity is unprecedented in the Mike Brown era. We are used to watching other teams make a number of smart moves while the Bengals attempt to recycle a handful of guys on their way out of the league. But that is not what is happening this year. We’ve got activity! With guys with years left! With guys without a rap sheet! With guys with up-side!
None of the moves have been the flashy type that garners praise from TV stuff-shirts and radio blow-hards. But with some coaching, some hard work and some time, maybe — just maybe — the whole could end up being greater than the sum of its parts. I love that the coaches have not resigned themselves to having a 3-13 season like most of us have. They are trying to do something about it.
Now, all this activity could be tempered by a dose of typical Bengals bad luck, leaving the team no better than they were to start. That is a very real possibility. But if they can solidify the secondary just enough, then maybe the defense can buoy the team through the first couple of months while the offense continues to grow and gel, and this team could end up shocking a lot of pundits and know-it-alls.
After all, the 2000 Ravens won a SuperSowl with an offense that could barely muster 14 points a game. I’m not equating the 2011 Bengals and the 2000 Ravens by any means. I am saying that a solid defense can win games. If the Bengals’ secondary can be picked apart, then we will get what we are expecting out of this season. But if the secondary can play solidly behind this group of linemen and linebackers, the defense could pick up 4-6 wins all on their own.
All I ask is this. If Mike has gone missing, please don’t go looking. I’m enjoying this.