“Frustration” the buzz word around the Bengals these days

“Frustration” seems to be the catch word around Bengaldom these days.  Despite a 2-1 mark, and with two upcoming games in which the Bengals will be favored, we’re reading about frustration.

Cedric Benson is frustrated with his carries. The fans are frustrated with the offense, and Marvin Lewis is frustrated with the media for asking questions about fan frustration.  Meanwhile every one is holding their breath in anticipation of  T.O. and/or Chad utilizing their legendary ability to show frustration.

All of this frustration is centered on the painfully obvious fact that the watching this offense is frustrating. The fact is that through three games, “mediocre” is the most politically correct and sensitive term I could use in describing the offensive performance.  There are other adjectives that could be used that would be much worse, yet no less appropriate.

While there are some hints and indications from inside PBS that this is a “growing concern”, the official word from the politburo..er…Marvin Lewis is that “everything is fine” and “a win is a win,” along with a promise to talk about the problem even less. While Marvin Lewis and Bob Bratkowski may admit that the offense needs to improve, they don’t seem to be forthcoming about what they are planning to do about it, nor do they seem to express the same sense of urgency about it as the rest of us.

And they want to be frustrated with us?? Wow.  That’s frustrating.

There have been many theories discussed on why the offense is struggling.  Here are a few:

  • Carson Palmer has simply lost his stuff.  The elbow’s shot or he’s lost his mojo or both.
  • The offensive line is terrible.  Dennis Roland and Nate Livings in particular are awful, and Kyle Cook has regressed.
  • Bob Bratkowski is an unimaginative offensive coordinator, and has been calling the same basic plays since 2002.
  • Marvin Lewis is stubbornly ignoring the team’s strengths; insistent on being a running team despite a bevy of skilled receivers and a franchise quarterback at his disposal.
  • Or conversely, the team has no identity–unable to decide if they are a running team or a passing team.   Not knowing is a problem.

Then there’s the optimist view:

  • Not to worry. The defenses we’ve played so far are very good, and there were poor weather conditions in Carolina. Things will get better. Its still early.

As for me, I can’t say I know the answer.  I’m not at practice every day, or in the meeting rooms.  If I was, I’d feel more confident supporting a particular opinion.  So for now, any of the above (or any combination thereof) may be the truth.  All I know is we need to get this thing fixed, and fast.

Instead of announcing my verdict, here are a few questions I’d wish someone would ask:

  • Why don’t we no-huddle more?  It worked in 2005-2007, and was successful in spot duty last year and so far this year.
  • Where are Anthony Collins, Andre Smith, and Evan Mathis?  Smith is supposed to be a starter by now, and Collins and Mathis have impressed in the past.  Are they not better than Dennis Roland and Nate Livings?  It would really be nice if Ced could make his first juke beyond the line of scrimmage rather than before it.
  • Where’s Bernard Scott?  Can he get some touches? He is productive when he plays.
  • Where’s the three-receiver sets we expected?  We need more of Shipley, Gresham, T.O., and Chad on the field at the same time.  Shipley definitely needs more PT.

I understand we had to play it close to the vest against Baltimore and be very careful with the football. I understand conditions might have been less than ideal in Carolina for spreading the offense.  Nonetheless, we have got to develop the ability to make defenses fear the pass.  Instead I am the one who fears our passing attack, generally having to hope that opposing DB’s drop easy passes that hit them in the hands.

Will Sunday’s game in Cleveland finally give us an opportunity to really cure our ills?  Will we be able to figure out who we are, what we’re doing wrong, and how to fix it?

Let’s hope so, because the Browns are better than Carolina.  Cleveland’s bruiser Payton Hillis gained 144 yards on Baltimore’s, and we can’t count on our defense to collect four turnovers every game.  Eventually, the offense has to deliver more than field goals from 50 yards out (thank God Mike Nugent is so good).

Here’s hoping they deliver like Domino’s Sunday.  Here’s hoping the Bengals score 30 points, put up 400 yards of offense and win by two touchdowns.

After all, losing to the Browns would be–in a word–frustrating.

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