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Bengals Gab looks at the Quarterbacks

As the offseason activity dies down and we roll towards the promise of football again under the approaching summer heat, let us look to the future. Bengals Gab will be looking at each of the individual position groups on the team over the next several days, providing readers with a grade on each and a primer as mini-camps, training camp, and the preseason approaches.

 We will start with the most important position, the Quarterbacks.  

Disappointingly, the Quarterback position is the only one that saw no major additions via free agency or the draft.  The three players the team has: starter Carson Palmer and back-ups J.T. O’Sullivan and Jordan Palmer, will go into training camp with jobs secure (barring unforeseen circumstances).  This perhaps reflects a high level of confidence the coaching staff has in their abilities. 

Carson Palmer is clearly the franchise, and the team has their chips ‘all in’ with him as the unquestioned starter.  Entering his 8th season, Palmer has for the most part, been all that was expected in a first overall pick and Heisman Trophy winner.  He has over 18,000 passing yards, 128 touchdown passes, and a quarterback rating of 87.9. In addition to these stats, Palmer has developed as a leader, taking more of a vocal role in the locker room and within the organization.  Additionally, in 2009 he showed his ability to lead the team to victory with late-game heroics both with his arm and his legs.  

In his most recent season, number nine started all 16 games for the Bengals in 2009, but put up modest numbers.  He did manage 3,000 yards for the regular season (just barely with 3,094) and only 21 touchdowns.  His accuracy looked bad at times, particularly in the playoff loss to the Jets.  Some have questioned Palmer’s ability to remain the starter and openly campaigned for the drafting of a QB back in April. 

This thinking is misguided.  Palmer’s struggles have more to do with the in-flux nature of what he had around him in 2009.  First and most important, Marvin Lewis instituted a run-first, ball control offense which limited his opportunities. When needed, the wide receivers proved that they were not up to the challenge, with Palmer missing the reliable hands of T.J. Houshmandzadeh more than the team thought.  Laveranues Coles did not produce as T.J.’s replacement, and youngsters Andre Caldwell and Jerome Simpson were not ready.  Chris Henry went down with injury and then passed away, all of which leading to Chad Ochocinco, the team’s remaining legitimate threat, constantly double, triple, and even quadruple covered.  Add to that a tight end position decimated by injuries and left largely mediocre, and a completely reshuffled offensive line, and there you have it.  

Palmer’s struggles in 2009 should not have been entirely unexpected.  With things much different in 2010, Palmer’s numbers should rebound. The team added several talented players to the wide receiver corps, they invested heavily in tight ends Reggie Kelly and first-round pick Jermaine Gresham and have found a solid, reliable offensive line. 

Look for Palmer to be capable of close to 3600 yards and over 25 touchdown passes in 2010. 

This is encouraging, but the fact is that Palmer has suffered numerous injuries during his career, including problems with his knee, leg, elbow, and thumb that have at times left the team needing capable back-ups.  Thus it is incumbent upon the organization to have starting-caliber clipboard holders.  

Current second-stringer J.T. O’Sullivan has limited experience starting in the NFL, but his performances have been lackluster at best.  His arm strength and mobility are highly questionable.  In spot duty in his first year in Cincinnati, O’Sullivan managed 4 completions for 40 yards out of 11 attempts, while taking 3 sacks for 31 yards and losing 2 fumbles.  In our opinion, O’Sullivan is not an adequate replacement in the event of a major injury to the sometimes-fragile Palmer. 

Carson’s younger sibling Jordan currently holds the third-string job.  Jordan possesses better size (6-5, 235), strength and mobility than O’Sullivan, but he lacks experience.  All things being equal, Jordan’s athleticism and age will likely win out versus O’Sullivan in training camp in the battle for number two. 

The quarterbacks are more-than-capably coached by Ken Zampese, who has been on Marvin Lewis’ staff since the beginning in 2003.  A detail-oriented coach, Zampese prepares his players better than most in the league.  To the concern of the organization, he continues to receive annual consideration for open offensive coordinator positions.  His time in Cincinnati may be running out, particularly if Carson Palmer rebounds in 2010. 

Overall Position Group Grade:  B- 

Carson Palmer is a legitimate star in the NFL, but the group gets a lower score due to the weakness of the back-ups and Palmer’s injury history.  The team should seriously consider adding more depth before training camp.  Published reports had the team interested in Raiders cast-off Jamarcus Russell, and while nothing appears imminent, they may push for this option as the offseason winds down. 

One other name that has not been mentioned (but I will) is former Rams starter Marc Bulger.  Bulger has ten years experience, has put up pro-bowl numbers during his career, and was very successful running an offense in St. Louis that was very similar to the one run in Cincinnati by offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski.  Bulger could provide peace of mind in the event of an injury to number nine. 

Stay tuned to Bengals Gab for more positional analysis and opinions, and as always, feel free to leave us a comment!

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4 Responses to “Bengals Gab looks at the Quarterbacks”

  1. Bengals Talk says:

    The stats on Palmer are incorrect for 2009…he threw for over 3,000 yards with 21 TDs and only 13 ints. But solid article, been a fan of this blog for a log time.

  2. Bengals Talk says:

    long time

  3. […] Bengals Gab looks at the Quarterbacks » Bengals Gab […]

  4. Thank you. We were posting Palmer’s 2004 stats in error. A correction has been made.

    Thanks for reading.

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