JPW Posted July 4, 2007 Report Share Posted July 4, 2007 Link SI.comCincinnati Bengals Challenge No. 1: Find a replacement for suspended Chris Henry.Led by a talented receiving corps featuring Henry, Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, the Bengals have had some success spreading out and exploiting overmatched corners on the way to becoming one of the league's most explosive offenses. Henry's emergence as a big play threat has been an integral part of their success. With 15 touchdowns in the past two seasons, he has established himself as a big play threat and prevented teams from sitting in cover two to take away Johnson and Houshmandzadeh out of the game. As he serves his eight-game suspension, the Bengals must find a receiver to fill that void. Tab Perry has shown big-time ability as a returner and appears to be the most logical candidate, but he lacks the game experience at receiver to be completely trusted to step into that role. Antonio Chatman and Reggie McNeal will also get their chances, but they also lack the playing time and experience to be counted on. Training camp and preseason games will go a long way towards determining which of these candidates gets the nod as the Bengals' third receiver.Challenge No. 2: Get better play out of the secondaryAfter leading the league in interceptions in 2005, the Bengals finished last in passing defense last season. The secondary's inconsistency in coverage and frequent mental lapses led to the Bengals giving up 24 passing touchdowns. Although they finished with 19 interceptions, they did not create enough turnovers to make up for their blown assignments. Surprisingly, some of the mental lapses came from veterans Deltha O'Neal and Tory James. After stellar years in 2005, both were beaten repeatedly on double moves and gadget plays. While the Bengals let James walk during free agency, O'Neal returns but is not guaranteed a starting spot. With the emergence of Jonathan Joseph and the addition of first round pick Leon Hall, the Bengals appear to be willing to gamble on their young talent in starting roles. If Joseph can recover quickly from his offseason foot injury, he and Hall could form a dynamic duo with tons of big play potential.Challenge No. 3: Prepare for Odell Thurman's return.The troubled linebacker is set to return to the team following a year-long suspension. Though he has experienced numerous scrapes with the law, Thurman is the difference maker the Bengals lacked in the middle last season. A high motor guy with great instincts and intangibles, he was their biggest playmaker as a rookie and finished with five interceptions. His return will undoubtedly help the Bengals regain the swagger and confidence they displayed in 2005. But his on-field talent was never in question, his character and decision-making will determine how long he will stay when he makes it back. Given the odds, the team has to plan as if it will be without his services and then make on-the-fly adjustments if he proves he can be trusted.Personally I would add another challenge or two but it is pretty much on the money for as far as it goes. Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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