With a disappointing 2006 season in the rearview mirror, the city of Cincinnati seemed to be in the same sort of limbo that we find ourselves in 11 years later here in 2018. It was hard to know what to make of the Bengals for this season – coming off a heartbreaking end to the 2005 season and collapsing as 2006 came to a close, it almost felt as though the tide had shifted, despite some solid talent still dressing in orange and black.
As things changed in the Queen City, a new invention (Time Magazine’s Invention of the Year in 2007, incidentally) was taking the world by storm – the iPhone. It was initially released this year at a low cost of $599. Speaking of crazy, 2007 could be considered rock bottom for pop star Britney Spears, as this was the year in which she shaved her head. And finally, to cap off this week’s fun facts section that apparently has been brought to you by the word “crazy” – Oklahoma declared the watermelon the state vegetable. I know what you’re thinking, and it’s not a typo…. That is actually a thing.
The 2007 offseason was not really one of the better ones for the Bengals – after several offseasons in a row of good roster moves and drafts, the wheels sort of began to fall off. The team lost many veterans from the roster without really replacing them – those being safety Kevin Kaesviharn, guard Eric Steinbach, linebacker Brian Simmons, cornerback Tory James, and center Rich Braham retired. Not all of these guys (or, any of them really) would be considered stars, but they all were effective players that left town without adequate replacements.
Hindsight also tells us that the Bengals really didn’t fare much better in the Draft – their lone pick that really panned out was first-rounder Leon Hall, who would form a top five cornerback duo with Johnathan Joseph in time. Second-round pick Kenny Irons – a running back from Auburn – had the town buzzing once his name was called, but wound up injuring his knee in the preseason. Irons would miss the entirety of 2006, and ultimately never played a down of regular season NFL football.
Finally, the team dealt with suspensions and more off the field problems. Chris Henry continued to land himself in legal trouble, which led to an eight game suspension for him in 2007, taking away one of Carson Palmer’s most elusive weapons. Linebacker Odell Thurman applied for reinstatement to the league after missing all of 2006 serving a suspension, but due to another run-in with the law, was denied and subsequently suspended for all of 2007. As I referenced last week, Thurman never did make his way back onto an NFL field.
So, right off the bat, it’s clear that the Bengals are behind the eight ball. They opened the season with a primetime matchup against the Ravens on ESPN, which they won 27-20. Unfortunately, the glimmer of hope that Week 1 gave Cincinnati didn’t last. They went on to lose their next four games, and begin the season 2-6 overall, effectively ending the season by the halfway point.
The Bengals wound up winning three of their final four games to claw their way to a 7-9 record. For the record – one of those final three wins (Week 16) was a 19-14 home victory over the Cleveland Browns, which would ultimately be a key reason why the Browns missed the playoffs in 2007 (they finished 10-6, finishing behind the Titans for the AFC 6th seed).
The offense wasn’t quite as electric as it had been in prior years, as Palmer appeared to be a bit more human this year. He racked up 4,131 yards with 26 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. Those aren’t terrible numbers by any means, but a near 1:1 TD/INT ratio isn’t great. And, as I mentioned in the 2005 piece, Palmer never quite looked the same following his knee injury… but that’s just this writer’s opinion.
Rudi Johnson’s run (no pun intended) as the Bengals’ lead back came to a screeching halt, as he managed only 497 yards and three scores in 11 games, averaging under three yards per carry. With the aforementioned Irons and Chris Perry (yep, he’s still around here in 2007) injured on the season, Kenny Watson was tasked with filling in for the struggling Johnson. He had what would wind up being his career year, collecting 763 yards on 4.3 yards per carry and seven touchdowns. Not bad for a guy who’d entered the league in 2002 and missed two full seasons because he wasn’t employed.
It wasn’t all bad – Chad Johnson and TJ Houshmandzadeh became, without debate, a top five receiving tandem in the NFL (probably best overall if not for the crazy 2007 Patriots team). The two Oregon State products combined for 205 receptions (TJ’s first over 100), an amazing 2,583 yards (more than half of Palmer’s total), and 20 touchdowns.
The downside to this is that it was around this time that the Chad Johnson antics began to wear on a lot of Bengal fans. His endzone celebrations, media quotes, etc. weren’t everyone’s cups of tea, and from my standpoint, it appeared that most people thought it was all fine in small doses. But it became a constant thing for Ochocinco.
Unfortunately, the defense struggled much more than the offense – this was a team that allowed 20 or more points in all but four games. Johnathan Joseph and the rookie Leon Hall combined for nine interceptions, marking the rise of their defensive tandem. The only other defensive bit of info of significance is this – Justin Smith, an established star defensive end – recorded only two sacks in 2007 despite playing in all 16 games. It may be worth noting here that Smith was on the team under the franchise tag. This wound up being his last season in Cincinnati.
Once this team struggled in 2007, this was when the rumbling surrounding Marvin Lewis really began. No, it wasn’t nearly as loud or prominent as it is in 2018, but the window had basically closed on what appeared to be a top-notch team, and only one playoff appearance was shown for it.
Sadly, next week is much of the same – free agents leave, a so-so Draft, but an abysmal season. Guess that’s not great advertising is it?
A prediction for Sunday, plus thoughts on Mayfield and the AFC North
I give a prediction for Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers, plus I react to the Browns’ win last night, discuss Baker Mayfield’s performance and more on today’s podcast. Listen and subscribe below.
Mark Walton is Ready for the Challenge
This Sunday, the Cincinnati Bengals will look for production out of their rookie running back they selected in the fourth round. Some expressed concern over the pick, but make no mistake, Mark Walton is ready to showcase his talent.
Chances are, if you’re reading this, you saw his performance in the preseason, and you may have had some questions. Let me enlighten you as to why I am looking forward to…no…excited to see Walton get some plays in.
Walton saw his junior season cut short due to an ankle injury, but before that happened, he compiled a pair of impressive games. He became just the fifth Miami Hurricane to ever rush for 200+ yards in a game, and he did it on 11 carries! Here are some highlights from that game:
His last full season of college football, 2016, he was the starter, as a sophomore, for the Hurricanes. He rushed for 1,117 yards and 14 touchdowns. He made it on to the third team, All-ACC, according to the ACSMA and ACC coaches, and that was in a year that guys like Dalvin Cook, James Conner, and Wayne Gallman all made All-Conference in the ACC. Here are a few highlights from his sophomore campaign:
Walton was touted as a steal by some national writers (the same who have dogged the Bengals this year). He’s got winning pedigree, because he won a state title with Booker T. Washington high school, in Miami, and he ran a 4.6 40-yd dash. He profiles, according to NFL.com, as a third-down back with speed on the outside and decent hands. Look for him to spell Gio on some passing downs and, maybe, even see them in, together, if Bill Lazor decides to get creative. I mean, come on, if he’s this good in shorts, he’s a shoe-in to turn some heads when he puts on the pads:
Make sure you’ve got your subscription to the podcast, you’ve rated it five stars, and you keep your Twitter feed tuned in to @lockedonBengals, @jamesrapien, and @jefffcarr for all your daily Bengals content, throughout the season.
The offense should survive without Price and Mixon
I discuss the Bengals’ offense, why they should survive without Billy Price and Joe Mixon, plus I chat with Darqueze Dennard on today’s podcast. Listen and subscribe below.
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