Having been born in 1990, I’ve encountered a lot of really bad sports seasons in my Cincinnati fandom – the mid-2000’s Reds seasons were pretty much all painful, 2010 for the Bengals was rough (we’ll get there), and the recent era of the Bengals where everyone loathes Marvin Lewis doesn’t sit well either. Keeping in mind that I was pretty young in the 90’s, and therefore can’t recall much about the abysmal Bengals of the time (researching it just isn’t the same), the 2008 Bengals were dreadful to watch.
The offense lost the pop it had had for the last few seasons, there was growing impatience with Marvin Lewis and Chad Johnson, and the Bengals simply didn’t win many games. There had only been one playoff season in the Lewis era at this point, but the team had at least been around the .500 mark, a marked improvement from the doldrums of the 90’s. What brought this team to such a screeching halt?
We’ll get to that, but first, our fun facts – which, by the way, were slim-pickin’s this week. The Dark Knight was the year’s top movie, which stunned me that that movie is now that old. Flo Rida and T-Pain topped music charts with Low, singing about apple-bottom jeans and furry boots. And one that I had to choose from a personal standpoint – 2008 marked the second season of Kitchen Nightmares, which was Gordon Ramsey’s version of Bar Rescue. If you don’t know what either of those are, I apologize. To the point – every restaurant that Chef Ramsey “saved” on season two of the show wound up closing following his trips to each place.
On the positive side, 2008 was the first season Mike Zimmer took over as the team’s defensive coordinator, replacing Chuck Bresnahan whose contract had expired at the end of 2007. Past that, the offseason was very similar to 2007 for our Bengals – lots of losses to free agency and a Draft that was, overall, a miss.
The Bengals lost four starters, one of which was All-Pro defensive end Justin Smith, who left town for San Francisco. They also lost safety Madieu Williams, veteran offensive tackle Willie Anderson, and running back Rudi Johnson. In addition, given wide receiver Chris Henry’s ongoing legal problems, the team wound up cutting him, with Marvin Lewis declaring he would never play for the Bengals again. It wasn’t long before Henry was brought back, but had to first serve a four-game suspension.
And finally, the Odell Thurman issue was finally put to bed. He was reinstated to the league before training camp after two full seasons of suspensions, but the Bengals waived him. He wound up violating the league’s substance abuse policy, and was suspended from the NFL indefinitely.
On the Draft side of things, the 2008 class had some names you probably remember – Keith Rivers, Jerome Simpson, Pat Sims, Andre Caldwell, and Anthony Collins. Those guys had their moments, especially Collins’ showing in recent years before he left for Tampa Bay and the big money, but it would be hard to consider that draft class any better than ‘okay’.
And here we are, at the start of the season… which ultimately ended with the team going 4-11-1. They opened the season 0-8 before finally upending the Jacksonville Jaguars as they went into their Week 10 bye. A 13-13 tie against the Eagles followed, and Cincinnati would close the season with three straight wins to rebound from a really bad 1-11-1 start.
A huge reason for the 2008 struggles had to do with Carson Palmer. He started the first three games of the season, as well as the fifth game, before it was determined he had a partially torn ligament and tendon in his elbow. Palmer passed on Tommy John surgery, but his need to rest the injury and not throw ended his season. Enter Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has managed to find a way into a starting lineup everywhere he’s been…. I have conspiracy theories about the guy.
Fitz was, in a word, bad. In Palmer’s absence, he threw for 1,905 yards and eight touchdowns, but he threw nine interceptions and fumbled a whopping seven times. This was still very early in Fitzpatrick’s career, but it stands as one of his worst showings in his storied career.
TJ Houshmandzadeh, Chris Henry, and Chad Johnson suffered mightily due to the quarterback issues. Chad notched his worst season in a Bengals’ uniform since his rookie year, reeling in 53 passes (on 97 targets) for 540 yards and four touchdowns – it’s also worth noting that he missed three games. Henry managed 19 catches and two scores in his limited action. Houshmandzadeh actually wasn’t bad, catching 92 balls for 904 yards and four touchdowns of his own.
A new look running game began to take shape following Rudi Johnson’s departure – former first-round pick Cedric Benson joined the Bengals in 2008, and he racked up 747 yards and two touchdowns. Those aren’t too impressive, but he only had ten starts. Chris Perry saw increased workloads as well, but failed to take advantage – he logged 269 yards on a very disappointing 2.6 yards per carry.
While Zimmer had taken over the defensive duties, there wasn’t much to write home about on that side of the ball either. Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph were okay in coverage (‘okay’ being used since we know how good these two would end up being), and Dhani Jones logged one of his best seasons with hands in three turnovers and 75 tackles. But, with Smith gone, there were no true playmakers left for the defense to lean on.
And with 2008 (mercifully) behind us, we arrive at 2009, which was another season that featured the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, but the lows we experienced as a city and franchise in 2009 stretched far from the football field. It’s one of the seasons I’ve really been looking forward to talking about, so join me next week as we inch closer towards the beginning of 2018!
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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