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Cincinnati Bengals


Kick Returners Complain About Kickoff Changes…And So Do I

Josh Cribbs still wants a chance to prove himself as a returner.

Placekickers just had their best week ever. Kick returners? Not so much.

Fans and players alike were looking for a break from the lockout talk and the NFL just gave it to them in the form of the latest rule changes. The NFL announced this week that kickoff will now take place at the 30 yard line instead of the 35 yard line. Touchbacks will remain at the 20 and coverage teams will get a 5 yard head start instead of a 10-15 yard head start.

What does this mean?

Less returns

Less injuries on returns

Less excitement

More touchbacks

Less excitement

Last season, with kickoffs taking place at the 30 yard line, there were 23 kickoff returns that resulted in a touchdown. The last time teams kicked off from the 35 yard line was 1993. That year there were four such returns.

I can’t boo loud enough!

Kickoff returns are one of my favorite parts of football. There’s just nothing like a an exciting return, especially to start a game. I’ve heard a lot of theories about why 26 teams would vote in favor of the rule change-everything from having to avoid paying returners to setting the stage for an 18 game season. All valid. But I think that the owners heard the phrase “prevent injuries” and knew they could go for it both for financial reasons as well as to appear sensitive to the safety issue-especially since they voted down increased protection for defenseless receivers at the same meeting (SIDE FUCKING EYE!).

If you are a regular reader of my blog you know that I support anything that keeps the fellas on the field safer. But I really hate when practices are eliminated through the backdoor. In this case, the NFL isn’t really reducing injuries through modification, they’re doing so through elimination.  If the NFL wants to get rid of kickoff returns they should just do it rather than pretending there’s still a real choice for coaches and players.

Even the reduced lead time for coverage isn’t going to help returners enough to prevent their inevitable drift into never never land. One day I will tell my grandchildren about the spectacular kickoff returns I’ve seen. By then I’ll probably also have to explain to them that there used to be punt returns, sacks, and tackles too.

I’m exaggerating…slightly.

But I really am uncomfortable with the way that the rule changes that happen every year send different messages about the game’s direction.  Perhaps as soon as we’re done discussing the CBA there should be a general conversation about the future of the game.If kick off returns are so dangerous, is it possible that they may eliminate punt returns next? PLEASE GOD NO! Hi Roger! Let’s chat about this. Call me.

Seriously though, some teams have invested in their special teams (the Browns being one example as well as the Bears who both voted against the rule) and if we’re going to talk about finances, it might be good for owners to talk about where the game is going before making rules that negate investments some of them have already made. Part of being a good business owner is planning. ZING!

On another note, it bothers me that the NFL refused to release any data on this issue. Football players are injured on any time play action takes place. I couldn’t begin to take a guess about whether kick off returners are being injured more often on returns than in other times they’re on the field.

The most notable return injuries last season weren’t a result of velocity rather awkward tackling and illegal hits such as what happened to Dez Bryant and Ellis Hobbs. Kick off return injuries are also more memorable than other types of injuries and without data, how do we know the NFL isn’t scapegoating?

That being said, many injuries on kickoff happen to other players-not the returners. And even without numbers you can assume that there’s a health benefit to the rule change (reduce contact, reduce injury, 2+2 = 4 and other complicated things of that nature).

Predictably, kickers around the league went to bed while visions of touchbacks danced in their heads.

Graham Gano:

“On kickoffs you do see a lot of big plays, a lot of big hits, and a lot of big touchdowns. I think it will affect that a whole lot. You’re gonna see guys who don’t have a strong leg putting it in the end zone, getting touchbacks, so that’s going to take away chances to get big returns. For us I think it’s going to help us out a lot.”

Jay Feely

“Personally, I’m very happy about it. I think all the veteran kickers are happy about it. I do think it will definitely take some excitement out of the game. It eliminates good returns from guys like LaRod (Stephens-Howling), Devin Hester, Leon Washington.”

Speaking of Hester and Washington, they had plenty to say, so did Josh Cribbs.

Devin Hester

“They’ve gone too far. They’re taking the whole fun out of the game,” Hester said. “The fans come out, especially in Chicago, to see returns. That’s one of our key assets to our team. Fans love our big returns. Not only do they kick it out of bounds when it’s time to punt the ball. But now they get this advantage on kickoffs where we felt we were guaranteed a kickoff return. Now you’re taking that away from our return game. The return game is out of the picture.”

Leon Washington

Oh they hating on me man. Come on now. You know I don’t like the rule. I’m sure sure Brad Smith and Devin Hester and Joshua Cribbs and the rest of those guys you know doing a good job returning the balls don’t like the rule. I mean it’s a part of the game that is really exciting. I think fans look forward to it because it’s an instant momentum change. You gotta think about it. It’s the first play of the game or the first play after halftime after the opposing teams scores, so it’s one of those things. I think the NFL is trying to figure out how can they minimize the injuries on the kickoff and kickoff return unit. Also like you said there might be some greed involved. I’m sure teams will try to adjust to it. I was telling my dad the other day you know it looks like there’s going to be a bunch of 109-yard kickoff returns because I plan on coming out of the end zone if that takes place.”

Josh Cribbs

“It’ll be a tremendous amount of touchbacks…They’re already kicking away from Devin Hester, myself, other guys and this will just make it over the top, like no kickoff returns.

“I guess I just have to get my punt game up until they change that. I just can’t fathom that other alternatives were not taken. What it does do is take a lot of the excitement out of the game, decreases the opportunity for guys like myself coming out of college to have an opportunity to play football because scouts won’t recruit guys like that anymore because they won’t need them.”

Just so you know, the Eagles, Browns, Jaguars, Bengals, Raiders, and Bears were the only teams to vote against the rule change.


Chad Johnson Better Player Than Ochocinco? Plus Did Ochocinco and Owens Deliberately Ruin Plays?

If you haven’t heard by now, or don’t give a damn, Cincinnati Bengals Wide Receiver Chad Ochocinco is changing his name back to Chad Johnson.  Chris Good takes a quick look at the WR’s stats and writes in The Atlantic that the name change might be good because he was better before changing his name.

Comparing the two can be tricky. For one down year (2008), the two men coexisted before the transformation was complete: Johnson legally became Ochocinco in August 2008, but he continued to wear “Johnson” for the 2008 season. He didn’t wear “Ochocinco” until the 2009 season, after the NFL gave him permission. Out of fairness to the two, we can probably throw out the 2008 season.

By nearly every statistical measure, Chad Johnson outperformed Chad Ochocinco, even counting Johnson’s rookie 2001 season, in which his stats were low. Johnson played eight NFL seasons; Ochocinco has played two. Neither man has played for any team other than the Cincinnati Bengals.

Johnson outperformed Ochocinco, per season on average, by .4 games played, 10.4 catches, 256 yards, 1.2 yards per catch, 13.3 yards per game, and .5 TDS. His season-longest catches went for 18.1 more yards. If he switches back, maybe #85 will return to form.

I thought this was a cute article, however, one key thing is missing-Chad Ochocinco is a few years older than Chad Johnson and that makes a big difference in production.

After thinking about Chad’s stats and production, Bengals QB Carson Palmer’s attempt to demand a trade, and TO’s claims that the Bengals need to pass more, I was inspired to look more closely at the Bengals offensive numbers.

Palmer completed 382 of 586 passes for 3,970 yards. His passer rating was 82.4. This is down from his 2009 rating of 83.6, a season in which he also played all 16 games of the regular season.

All three Bengals primary receivers were fairly productive, in particular RB Cedric Benson who quietly rushed for over 1,000 yards.  Sidebar: Benson is a free agent and rumor has it that the Bengals are ready to let him walk.

Surprisingly, Ochocinco and Wide Receiver Terrell Owens accounted for a mere 141 of Palmer’s 382 completions and a little over 1800 of those almost 4000 yards, which lets me know Palmer continues to spread the ball among receivers whether by choice or by force.

On the defensive end, like many teams, Cincy suffered some key injuries. Mostly their pass rush was affected, but their defense still ended the season at #15 in the league (ahead of the Atlanta Falcons and the Indianapolis Colts).

Since at least 8 or 9 of the Bengals 12 losses were within a margin of 7 points, I think you can point many of their losses to mistakes in key moments and faulty execution on offense.

Speaking of which…according to Bengals coaches have complained that many of Palmer’s incompletions can be attributed to Ochocinco and Owens routinely breaking off routes. Given both Ochocinco and Owens’ penchant for “doing their own thing,” this isn’t hard to believe. It explains some of the 20 interceptions that Palmer threw as well as some of the 224 incompletions.

How many? I have no idea. But those comments pretty much ensure neither receiver will return to the team in 2011 regardless of whether Palmer has already played his best football and has contributed to the problem.

Cincy owner Mike Brown has said unequivocally that Palmer will not get his wish to be traded. I expect Ochocinco to end up with the Raiders now that Hue Jackson will be head coach. As for Terrell Owens’ future, does anyone really give a damn?

Thoughts on the Bengals? Why do they suck? Should Palmer be traded? Where will the two divas end up?


Hurt Locker: Pacman Jones and Mathias Kiwanuka Have the Same Injury

Pacman Jones and Mathias Kiwanuka couldn’t be more different on the field and couldn’t have a more different history in the league. Jones, an aggressive Corner Back now signed with the Cincinnati Bengals, was suspended from the league a couple years back after he was accused of inciting an incident at a strip club that left 3 people shot and one paralyzed for life. He had some other difficulties and attitude problems before that but he appears to have straightened out his life for all intents and purposes, so I’ll just leave it there.

Kiwanuka, a finesse player known for being just as smart and humble as he is quick and productive is a defensive end for the Giants and arguably one of the best in the league. He’s versatile too as he started at linebacker and made a successful transition to defensive end when Giants superman (and HEART-THROB OO LA LA) Osi Umenyiora was out for an entire season due to a knee injury.

These differences make it all the more interesting that both Jones and Kiwanuka are currently out with the same injury: herniated discs in their necks. The prognosis on Jones so far has been more positive (at least publicly so) than Kiwanuka’s. Public statements by both the Giants organization and Kiwanuka himself—whether intentional or not—sound like the beginning of the end. Or maybe even the end of the end.

I’m interested to see how this plays out. I did a little research and apparently, though paralysis isn’t common as a result of this, general loss of movement in the limbs can be common. I guess you can assume the chances of movement loss increases with re-injury, and playing in the NFL would almost ensure additional injuries to their backs and necks even if not the same exact injury.

What will be telling is whether or not Jones and Kiwanuka’s futures are as divergent as their pasts.


Cincinnati Police Apologize to Adam Pacman Jones

Police Mistakenly Detain Cincinnati Bengal Pacman Jones

]In a case of “mistaken identity,” Adam Pacman Jones was handcuffed and briefly detained. This is one of those instances where we all learn to wait until we have the facts. Given Pacman’s history, when people heard of this incident they immediately thought he was causing trouble-even though he’s been well behaved for over a year now. Apparently, a mistake was made by the police when they ran the tags on his car.


The police have since apologized to Jones, Cincy Coach Marvin Lewis and the Bengals organization.

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