A Long Season Ahead?

By the first day of training camp, two interesting developments have already struck the Cincinnati Bengals.

First, the Bengals last week announced they were waiving 2007 second round draft pick running back Kenny Irons.  Irons joined the team last season as the anticipated heir apparent to rugged, but aging, Rudi Johnson.

He was drafted full of pomp and circumstance.  Johnson had struggled in 2006 and, as all running backs do, was aging quicker than others from the vaunted 2005 Bengals offense.  Johnson’s weight loss seemed to work to his detriment as he attempted to shift from the bigger, pounding back he had been to a swifter, cutting back that could avoid the big hits.

The strategy did not appear to work.

As a result, Irons was drafted early to provide the Bengals with more running back options, given the brief, but injury-plagued, career of another noted running back draft choice, Chris Perry.   Irons looked extremely impressive in training camp, then promptly blew out his knee in a pre-season game, in a scene reminiscent of another infamous Bengal running back draft choice, Ka-Jana Carter.

The team announcement of Irons’ release signaled a wave of panic to many Bengals’ faithful that will never forget the wasted opportunities that left with Carter’s knee injury.  Yet another Bengals back, and draft pick, wasted.

Many, however, realized the roster move was just that–a roster move.  Due to the complexities that are the National Football League’s roster rules, the Bengals had to waive Irons to keep him, as ironic as they may sound.

That doesn’t change the stark reality that Irons is likely not going to play a down for the Bengals in 2008.

Then, on the first day of training camp, the most touted free agent in Bengals’ history, defensive end Antwan Odom, left the field in a cart and boot.  The first thought in the heads of many fans?  That is never a good thing.

Particularly for the Bengals defense.  The defensive struggles of the Bengals have been legendary since the end of the Super Bowl era Bengals in the late Eighties.  The 2006 and 2007 seasons have been particularly disappointing to say the least.

Odom brought not only an aggressive style of play, but the first ray of hope to this defense since the drafting of Justin Smith, and history has not been kind to that legacy.  Odom’s signing was the most prolific since the signing of big Sam Adams, another signing that proved a significant bust.

Word has it Odom sprained his foot, will miss the pre-season, but should–and that is the operative term–be ready for the beginning of the regular season.

Add to these events the constant uncertainty that has become Chad Johnson and the loss of Jeremi Johnson to the Battle of the Bulge, and one has to wonder:  what else can happen this season.

Last season was supposed to be a rebound season from the 2006 season that saw the Bengals miss the playoffs by a missed extra point.  Instead, Chris Henry missed half the season.  Odell Thurman missed his second straight season.  The defense, particularly the linebacker core, was devastated by injury.

Will 2008 be another long season for the Orange and Black?

If there were such a thing as karma, it would certainly follow the Bengals around.  The team appears to react to every event to an extreme.  When one bad thing happens to the team, the team allows it to snowball to a catastophe.  When one good thing happens to the team, like 2005, the team can follow it to the playoffs.

How will the Bengals react to the issues that have already struck the team?  Will they rebound in an uncharacteristic manner, or call it an early day and ride the slippery slope back to mediocrity? 

Bengals Nation wants to know.