Monday Musings

It’s Monday morning (at time of writing) and my mind is in a bit of an entanglement.

Firstly, AJ Green is hurt. The report says “some games” which is about as vague as the chances I give the Bengals of beating the Saints, without him. Apparently, he hurt it in the last game before the bye, whenever he got up grabbing at his toe. Some reports say that, after the game, AJ mentioned stubbing it and he’ll be fine. Then he was seen at PBS in a walking boot. Now they’re saying multiple games will be missed. It doesn’t take much to connect the dots and see that Tyler Boyd will be Andy Dalton’s number one target for the Saints game, the Ravens game, and maybe beyond that. In a league where the slimmest of margins separate wildcard teams from teams who finish 7-9, losing AJ really blurs that line for Cincinnati.

The Reds are being linked to a number of different free agents, and it’s got me excited. Sure, I looked at season tickets and realized peons like me aren’t meant to afford that regality (plus, different ticket apps make it cheaper and easier to go to the games I want, anyway) and the Opening Day tickets available on websites start at $150, right now, as the “market” preys on overenthusiastic instant-gratification junkies. That being said, I’m all in on Redsfest coming at the end of November and will probably type up a few words on it, too. I’d love to meet Dallas Keuchel, or Patrick Corbin, or even Nathan Eovaldi, but we’ll see. The powers that be for the oldest professional base-ball franchise have said they’ll break the bank. But whether it’s a bigger crack in the piggy bank or a full blown shattered oinker, remains to be seen.

I plan on writing more about this next thought, so I’ll be brief, but college basketball is back, baby, and this fool just got cable. Hope my wife is ready to hear lots squeaking sneakers and swishing nets!

UC football is back ranked in the Top-25 with a pair of games against good Florida football teams (USF and UCF). That being said, they get the lesser of two Florida’s at home, this Saturday, in a game I think they have a much better shot at winning than I did in August. Then comes the monster that is UCF. 21-straight wins (maybe 22 by next week) will face off against the Luke Fickell reclamation project. Coach Fick has built the Cats into bonafide football players in just a year and a half, and may be the next name to be plucked from Clifton to a big time job. Nobody, including me, saw the success he’s had this year as possible, and yet here we are. We could be talking about a 10-win Bearcats football side, come December, and that is magnificent.

I’m still on about Bohemian Rhapsody. What a film. Been listening to Queen all weekend.

Also, playing Red Dead 2 any chance I get. It’s so simple and yet so fantastic. Much like many a good Western flick. One of the latest “missions,” or maybe stories is a better term for them, that I completed was one where your character gets drunk, but has to keep his other drunk friend out of trouble, and then run from Johnny-Law. Rockstar just knows how to make an entertaining video game.

Right, well, back to Monday, I suppose.

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The Other Mock Draft

T-minus less than 24 hours to liftoff! For Infinity War, that is. Oh, yeah, and the NFL Draft. I guess that’s happening, too. Both have been highly anticipated. On one hand, Marvel has been building up to Infinity War for pretty much a decade; while on the other hand the football players about to be picked on to professional teams have been working to this point for at least twice that. We’re taking a look at the kids about to get paid to play football, tonight.I’m getting ready to start a podcast with my pal, Pat, and we decided on a friendly wager. Each of us will give our predictions on what players will be selected with the first ten picks of the draft, as well as who we think the Bengals will pick. The winner gets his lunch paid for on a day TDB…or is it TBD…went Michael Scott there for a sec. So the points go down like this: one point for a correct pick and two points for the correct Bengals pick. We don’t have to pick trades correctly, so if, for example, Pat says the Browns will pick Saquon Barkley with their fourth pick, but then the Browns trade the pick and the new team, let’s say the Saints, come in and pick Barkley, then Pat still gets a point. Figuring out how teams value players is hard enough, predicting if they will trade a pick is next to impossible…That being said, Pat felt frisky and went for it! See his picks below:1. Browns- QB Sam Darnold (USC)2. Giants- DE Bradley Chubb (N.C. State)3. Jets- QB Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma)4. Browns- RB Saquon Barkley (Penn State)5. Broncos- QB Josh Allen (Wyoming) (via trade)6. Colts- QB Josh Rosen (UCLA) (via trade)7. Buccaneers- OG Quenton Nelson (Notre Dame)8. Bears- CB Denzel Ward (Ohio State)9. 49’ers- LB Roquan Smith (Georgia)10. Raiders- S Derwin James (Florida State)21. Bengals- G/C James Daniels (Iowa) Makes too much sense to not happen unless he is picked up priorSee there? Pat is going for the jugular. Calling someone trading into the fifth spot to take Josh Allen and another team trading into the sixth spot to take Rosen! Rumor has it the Bills are really trying hard to trade up from their 12th spot in the first round, and if Josh Allen is available, that’s probably true. I’d be interested to see if the Colts do trade their pick. Given Pat’s mock, with Quenton Nelson available, it’d be interesting to see if they pass on him for more picks, overall. Funny thing is, Pat and I differ on almost every pick, except two. Check out mine:1.       Josh Allen – QB (Browns)

2.       Quentin Nelson – OL (Giants)

3.       Sam Darnold – QB (Jets)

4.       Bradley Chubb – DE (Browns)

5.       Baker Mayfield – QB (Broncos)

6.       Saquon Barkley – RB (Colts)

7.       Derwin James – S (Bucs)

8.       Denzel Ward – CB (Bears)

9.       Roquan Smith – LB (Niners)

10.   Vita Vea – DT (Raiders)

 

21. Frank Ragnow – C (Bengals)

Both of us having Ward go eighth and Smith go ninth. Was not expecting that. I did not mention trades in my mock, because Pat is a little more ballsy on that front, but to reiterate, as long as the player goes in the spot that is picked, the point is awarded.

Ive got the benefit of being the author, here, so I can talk about my picks. Firstly, there’s nothing fancy here. I’ve done some reading and watched some TV on the subject of the draft, and I have a grasp on who’s good and what teams need, then I mix in a little gut feeling and wa-la! These will probably be wrong anyway.

We both agree on what the Bengals are thinking, we just differ on the name. I’ll be dead honest, I think Ragnow because I want a Ragnow jersey. That way, ever time I wear it, I will imagine Ragnar from the show “Vikings.” Real expert analysis there, I know.

At any rate, enjoy your Thursday. Whether it be Infinity War day or Day One of the NFL Draft day, make it a good one. As for me, I’ll be at the theater to see the Avengers take on Thanos!

The Bengals 2018 Draft: The Kyle Mock

Heeee’s back! Kyle is going to take a stab at the Bengals first two days in the draft. Without further ado, take it away, Kyle!

Since the end of last season I have reviewed countless mock drafts. I have paid attention to the coverage from draft experts Kiper and McShay. Now I’m taking a crack at my own mock draft but at a micro level. I will only be giving my best guess as to who I think the Bengals will look to acquire in rounds 1 and 2. Based off of team need I will project what position the Bengals will draft with their remaining picks.

Bengals Picks:

1st round – pick #21

2nd round – pick #46

3rd round – pick #77 and #100

4th round – pick #112

5th round – pick #151, #158 and #170

6th round – no picks

7th round – pick #249, #252 and #253

In round 1 I have seen mocks that have the Bengals taking James Daniels (C – Iowa), Isaiah Wynn (G – Georgia), Billy Price (C – Ohio State), Rashaan Evans (OLB – Alabama), Lamar Jackson (QB – Louisville), Will Hernandez (G – Texas-El Paso), Mike McGlinchey (OT – Notre Dame) and Calvin Ridley (WR – Alabama) amongst others. The consensus seems to be that the Bengals will draft the best OL available with their first pick. With the addition of Cordy Glenn and new offensive line coach Frank Pollack, I could see the Bengals holding off until the 2nd round to draft an offensive lineman.

The Pick: Rashaan Evans – OLB – Alabama

I like the pick here because it addresses an area of concern and brings in a highly talented Alabama OLB prospect. The thought of Burfict on the strong side, newly added Preston Brown in the middle and Evans on the weak side should make all Bengals fans wishing this happens. Outside of Burfict the LB position has been a major issue the past few seasons. Evans has the speed to actually cover and track plays sideline to sideline. It would also be nice to see some sacks from the OLB position and the speed of Evans will help.

Surprise Pick: Lamar Jackson – QB – Louisville

This is so unlike the Bengals to make this move but it makes sense. Dalton has had a decent career and should still be a starter in the NFL. Unfortunately though it seems that he has taken Cincinnati as far as he can. A fresh start elsewhere should benefit him. Queue Jackson, he can come in and push Dalton in training camp and take the time to learn this year behind Dalton. It’s possible that if Dalton continues to struggle that Jackson could get significant playing time early on. Pairing Jackson with Green, Gio, Mixon, Eifert, and maybe John Ross (needs a lot of work) would make the Bengals offense extremely fun to watch.

In round 2 I believe that either Frank Ragnow (C – Arkansas), Billy Price (C- Ohio State), Isaiah Wynn (G – Georgia), Will Hernandez (G – Texas-El Paso) or Connor Williams (G – Texas) will be available. If only 1 player remains in close proximity to pick #46 look for the Bengals to package a few picks in an attempt to move up.

The Pick: Connor Williams – G/T – Texas

I would like to see Price or Ragnow fall to us here but I don’t think it will happen. Connor Williams is entering the draft after his junior year. He played LT while at Texas but is being projected to start at guard in the NFL. Williams fits the mold with what the Bengals traditionally look for in their OL. He has the ability to move all over the line and is a great run blocker.

Surprise Pick: Billy Price – C – Ohio State

The surprise would be if Price was still available. He was a projected 1st rounder before his torn pec injury. At the time of this writing I am unaware of the how much time Price is expected to miss due to his injury.

3rd Round: The Bengals will probably go Safety and another offensive lineman

4th Round: They add depth and go defensive tackle

5th Round: The Bengals will look at adding depth at cornerback, o-lineman, and defensive end

7th Round: The Bengals will look to take flyers on the best remaining running back, wide receiver, and linebacker.

Some say the Bengals will be picking around 10-10:30 PM on Thursday. Who Dey?!

The Bengals Ahead of the Draft: Addition, Subtraction

The Draft is officially eight days away, so let’s talk some Bengals. Over the next week there will be a handful of writings and musings dealing with the Orange and Black.Today I’d like to introduce a guest poster to Frederick’s Folio: Kyle. This will be part one of a two-part piece that Kyle has written.

This has been the most exciting Bengals offseason in recent memory. In the next few paragraphs I will give a realistic fan view and breakdown of the offseason. I will try to keep my opinions as unbiased as possible.

In this first part, Kyle looks at who joined the Bengals, who left, and he gives an overall grade for the offseason, thus far.

Key Offseason Additions:

Cordy Glenn – LT – acquired via trade from Buffalo

Tyler Eifert – TE – retained FA

Preston Brown – MLB – signed FA

Matt Barkley – QB – signed FA

Chris Baker – DT – signed FA

Teryl Austin – Defensive Coordinator

Frank Pollack – Offensive Line Coach

Let’s start with the trade that brought us (when healthy) a top 15 starting LT in Cordy Glenn. Based off of team need and what was given up/exchanged in the trade I feel like the Bengals made a great deal. There are some concerns though as in the last few seasons Glenn has had some injury and durability issues. If Glenn can stay healthy and Ogbuehi can develop into a starting caliber RT, this line should move from the cellar to the top 10 in the NFL. Grade: A

I was happy that the Bengals were able to re-sign Tyler Eifert. When healthy he has the skills and ability to be an All-Pro. I believe the Bengals should only use Eifert in the red zone, on 3rd and longs, 4th downs and potential game winning drives in order to help keep him healthy for a whole season. I know that realistically this is a farfetched idea and they’re not paying close to $10 million this year to have him on a snap count. Grade: B

Preston Brown should help the defense tremendously. If you watched any Bengals game last year it was obvious that outside of Burfict, tackling was a major issue. Brown tied for the lead in tackles last year and has the most tackles by any player since joining the league in 2014. My concern with Brown is that I find myself wondering what kind of baggage he’s bringing. Based off of his production it’s fascinating that he wasn’t drawing more interest in the open market. Grade: B+

Matt Barkley brings some veteran experience with him but never lived up to his USC hype. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Barkley cut by the end of the preseason. Grade: C-

The Chris Baker signing could turn out to be a great under the radar signing if he can get back to the same form that he displayed in Washington. Or the rumors end up being true that he is now lazy and no longer able to play at a high level. The good news is that the Bengals could release him without taking a notable cap hit. Grade: C

I am extremely happy that the Bengals brought in a new defensive coordinator in Teryl Austin. Guenther’s play calling, decision making and scheme were overall terrible. He was never able to get the most of the skill players like Dunlap, Atkins and Burfict. Grade: B+

Frank Pollack might be the most underrated offseason acquisition by any team. He is the architect behind the dominant Dallas Cowboys offensive line of the past few years. I believe he will make Ogbuehi a starting caliber RT and groom a rookie C into a starter. Grade: A

Key Offseason Losses:

Adam Jones – CB – released

AJ McCarron – QB – signed with Buffalo

Jeremy Hill – RB – signed with New England

Russell Bodine – C – signed with Buffalo

Chris Smith – DE – signed with Cleveland

Adam Jones is a player that I still think can contribute to a team. His time in Cincinnati is up though due to the emergence of William Jackson. With Dennard having his best season in 2017 and the Bengals singing Kirkpatrick to a long term deal, the writing was on the wall for “Pacman”. Love him or hate him you can’t argue that Jones was a huge reason why the Bengals defense was able to play at such a high level for a few years. I think he would be best utilized in a defense that plays a lot of zone and he still has the ability to contribute on special teams. I like the fact that a hot head is now gone and we get younger at the position. Grade: B+

The AJ McCarron saga is one that perturbs many fans. A lot of people wanted AJ to get his shot while Dalton struggled heavily the last two seasons. As a Bengals fan the thing that makes me angry is the fact that McCarron walked in free agency without the Bengals getting some type of return on their investment. Clearly the coaching staff and front office weren’t committed to McCarron. In spite of this they weren’t able to get a trade done for a player that many teams considered to be a starter. Grade: F

In 2014, Jeremy Hill looked like he would be the franchise running back that the Bengals have been missing out on since Corey Dillon and to a lesser degree, Rudi Johnson (people easily forget how dominant Rudi was in 4 straight seasons from 2003-2006). Unfortunately Hill was never able to recapture his rookie season magic. He’s a player that I hope does well with his new team but I’m glad Cincinnati moved on from. Grade: B

Russell Bodine is a tough one to grade in terms of value to the Bengals. Many people considered him to be a weak link on the offensive line. Considering how poorly the line played as a whole in 2017, the fact that he was singled out as a weak link is really bad. PFF has Bodine ranked as the 25th best center in 2017 with an overall poor rating. Watching him over the past 4 seasons has always left something to be desired. He was serviceable but shouldn’t have been a regular starter. He did play in every game since being drafted and now the Bengals look to the draft or turn to the center that Bodine beat out to claim the starter spot. Grade: B+

Last year the Bengals made a trade with Jacksonville and brought in Chris Smith. Smith only had 3 sacks in 2017 but he was constantly collapsing the pocket and putting pressure on the QB. For the 2nd straight year Smith becomes the casualty of a deep depth chart at DE. The Bengals are going to give Lawson and Willis more reps and still have Dunlap and Johnson as starters. I personally would have liked to see the Bengals work out a 2 year deal with Smith and move on from Johnson. The worst part about this is the fact that the Bengals will now have to face Smith twice a year in the foreseeable future. Grade: C

Overall Offseason Grade: A-

How to Survive a Bad Football Game

I live in Cincinnati. I love my town, I love the awesome things there are to do, places to go, people to see. I love the sports teams. My Reds are nearer and dearer to my heart than any sports team, period, but the football teams have a bit carved out in my heart, too.

My Bengals and my Bearcats are loved, that must be posed before I continue.

But I am honest with my fandom, and I know that I root for some lousy football teams.

Now there have been good times, don’t get me wrong. Playoff games, top ten national rankings, high-stakes bowl games, those have happened. What has happened, however, in far more abundance is losing. And more losing. And some more…and even losing in games which a win would mean soooo much goodness and happiness….but no, still losing.

In order to remain sane and have nice things, you have to learn a few things. You’ve really got to pay attention and revel in the little things. Things so small, most blow-hards screaming their lungs out at yet another piss-poor pass attempt would have absolutely no knowledge of. A prime example Would be the game between UC and Marshall, a few weeks back.

Most folks were bolting at halftime when the score was 24-0 in favor of the visiting Thundering Herd. A crowd of 35k was reduced to 25k, then 20k, then 15k by the beginning of the 4th quarter. Here’s how you hang tight when the score isn’t:

1. You got to have a friend who is on your level. Someone who doesn’t get too hot, but also someone who is in to the game. Be sure you will yell. If you care somewhat about your team and they begin to play awful, it will cause a reaction inside you that beckons a loud noise emit from your mouth. If your buddy does not share that, or even may laugh at you for doing so, you will only get angrier and want to leave real quick. So you have to have someone with you that will join you in your angst, but do nothing to add to it.

2. You’ve got to have an awareness of things going on in the periphery of the field. That reporter that is dressed to the nines and just tripped over her cameraman’s cord, that’ll keep you grounded with a good laugh. The mascot conversing with the strength coach? Perfect opportunity for “What do you think they’re saying?” – “Probably talking about that reporter that just bought it.” Little side things make the difference.

3. Be aware of game day trends. What I mean here is this: is it a whiteout/blackout themed game? Saturday against Marshall was advertised as a “Red-out” game for UC. The band, the cheerleaders, the dance team, the student section, even the football team themselves were going to wear red….until the football team charged out of the locker room in black. Fun little thought to blame a poorly performed game on “They don’t even have the right uniforms on, how they going to call the right play?”

4. Have good seats. Now this has nothing to do with location and everything to do with material. Nippert Stadium is inundated with bleacher seats. They’re everywhere. So your toosh gets a little unhappy after about an hour. Enter bearcatseats.com. They let you rent chair-back attachments that you can slide on your little piece of bleacher. Now me and my friend did not pay to rent, we stumbled upon the generosity of a fellow fan. As one of the many making their way for the gates come halftime, the older couple directly to our left told us we could use their seat-enhancers for the remainder of the game. Without hesitation, we slid em down our way. The difference between bleacher and cushy-seat-thing is the difference between concrete and couch cushions. Not to mention the nice little attachment that supports your back. Something Nippert’s bleachers don’t do. Add in the people in front of me leaving, so I could put my feet up, and the game could continue as it pleased.

5. Last but definitely not least you need a snack and a drink. Now this can be a lot of different things, and it largely depends on the environment. When you’re standing shoulder to shoulder in the student section, may just want to keep it to a hot dog. When Johnny Jumps-a-lot is right next to you, it’s hard to justify holding a beer that may or may not get spilled on the people in front of you. Take a walk on the concourse if you got to have a tasty beverage. If you’re at home, though, loaD up on the nachos and get a drink with readily available refills. In that particular UC/Marshall game, I didn’t have a snack, but I had a pint of some German beer in my right hand while relaxing on my seat cushion and had my feet kicked up on the bleacher in front of me. One thing is good about going to the stadium of a bad team: lots of room to spread out.

It’s ultimately taken the better part of my sports fan-life to figure this out: sports are for enjoying, don’t let them frustrate you.

Of course, if you’re at home, you’ve likely changed the channel.

Heard it Here First, Change is Coming

Bengals fans, get ready: 2018 will bring a new head coach to Cincinnati AND a new starting quarterback.

I’m just telling you this now to get you ready. No, I am not from the future, but the pieces have been set on the board and the duo of Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton are in check.

The last offseason brought two dynamic playmakers to Cincinnati on the offensive side of the ball and two pass rushers on the defensive side, all via the Draft. It also saw the two most impactful offensive linemen in orange and black leave. It is currently labeled an overreaction, but in the coming weeks it will become clear, Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler going to different teams was the most important thing to happen to the Bengals in 2017. Important because it set them up for a much needed regime change.

“Well, didn’t the front office foresee this? Why didn’t they have a contingency plan?” you may ask. That is where my theory begins.

Knowing Mike Brown was comfortable with the current regime and would not make a change without overwhelming evidence (as proven by Marvin Lewis not being fired after a disappointing 2016 season), Katie Blackburn got her friend Duke Tobin together and hatched a plan.

The two stalwarts on the Bengals’ offensive line were coming to the end of their contracts. Zeitler was going to command a hefty pay raise, one the Bengals were not going to give due to their philosophy of not paying guards lucrative money. Whitworth, on the other hand, was a fan favorite and the unquestioned leader of the offensive line at left tackle. He was moving into the twilight of his career, though, meaning a lowball-type offer could be explained.

So, the front office moved to offer Whit a contract they knew he would turn down and failed to make a better offer once the Rams moved in to sign. They also neglected to even put forth an offer to Zeitler, letting both go. Duke Tobin proceeded to assure anyone wary of the situation that the necessary replacements were in-house, advising that the team, instead, focus on upgrading the skill positions.

They did not set the team up to fail, but they chose the path with success being the least likely outcome.

AJ Green, Tyler Eifert, Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd, and John Ross are all dynamic players…when they have the ball in their hands. AJ runs some of the best routes, and is able shake off any cornerback, in the game…but it doesn’t matter if Andy is on the ground in the backfield with the ball still in his hands. “But Andy had the quickest release in the NFL last year!” you argue. Let me show you something, per Pro Football Focus.

Andy is a bottom-half of the league ranked quarterback under pressure. His average QB rating of 91.8 last year fell to 57.1 while under pressure. Last season the o-line, with Whit and Zeitler, allowed the sixth-fewest amount of plays in which Dalton was under pressure. He was sacked on 22% of those plays, however, which is the worst percentage in the league. That’s with an average offensive line covering for him. If you ask any NFL “expert” you will find that the Bengals have one of the worst rated offensive lines in the league. The amount of plays Andy is under pressure will go up, meaning his effectiveness will stay down.

Dalton will have his worst season in five years and he replaced.

Now they are athletes, after all, and they can improve. The game isn’t played on paper. Any given Sunday…blah, blah, blah. These Bengals were built so that the most likely outcome would be a 4-5 win season and a regime change.

Tell me I’m wrong until you are blue in the face, but I will defend this theory until I am proven wrong.

Really Early Thoughts: Cincy Football

We’re a little over halfway through July and I am really jonesing for some football…

…so here are some thoughts on the Cincinnati Bengals as Training Camp approaches.

The Bengals have three running backs that they think are of starting caliber. Just about everyone else that knows football thinks its Joe Mixon and everyone else fighting for the second-string spot. It would probably be a more closely contested match if Giovanni Bernard were healthy, but he isn’t.

That pits Mixon against Jeremy Hill. For what my unprofessional opinion is worth, I like Mixon.

The Bengals’ offense, overall, should be far more entertaining this season. John Ross adds the kind of receiver opposite the awesome A. J. Green that the Bengals missed last season (Should have kept Sanu/Marvin Jones). Green will catch pretty much anything you throw at him while Ross is supposed to be the kind of guy who can speed past the furthest defensive back. Add in a healthy Tyler Eiffert (full disclosure, I am getting tired of waiting for Eiffert’s health) a sophomore Tyler Boyd, and the play-making ability of Mixon and the Bengals, with some amount of blocking from a decimated o-line, will be fun to watch.

Defensively, the Bengals got younger.

No more Rey Maualuga, who Cincinnati fans had become so accustomed to seeing that most of them may not realize he is gone, and enter in Kevin Minter, who came over from the Cardinals. The 2017 season will be Minter’s fifth, his first four all spent in Arizona. In his last two seasons in the desert, Minter compiled 175 total tackles, 20 of them for no-gain or negative yardage. Another key newcomer to the defense is rookie Carl Lawson. For what opinions from OTAs are worth, he’s really fast.

Another interesting watch will be the kicker…and now I’m done talking about that.

…………………………………

On the college side of things, the UC Bearcats will be completely different.

Luke Fickell has come to Clifton and put everyone on notice. As of right now, the only thing that is known about the new Bearcats is that they are intense and well-conditioned. Other than that…well…we’ll find out August 31st when they host Austin Peay. Yours truly has season tickets to Nippert, so expect a little more writing regarding the college football team from Cincinnati.

I love baseball, but the past few years, during the All-Star Break, I’ve gotten pigskin fever. This year feels like the fever upgraded to a virus…

August 31st can’t get here soon enough.