Biggest reason for hope: a fresh start
Whether rookie second-round pick Andy Dalton turns out to be the long-term solution remains to be seen. But there is no denying the Bengals needed to blow up the team and start over. Dalton and first-round pick A.J. Green usher in a new era in Cincinnati. Veteran quarterback Carson Palmer and receiver Chad Ochocinco had plenty of time to make a title run but failed to win a single playoff game in eight seasons. With Palmer and Ochocinco both wanting out and heading for retirement and a release, respectively, the path is clear for Dalton to establish himself. The Bengals believe he is the best rookie to fit their new West Coast offense. Dalton certainly will have no shortage of weapons to work with such as Green, Jermaine Gresham, Jordan Shipley, Jerome Simpson, Andre Caldwell and potentially tailback Cedric Benson, who is a pending free agent.
Biggest reason for concern: inexperience
Assuming Palmer sticks to his word and doesn't return to Cincinnati, the team has virtually no experience at the quarterback position. Dalton, like most young quarterbacks, is certainly due for some growing pains. Backups Jordan Palmer and Dan LeFevour also combine for zero NFL starts between them, which doesn't leave much insurance in the event Dalton isn't ready. Add in a new system and mostly young skill players, and the Bengals could struggle on offense, especially early in the season. This is a rebuilding year in Cincinnati. So the Bengals are at least two seasons away from being a contender. A lot will depend on how quickly Dalton develops and whether he can solidify the quarterback position in Palmer's absence. Also, look for Cincinnati to try to add a veteran backup to help provide some stability at quarterback.