Like the rest of us, the Cincinnati Bengals have spent the past two weeks as official playoffs observers. Bounced out of the postseason by the San Diego Chargers in the first round of the AFC playoffs, they have gone through the motions of a team in offseason mode the past 15 days.
Of course, as is the nature of the single-elimination playoffs, they have since been joined in observation mode by other teams, most recently by last year's Super Bowl runner-up and a Super Bowl mainstay. Thanks to losses in the conference championships Sunday, the 49ers and Patriots have settled into stay-home-and-watch mode, as well. Only the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks will be playing one final meaningful game of the 2013 season.
While in observation mode, the Bengals have executed a series of coaching changes and their players have already started the process of thinking about their futures. Contract extensions, retirement and the possibility of exploring playing for other teams have entered some of their minds. They might like what the Bengals have going in Cincinnati, but some of them know chances are high that aching bones or too-steep future paychecks could force them out of the game or out of the city. It's the nature of the business side of the NFL.
One of the other ways the Bengals have transitioned into offseason mode is by beginning their draft exploration in earnest. While scouts and front-office folks from all 32 teams will be represented in Mobile, Ala., this week, the 30 teams that aren't competing in the Super Bowl will have a chance for their coaches to take good, hard looks at some of the top prospects who will be up for grabs in May. The Bengals' brass is already in coastal Alabama, and while it will be looking at as many players as it can, the group most specifically will have its eye on cornerbacks, linebackers, safeties, defensive ends and offensive linemen.
The face time attending coaches get with some of the college standouts this week could be valuable going forward. It gives them a chance to get to know certain players and whether they believe they have what it takes mentally to show up week in and week out for their team. Sometimes, a simple conversation with a player is enough to convince a coach he wants to look further at a player; or enough to let him know to move on to another.
Now that teams like the Bengals are inching deeper into offseason mode, the stories and story lines will begin drying up. Case in point, this particular Monday's Morning Stripes. There wasn't much going on in the Bengals' universe this weekend, and in the coming weeks, even less will be. While we'll be updating the Bengals blog here daily, generally, it may be tough to see fresh takes on the squad elsewhere. With the Senior Bowl and Pro Bowl later this week, though, excluding Monday, the Stripes should be comparatively full.
Here are two Bengals-related links to get your week going:
Over the weekend, the Bengals announced their ticket pricing plans (which can be read more extensively at Bengals.com) for the 2014 season. About 55 percent of reserve seats will see price increases, while tickets overall likely will remain significantly lower than an average ticket in other NFL cities. In 2013, Bengals tickets were 20 percent cheaper than those of their counterparts.
Cincinnati Enquirer columnist Paul Daugherty issued a message to the Bengals' new offensive coordinator, Hue Jackson, saying that this in fact is a passing league. Daugherty suggests Jackson keeps that in mind while the new coordinator makes his push for wanting to load more of the running game into his system. Interestingly, teams ran more in the playoffs than they did the regular season. The Bengals ran only 25 times in their lone playoff game.