CINCINNATI -- To those of you in the Queen City this weekend, Happy All-Star Game week.
It's been fun witnessing the city slowly dress itself as the sporting world to turns its attention -- for a couple days at least -- on this corner of the Midwest.
Sure, this is baseball's All-Star Game and this is a football blog, but there actually is an overlap. Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, a football player, will be participating in the All-Star Game festivities. He'll be showing off throwing coach Tom House's mechanical tweaks during the celebrity softball game that takes place Sunday. The game can be watched on ESPN following Monday night's Home Run Derby.
Speaking of Dalton, we begin this weekend's Bengals mailbag with a question about him:
@ColeyHarvey Has the Dalton bashing reached ridiculous levels? Seems to be the cool thing to do these days rather than being accurate.— The wanderer (@thewanderer2020) July 9, 2015
@ColeyHarvey: Greetings again, wanderer. I detect a little frustration in your question. To catch everybody up to speed, I believe you're wondering about the several stories and blogs that have been written -- much like they often are this time of year -- about whether Dalton can finally lead his team to a postseason win? I actually wrote two of those myself this week. In one post, I gave three reasons why he and the Bengals could finally win a playoff game this season, and then gave three others in another post as to why they won't. Hopefully I presented a balanced argument in those two items.
Just from perusing some of the wanderer's tweets in recent days, I know some of the frustration is over the way some of my media colleagues have portrayed the Bengals' postseason. The wanderer wants more facts. Yes, the Bengals lost another playoff game in January -- their fourth in four postseason trips with Dalton leading the offense -- but it's hard to pin this one primarily on the quarterback. Although he didn't pass for many yards (155), he also didn't throw an interception. It was the first time in his postseason career that he hadn't done that. It was improvement, and it came without a complete cast of playmakers. A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert all missed the game with injuries. Had they been healthy, perhaps Dalton would have performed better than he did in past years when he had a more complete receiving corps.
So maybe some Dalton bashing has gotten out of hand. That said, is he an elite quarterback? No. Great? No. Has room for potential? With the weapons around him -- if they can stay healthy -- yes. Regardless, wanderer is right about this: It's good to keep Dalton's struggles -- and successes -- in proper context.
@ColeyHarvey why have I heard so much grief given to Russell Bodine. During the draft he was pointed out as being a very weak spot by many— Brad Franzen (@BradFranzen12) July 9, 2015
@ColeyHarvey: Yeah, Dalton isn't the only one catching some flak on the Bengals' offense. His center has gotten it from the moment he started sailing snaps as a rookie in last year's minicamp. What grief are you hearing offered to Russell Bodine, Brad? Much of what I heard last year was warranted. For goodness sakes, he had trouble consistently getting the football in the quarterback's hands early in the season. Training camp or not, rookie or not, a center can't mess up the snap as often as he did at the start of his time in Cincinnati. Now, about the continued grief hurled in Bodine's direction? Yeah, that might be a little overdone at this point.
Remember, the Bengals ranked sixth in rushing offense last season. Pro Football Focus also rated their line as being the third-best from a pass-blocking efficiency standpoint. That just doesn't happen if a team has a lineman who is a poor blocker. Bodine might not have been perfect last season, but he clearly was good enough. To your point about him being a "very weak spot," I'm not sure I completely follow. He was touted by many during the pre-draft process, with much of the hype getting stirred up around him following the combine when he did 42 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press. Noted for his strength, his run-blocking wasn't much of a question mark. The Bengals do need more of that strength to come through this season.
Who do you believe will be the surprise superstar emerging from camp this year? Ala Hewitt and Jones in years past https://t.co/OGvhQDqWFp— Cbraines1976 (@cbraines1976) July 9, 2015
@ColeyHarvey: You really never can tell until we get into training camp itself. And actually, Ryan Hewitt didn't just impress coaches in training camp as an undrafted rookie last year. He had coaches commenting about his blocking ability and desire during organized team activities (OTAs) and minicamp. While expectations were high for Marvin Jones last year, it was Mohamed Sanu who stole the show when Jones missed so much time because of injury.
As for this year, I'd keep an eye on Jake Kumerow. The undrafted rookie receiver wasn't all that flashy during the spring practices, but he seemed to really get the job done when called upon. He appeared to me to simply be a solid, fundamentally-sound receiver. Though it's hard seeing him become a superstar, much less earning a spot on the non-practice squad roster, I still was impressed. Rookie safety Derron Smith is going to turn some heads this year, too. The Bengals might like backup safety Shawn Williams, but Smith showed some ability in the spring.