As promised, here's 5 Questions with Kirkendall over at Cincy Jungle. Enjoy.
Blogging The Boys: OK, will Carson Palmer play or won't he. And if not, what can we expect from Ryan Fitzpatrick?
Cincy Jungle: On Friday afternoon, Palmer got some work in and Marvin Lewis said "all systems go." So we're assuming that Palmer is starting (and thank the lord in heaven!).
BTB: Most NFL fans that don't follow the Bengals closely were probably a little shocked when they cut Rudi Johnson. What happened there and has the running game been better or worse as a result?
CJ: Yea, even I was a little shocked, to be honest. Strictly a financial cut, Rudi was scheduled to earn $3.2 million this season. After his production dropped off severely with a constant hamstring injury, the team decided to save some money and let him go. The running game itself hasn't changed; we're still pretty awful hovering around 3.0 yards-per-rush; mostly a result of inconsistent line-play; which was our biggest issue during our super-fun 7-9 season (good times).
The biggest issue with our rushing offense is depth because of injury. We just placed DeDe Dorsey (our third running back) on Injured Reserve, and Kenny Watson (our backup running back) won't likely play this weekend. Perry was limited during the week. All three suffered hamstring injuries, prompting the team to sign Cedric Benson. Not sure what we'll get from him, but we needed something to replace the low-center of gravity and power rushing of Rudi Johnson.
BTB: Like you, we have our own group of players who have had questionable histories. So far, it's worked out well for us. How has it worked out for you guys? Has that been part of the problem with the 0-4 start?
CJ: The problematic players we have on roster haven't really contributed this season, and most of the focus in that regard is Chris Henry - who's been out the first four games this season. However, we signed Benson this week, so we'll see how that goes. We also have Jason Shirley - drafted in the fifth round of this season's NFL draft - who missed some of his senior season at Fresno State because he plowed through an apartment complex after having equivalent of a few beers (aka, a "40"). However, he's been slated as a project-type player and didn't expect to see playing time this season; especially since his retrial is scheduled for late October (his first trial ended in a mistrial).
In truth, we've been a fairly clean team, except for the signing of Benson, the re-signing of Henry and drafting Shirley. The rest of our guys are pretty good guys and the Bengals are still suffering from a stigma earned in 2006. So, no, I don't think that's contributed to the problem of being 0-4. I think we're just not playing well, the running game is slow, the passing game has no timing or protection and the defense, while it's played well early, tends to get worn out towards the end after the offense records another league-leading three-and-out.
BTB: With such talented receivers and a top-notch QB, why has the passing game not been working so far this year? Will Chris Henry help to spark it?
CJ: There's a ton of theories. For one, T.J. Houshmandzadeh missed most of training camp because of a leg "issue"; though some local writers claimed he was sandbagging it. Chad Johnson had ankle surgery right before camp, and then partially tore his labrum during the first pre-season game; he's playing through his recovery and it's slowed down his breaks, speed and his wingspan. In reality, Palmer just hasn't had the work he'd need with his best receivers, so they're just now getting their timing back.
Additionally, the Bengals have no rushing threat and the offensive line has struggled to pick up the blitz; Palmer has had two bloody noses dating back to the third preseason game.
Chris Henry is an immensely talented receiver; great speed and size with a nice vertical. If it wasn't for his history, he would have been a first-round pick in 2005, and likely be among the best receivers playing today if it wasn't for idiotism. Will he spark the offense against the Cowboys? That will depend on how ready he is. He had some work during the preseason, but hasn't played in over a month. So you have to assume there's going to be some initial rust.
Eventually, yea, he will. The Bengals run a lot of three-wide receiver sets. With Henry, it will force defenses to run a deeper zone giving us a lot of underneath stuff - where T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Ben Utecht thrive.
We are talented as hell on paper; but it doesn't mean much if we can't put it together; which we haven't yet.
BTB: Obviously the Bengals will be desperate to get a victory on Sunday. Can they do it? If they can, how will they get it done?
CJ: The fan in me thinks they can win any game; that's how delusional and screwed up we Bengals fans have become. The last time Palmer played, we took the New York Giants into overtime, forced them to punt, before losing by a field goal.
The players are pretty upbeat; our cornerbacks are looking forward to the challenge of Dallas' pass offense and Chad Johnson is starting to jaw again. Based on their attitudes alone, you'd never guess this team is 0-4.
I think the Bengals could be sniffing upset, expecting to give the Cowboys a run for their money. Our players are pissed off and ready to dish it out after running out of Vaseline against the Ravens and Browns.
If the Cowboys come out with their best game, then there's no way we can compete. But if the Bengals are sniffing in the second half, we'll cause some Cowboys fans to stop breathing for an hour, I'm sure of it.