The Cleveland Browns' decision to
The third-overall pick in the 2005 draft is the only difference maker on a team that ranked 31st in total offense a season ago. Edwards finished with 55 receptions, 873 yards and three touchdowns, a down year especially on the heels of his 80-1,289-16 career season of 2007. He also had four receptions of more than 40 yards for the third-straight season in '08 and ranked 12th in the league with 15 receptions of more than 20 yards.
Edwards' detractors point to his inconsistent hands, and rightly so. He has been among the league leaders in dropped passes the past three seasons. Another strike against him is his penchant for running the wrong routes and blowing assignments. Still, despite those flaws, the Browns would be wise to keep Edwards.
His production isn't easily replaced, and losing him would force the Browns to field an offensive lineup with far less talent than the 10-6 squad from 2007. They'll already be without
Furthermore, the team is monitoring the investigation into a car accident in which wideout
Then there's the Browns' uncertain quarterback situation.
For a Browns-Giants deal to get done, it would need to approximate the Lions-Cowboys
The Browns are attempting to retool a roster that underachieved in 2008, but the removal of their top offensive player would set them back for 2009 and beyond.
Can a tiger change its stripes?
The Bengals are set to unveil a new offense this fall that hopes to feature a power running game, complemented by a vertical play-action pass attack. The look will be similar to what Cincinnati ran in 2005, the last time the team made the playoffs.
Last season, the Bengals finished dead-last in total offense. Much of that can be attributed to starting quarterback
"We're going to get back to effectively running the football and throwing it downfield," he said in January.
In 2005, the Bengals ranked 11th in rush offense, led by
The inconsistency of the running game has affected Palmer, whose effectiveness has declined without the threat of a formidable rush offense. Since enjoying the best season of his career in 2005 (completing nearly 68 percent of his passes with 32 touchdowns and 12 interceptions), Palmer's interception totals have increased in each subsequent season as he has been forced to shoulder more of the offensive load.
Additionally, the lack of an effective running game has hampered the team's explosive vertical passing game. Without the ability to force defenses to commit an extra defender to the running game (eight-man fronts), the Bengals' offense has been robbed of its most dangerous element: the deep ball.
Last season, the team only completed two passes of more than 40 yards and averaged an abysmal 5.2 yards per attempt. Five-time Pro Bowl receiver
Furthermore, Johnson only registered three receptions of more than 20 yards and didn't have a reception longer than 40 yards for the first time since his rookie season. For a player who has made a living on the big play (35 receptions greater than 40 yards in his nine-year career), Johnson saw the lack of a running game render him ineffective as an offensive weapon.
With his top players underachieving in the team's one-dimensional approach, Lewis has started to make the necessary changes to implement the power-running, vertical-passing philosophy he thinks has been lacking in Cincinnati.
The team re-signed
Benson, who was cut by the Bears prior to training camp following a series of off-field incidents, tallied three 100-yard games, including a spectacular 171-yard effort against the Browns. Although the former fourth-overall pick of the 2005 draft hasn't shed the "bust" label that has been attached to his name since entering the league, he flashed some of the talent that made him such a highly coveted prospect coming out of Texas.
As the Bengals' workhorse, Benson carried the ball 20 or more times in five contests, and the team sported an unbeaten record (4-0-1) in those games. Although the fifth-year pro averaged only 3.5 yards per carry, his ability to grind out tough yards between the tackles forced some eight-man fronts and eventually created some big-play opportunities for the team. With a full training camp under his belt, Benson could be even more dangerous.
The Bengals' acquisition of
Coles, however, has averaged nearly 13 yards per catch throughout his career, and still possesses enough speed to slip past corners on vertical routes. Though he lost some of the explosiveness that made him a Pro Bowler in 2003, he has produced at least one play of more than 40 yards in each season of his career, including seven over the past three years.
While the aforementioned transactions look good on paper, the team's offensive line woes may render the moves moot. Plagued by injuries (
While the team can upgrade its talent by using its first-round pick on one of several intriguing tackle prospects (
However, the biggest factor in the success of Bengals' offensive transition rests with offensive coordinator
To ask an esteemed passing game guru to deviate from his preferred method of moving the ball would appear to be a concern, but Bratkowski has done it before. He directed the Bengals' offense when
The Bengals are looking to claw their way back into postseason contention, but the jury is still out on whether Lewis' decision to revamp the offense will be enough to get them there.