Welcome to Three-Way Chili!

This blog will be devoted to discussion about the Cincinnati Bengals and Cincinnati Reds (with some stuff from the sports world in general mixed in). I’m very excited to be a part of Bloguin and I hope you will enjoy following this blog.

Weak links on the Bengals?

The Bengals are flying high at 3-1 – and damn it feels good – but I still have some concerns about the team. Let’s take a look at some of the possible weaknesses that the Bengals will face going forward this season.

* No. 3 cornerback – David Jones will probably play for the first time this season this week at Baltimore. However, I’m not at all convinced from his play last year as the No. 3 corner (and part-time starter when Johnathan Joseph was banged up) that he is the right man for the job.

Then again, he’s better than Morgan Trent and Geoffrey Pope, but those players shouldn’t even be in the league.

Hopefully Joseph and Leon Hall stay healthy, because if they do, the Bengals should be fine. Starting free safety Chris Crocker has been playing the nickel back role (and Chinedum Ndukwe comes in at safety) and while he’s not very solid in coverage, I can live with him for the most part.

However, if Joseph or Hall are injured, then Jones (or god forbid Trent or Pope) would be thrust into a starting role and that would be bad news for Cincinnati fans.

* Tight end – This is no fault of the team (for once I can’t blame Mike Brown) since no one could have forecasted the season-ending injuries to starter Reggie Kelly and top backup Ben Utecht in training camp. However, the Bengals are hanging by a thread at tight end.

Their starter is Dan Coats, a third-year player that was undrafted coming out of BYU in 2007.

Their No. 2 tight end is J.P. Foschi, another undrafted free agent (out of Georgia Tech) that was cut by that juggernaut that the Oakland Raiders are running out this year.

I will say Coats and Foschi have looked solid for the most part (Foschi has been a very pleasant surprise) but if you are counting on undrafted free agents as your top two players at a position, you might be in trouble in the long haul.

The Bengals also have rookie third-round pick Chase Coffman, but he’s been inactive through the first five games because he’s simple not ready to play. Will the Bengals get any production out of Coffman this season? Hard to say for sure, but it’s not looking good.

* Long snapper – Brad St. Louis should be thankful he still has a job. He’s been erratic with his snaps and that’s unacceptable in the cutthroat world of the NFL.

The Bengals have brought in other players for tryouts, but haven’t found anyone that they can be sure is better than St. Louis. (The last thing the team needs is to sign someone who is even worse.)

So, stay tuned on this one. I think St. Louis has a very short leash here. They’ve given him the benefit of the doubt up to this point (he was very solid early in his career) but I get the feeling they will roll the dice will another long snapper if St. Louis botches another snap in the coming weeks.

* Kickoffs – Shayne Graham has a weak leg on kickoffs and the Bengals don’t do a good job of covering kicks. Also, I don’t like Andre Caldwell as a kickoff returner (maybe Bernard Scott will continue to get more opportunities in that role).

Other than that, I love everything about what the Bengals do on kickoffs (I’ll be here all week).

* Offensive line – It hasn’t been a weakness up to this point, but I still have some concerns looking at the long term.

First of all, the Bengals need to figure out what they want to do on the left side of the line. I think Andrew Whitworth belongs at left guard, not left tackle. However, due to the holdout to rookie first-round pick Andre Smith (and his ensuing foot injury) Whitworth had to change positions this year.

Nate Livings began the season as the starting LG – but was injured in the opener – and Evan Mathis has started the last three games. Both of those players should be backups. So, the best thing for the Bengals would be for Smith to get healthy and have him lock down the left tackle position. (Or move Anthony Collins to LT and insert Smith at RT.) That would allow Whitworth to move to left guard and then the Bengals would have their five best linemen on the field together.

Hopefully Smith is coming along mentally so he’s ready to play once he’s healthy. It sounds like he won’t be ready until at least after the Bengals’ bye week (which is week eight).

Also, center is still a minor concern, although Kyle Cook has looked decent thus far. I still need to see a full season out of him before I’m sold that he’s a legitimate starting center in the NFL. If Cook fails, or gets hurt, the next man in would be rookie fourth-round pick Jonathan Luigs.

 

Reds’ strong finish: Meaningless or meaningful?

The Reds finished the season with a 78-84 record and were 20-11 to close out the year.

This kind of reminds me of all those years the Bengals would fall out of the race early, only to rebound and run off a string of wins (kind of like last year).

So, was it just a meaningless run to finish out the season, or is there now more optimism for 2010 because of the way the club closed out ’09?

Well, one thing is clear: The emergence of Homer Bailey as a legit Major League starting pitcher was the story of the second half of the season for the Reds.

Bailey, 23, finished the season 8-5 with a 4.53 ERA. In 113.1 innings (20 starts) he gave up 115 hits, walked 52 and struck out 86.

Those overall numbers were solid, but it doesn’t begin to tell the tale of Bailey’s turnaround.

Over his last nine starts this season, he was 6-1 with a 1.70 ERA. Those numbers have Reds’ fans very excited for next season after many people had written Bailey off.

Edinson Volquez will miss most of next season due to Tommy John surgery, however the top four of the Reds’ rotation is shaping up to be solid next year with Johnny Cueto, Bronson Arroyo, Aaron Harang and Bailey.

The Reds need to find a No. 5 starter because Volquez won’t return until at least August. I like Micah Owings in the bullpen, so I think the team should look to trade for or sign a No. 5 pitcher this offseason.

Most importantly, the Reds need to find a shortstop this offseason. Paul Janish is clearly not the long-term answer. He’s a bit overrated defensively (he’s good not great) and he has a terrible stick. Need to find a real starting SS and leave Janish to be the backup.

The Reds also need to sign a catcher (they might just re-sign Ramon Hernandez and go with a platoon of Hernandez and Ryan Hanigan again) and they might look to sign a right-handed hitting left fielder. Then again, with money tight, they might just stand pat in the outfield and go with a mix of Jonny Gomes, Wladamir Balentien and Laynce Nix (who is left-handed).

So, it was good to see the Reds finish strong, but they still have a lot of work to do this offseason if they want to be contenders next year. And judging by their lack of moves last offseason, I’m not very optimistic it will happen.

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