That title is awkward, but this is Don’t Give A Care Friday and it’s time to be moving on.
You can’t always focus on the negatives without at least acknowledging some of the positives. Like, for instance, Red Bryant is fully healthy for the first time in a year. He had plantar fasciitis last year that REALLY cut into his being productive. Yes, he played in all the games, but more often than not he was just taking up space as opposed to wreaking havoc like he was in 2011. I’m also told that with the hire of Dan Quinn as D-Coordinator, they’re going to shift Red back to a role that’ll have him in the backfield more, disrupting running plays and all-around getting in the quarterback’s face. It’s all very technical, and I don’t want to go back and research the specifics, but he’ll be lined up in a different gap than he was in 2012 and therefore – with his newfound foot health – he should kick more ass. I’m amazing with words, I know.
Also healthy: James Pancakes Carpenter. The team is giving this 2011 first round pick every opportunity to win that Left Guard spot and, at least in the early going, it looks like he deserves it.
It would be SO HUGE for our running game if we can keep this guy healthy for a full season. I mean, if he lives up to his potential, he could be the best run-blocking guard in football! He’ll be pancaking his way through the NFL like it was an I-Hop all-you-can-eat buffet! And, not for nothing, but if he can lock down the left guard position, that makes it a 3-man contest for right guard with Sweezy, Moffitt, and McQuistan. I think each one of those guys has their flaws, but you gotta like our odds if we’re forced to only play ONE of the three as opposed to two of the three.
On the flipside of the ball, we’ve got Walter Thurmond back and better than ever. They are absolutely RAVING about this guy in the early going of the off-season; some are even saying that he’ll take snaps away from newly-signed nickel corner, Antoine Winfield. Others are saying that Thurmond could even push Browner for a starting cornerback spot! Now, I don’t necessarily think that’ll happen, and I think this team would be wise to ease him back into the gameplan when the shit starts getting real – it would be terrible to count on him to play starter’s minutes, then have to lose him for the season in his first or second game. But, if he IS back, and he CAN stay healthy, then this just boosts our secondary depth tenfold. Essentially, we will have four quality, starting-calibre cornerbacks on this team to go with two Pro Bowl/All Pro-calibre safeties. Are you KIDDING me? Eight years ago, I would have killed for just ONE Pro Bowl/All Pro-calibre member of our secondary!
Thurmond could be a difference-maker. If he becomes what I think he can become, he could turn into a replacement for Browner when he eventually signs with another team because we can’t afford to pay him the kind of money he’ll be looking for.
The biggest question mark – and area of need – on this team is the pass rush. Which is why it would be nice for Chris Clemons to make a miraculous comeback from his ACL surgery. Well, this week, there’s been talk about Clemons being ahead of schedule. There’s been talk of him possibly being ready to go in Week 1. Granted, this is what they were saying about Pancakes last season, and look at what eventually happened. Still, it’s better to hear this than to hear about how he’s behind schedule, or that he’s had a setback, or that doctors are confused as to what’s still wrong.
I refuse to go into this season with the expectation that we’re going to get significant production out of Clemons. My own personal best-case-scenario bar is set mighty low. I’d like for him to continue rehabbing while on the PUP list, then I’d like for him to be reintroduced to the game slowly; maybe sit on the Inactive List for a couple of games while he practices with the team. Then, maybe around week 9 or 10, we get him into some games, playing about 20% of the snaps he played last year. Finally, over the last six games of the year, we build him back up to being a full-time starter for this team, just as it’s hitting its stride and entering the playoffs as the #1 seed in the NFC. If I were God, this is how I’d wield my magical powers. In the Super Bowl, Clemons will come around the edge and blind-side Peyton Manning for the game-clinching fumble with less than two minutes to go in the game.
Finally, this doesn’t have to do with a guy recovering from injury, per se, but it’s injury-related-adjacent. With Anthony McCoy going down, there’s been grumbling by myself (and maybe others) about our tight end situation. As Barney from The Simpsons said (in English):
I’m worried about the beer supply. After this case, and the other case, there’s only one case left!
On the one hand, yeah, we’ve still got a high-quality tight end starting for us in Zach Miller. But, on the other hand, we’ve got nothing but unproven rookies and near-rookies to carry the load in the event that Miller goes down with a significant injury.
Everyone is tapping the speedy Luke Willson – this year’s tall, athletic rookie project – to supplant McCoy as the backup. Well, not so fast. While I’m sure he’ll find a way onto this team, I’m reading about one: Sean McGrath. He could be JUST the guy we’re looking for. Big and bruising, a blocking tight end with the potential and soft hands to make an impact in the red zone. Keep this guy on your radar. He looked solid last year in the pre season and he should only get better from there after a year in the league.
Now, for the things people are talking about where I DON’T give two shits.
Like, for instance, Marshawn Lynch “not being there”. First of all, WHY do we need him there? He’s our starting running back! This has been established! No running back on this team right now is better than Lynch. Hell, aside from Adrian Peterson, no running back in the NFL is better than Lynch right now!
He’s not being lazy, he’s working out on his own. These are VOLUNTARY practices that he’s missing. This isn’t some hold-out for more money or some message he’s trying to send to the team. Would we like to have him there? Sure, fine, whatever. But, do we NEED him there? Of course not! In fact, if you want my opinion, I’d rather he NOT be there.
Think about it, every voluntary practice is another opportunity for the guy to injure himself. Why is that of my concern? Because I’m a worrier. And because his back issues aren’t going away any time soon. He’s missed a game here and there because of his back, and it would be nice to know that one of these young rushers can pick up the slack.
How are we going to find out if they can handle it unless they get a lot of reps in these practices Lynch is skipping?
Also, not for nothing, but remember how we all lionize Walter Jones for all those pre-seasons where he skipped camp because we Franchise Tagged him? Remember all those stories about how he was pulling cars to get in shape for pushing around defensive linemen? Remember how we like all those stories? Especially when he came back to the team a week before the first game and it was like he was never gone?
How about we stop fussing over who’s not there and trust that he’s going to be just fine when we get to the regular season, mmmkay?
I also don’t give a fuck about all the stories coming out about this team being “out of control”. Guys getting arrested, guys being suspended, adderall adderall adderall!
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that back in the day, I used to bash the shit out of the Bengals for all their legal transgressions as an organization out of control. So, you can either call me a homer (which is your right), or you can say that I’ve grown more wise in the years since. After all, you don’t really understand something until it happens to you.
In this case, you don’t really understand that – hey, a team can’t control every single person on a football team at all hours of all days. At this point in the off-season, there are a whopping 90 guys on the team! I’m sure the coaching staff and the organization as a whole is doing everything it can to stem the tide of bad-boy behavior. But, sometimes, players are going to do selfish things. That’s the risk you take. Don’t like it? Hire Tim Ruskell and let him build through character over talent.
Of course, my apathy for these topics of discussion doesn’t make the John Moffitt public urination thing any less funny. It’s just like an episode of Seinfeld!