NFL 2013: 5 Storylines For Cincinnati Bengals On HBO’s Hard Knocks
5 Story Lines for Cincinnati Bengals on HBO's Hard Knocks
It appears the Cincinnati Bengals will once again be featured on the popular HBO series Hard Knocks: Training Camp. Although no official announcement has been made, USA Today Sports has confirmed that an arrangement is indeed in place.
The show chronicles the lives of NFL players as they work their way through the trials and tribulations of training camp. NFL fans love the show thanks to the unfiltered look they get at the daily operations of one NFL team. HBO’s cameras are in team meetings, coaches meeting, and perhaps most dramatically, in meetings where the GM has to tell players they’ve been cut.
The Bengals were featured on the hit show show in 2009 and went on the win the AFC North with a 10-6 record. While some teams find the all-access nature of the show a distraction, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis certainly knows what to expect. In addition to the 2009 appearance, he also was a part of the first season of the show in 2001, when he was the defensive coordinator for the defending Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens.
While some teams prefer not to have the cameras rolling as they work through their arduous training camps, Lewis is probably confident that he has a mature team that can handle the additional spotlight. Also, it’s good publicity for young stars that are trying to make a name for themselves. Quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green are two players that could become household names as a result of the attention.
There are always compelling storylines to watch throughout the five-week show, and although they are sometimes hard to predict, here’s a look at five that could surface as the show begins this August.
5.) Can Rookies Tyler Eifert and Giovani Bernard Earn Significant Playing Time?
The series often focuses on the difficult transition rookies have to make as they move from the college game to the NFL. This year, the Bengals will have two prominent newcomers, tight end Tyler Eifert and running back Giovani Bernard.
The Bengals used their first two picks in the 2013 NFL Draft to add weapons to an offense on the verge of becoming elite. Eifert, the first-round selection out of Notre Dame, is expected to contribute right away, but the question will be, in what manner?
With incumbent tight end Jermaine Gresham still around, Eifert might be used more on the perimeter than on the inside. Or perhaps they’ll utilize more two-tight end sets in the same way the New England Patriots have. Regardless, Hard Knocks will give fans their first look at the Bengals' intentions for Eifert.
Bernard, a second round pick from North Carolina, might have a tougher time earning playing time. For one, he’ll be behind BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who, although unspectacular, is consistent and reliable. Also, the learning curve for rookie running backs in the NFL is pretty steep. The terminology is much more sophisticated, and knowing the pass protections is often the most challenging aspect of earning reps.
However, his natural talents running the ball are likely to earn him a look during training camp. He’s much more of a home run threat than the plodding Green-Ellis, and his playmaking ability will be something to follow this August.
4.) Andre Smith (Again)
As a rookie, Andre Smith was a central figure in the first season the Bengals were on Hard Knocks, thanks in part to his well-publicized holdout. Eventually, he was signed in August, but the show revealed the ugliness of contract negotiations.
This time around, Smith might be featured for an entirely different reason. He missed three weeks of voluntary workouts recently because of personal problems and despite being expected at mandatory minicamp this past week, was absent yet again. He was fined for missing the three days of camp and remains a question mark heading into July.
It’s highly unlikely he’ll miss training camp as the fines for missing increase, but it’s a story line that Bengals fans are all too familiar with.
3.) Outspoken Linebackers
The Bengals have quite the collection of headline-making linebackers who will certainly add flavor to Hard Knocks this summer. And as if they weren’t in the news enough, they added former Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison to the fold this offseason.
Harrison is a brash, outspoken headhunter who has drawn the ire of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for his violent hits. He’s been fined over $100,000 dollar for such hits and cemented his reputation as a dirty player by being voted the most dangerous player in the league by players in a Sports Illustrated poll. With the Steelers on the schedule twice this season, it’s safe to assume Harrison will have some bulletin board material for them thanks to interviews on Hard Knocks.
Another possible storyline could focus on two other linebackers with legal trouble, Ray Maualuga and Vontaze Burfict. Maualuga was a disappointment in 2012, often exposed as a terrible pass defender in the middle of the Bengals 4-3 scheme. Off the field, he hasn’t been much better. In his short time in Cincinnati, Maualuga has had a drunken driving charge and had charges of assault dropped on him after a fight in a bar. If his play doesn’t improve, his days as Bengal could be numbered.
On the flip side, Burfict was a revelation for the Bengals last season. As their primary WILL linebacker, he led the team in tackles after going undrafted in the 2012 draft. His talent has never been in question, just his decision making. He was highly thought of entering his junior season in college, but teams distanced themselves from him after he accrued 17 personal foul penalties in his 35 career games in college.
With these three volatile personalities, something is certainly going to transpire this summer on Hard Knocks. It will be fun to watch.
2.) Exposure for Andy Dalton and A.J. Green
As stated earlier, one of the best aspects of this series is the national recognition it gives to deserving players from lesser-known teams. Andy Dalton and A.J. Green fit that description perfectly. While they aren’t complete unknowns -- fantasy football has made every starter in the league known in some capacity -- they don’t get the recognition they deserve.
Green is quite simply one of the best wide receivers in the league. In two seasons, he has caught 162 passes for 2,407 yards and 18 touchdowns. He’s the focal point of the Bengals' pass game and elicits the attention of every opposing defensive coordinator. He’s tall, fast and athletic, making him virtually unstoppable in single coverage.
Dalton is quickly becoming one of the more underrated quarterbacks in the NFL, leading his team to the playoffs in each of his first two season. As a starter, he’s 19-13 and has led a revitalization of a Bengals offense that was anemic before he took over. He’s struggled in his two playoff appearances, but he has the weapons around him this year to potentially make a deep run.
If nothing else, the rest of the nation will get to see what Bengals fans have for the last two seasons . . . the special relationship between two great young players, Dalton and Green.
1.) The Entertainer: Adam “Pacman” Jones
Jones has been a lightning rod for attention during his checkered NFL career. I’m not going to do a run down of all the legal trouble he’s been in during his career, as most people probably are familiar with his antics.
However, despite being warned about getting into more legal trouble, Jones is apparently at it again, allegedly hitting a woman outside of a bar just last week. He did participate in Bengals camp this week and refused to comment on the allegations.
The drama around Jones is never ending, and although he’s not the dynamic player he once was, he can still play. As a result, he’ll probably be on the Bengals' roster in 2013, making him a leading candidate to be the most entertaining player on Hard Knocks this summer.