First place Bengals powered by familiar cats

Cincinnati Bengals, Rey Maualuga, Keith Rivers
What “Hard knocks” jinx?  The Cincinnati Bengals spent their summer partnered with HBO to provide a guided tour of their facilities.  It was the public’s opportunity to peer through the window at the bumbling misguided misfits of 2008, while patiently awaiting the new season.  But with that window now closed and stadiums open, these Bengals are having the last laugh.  Now midway through the schedule, and fresh off a season sweep of the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati sits atop the AFC central, still without a blemish in divisional play.

Shambles to success is hardly a new story in any sport.  We’ve seen the turnarounds all too often.  But when you look at the Bengals, and the personnel that has come and gone, you will see some familiar cats powering their revival.

No stranger to the Empire, Carson Palmer has returned to playing with the same confidence that earned him the 2002 Heisman Trophy at USC, and looks very much like the quarterback that guided Cincinnati to their first winning season in 15 years to earn a playoff spot in 2005.  Though he’s yet to record a 300 yard passing performance, Palmer has completed sixty-one percent of his passes, striking when his team needs him most.

But if there is one particular area that can be credited to the Bengals improvement, it would be the defense.  And to be more specific, it’s their ability to stop the run.  Last season’s unit allowed opponents 120 rushing yards per game.  The current group ranks third in the NFL, stingily holding the opposition to 83.9 yards per contest.

Among the group designated to stall rushing attacks, you will find three players that once competed for Pete Carroll’s program.  Defensive end Frostee Rucker Joined the Bengals in 2006, after winning 2 National Championships in Southern California and playing for a third.  In the 2008 NFL draft, Cincinnati selected Keith Rivers out of USC.  In Rivers, they acquired another National champion and college football All-American.  And in the most recent draft, they reunited Rivers with his former teammate, Rey Maualuga.

USC, Rey Maualuga, Keith Rivers

Each has transitioned well to the NFL.  And meshing with other roster players, these collegiate champions have contributed to transforming a team in turmoil to one that now presents a respectable opponent.  Win forever, and always compete…Fight On!

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~ by Anthony on November 10, 2009.

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