Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

June 19, 2013

KYLE HOBSTETTER: The Bengals on 'Hard Knocks' could be a lot of fun

Kyle Hobstetter
The Independent

ASHLAND — Gone are the antics of Chad Johnson. Or is it still Ocho Cinco?

Injury-stricken quarterback Carson Palmer took his ball and went to California. Then was shoved to Arizona.

Roy Williams, Chase Coffman, Chinedum Ndukwe, Reggie Kelly and unfortunately, Chris Henry, are all gone.

All those players were featured on 2009 season of HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” which focuses on an NFL team’s preseason.  

But, along with those players previously mentioned, a myriad of others on that roster are gone, too.  Only 13 are on the roster now that was in Cincinnati in 2009.

Then the Bengals were picked to go nowhere in a tough AFC North. They ended up sweeping the division.

Fast-forward to 2013, the Bengals, who are pegged as major contenders in the AFC this year, will hit the small screen again as the focus for the latest installment of “Hard Knocks.”

And why not I ask you?

This team has all the makings of television drama at its best — even though it will still not be as good as 2009 which was, honestly, a team full of nutcases.

But this year could be just as good as the past and, in my opinion, be as good as any previous season of the “Hard Knock”s franchise.

Here are some reasons why I’ll be watching in August when the show is scheduled to air.

‰James Harrison will be the star of the show. The veteran linebacker is not afraid to speak his mind.

He likes to hit people and admits he doesn’t care if they get hurt. He has called the commissioner of the NFL a devil.

He’s challenged television analysts to a fight and even said the Patriots stole his team’s signals and cost him a Super Bowl title.

He’s the closest thing the NFL has to an outlaw and he will have cameras on him at all times.

If that doesn’t scream star than how about this quote from an interview in Men’s Journal next to a picture of Harrison holding two guns.

“My rep is James Harrison, mean son of a (expletive) who loves hitting the hell out of people.”

‰ The saga of Andre Smith. In 2009 the problem was getting “Tubby” signed and in shape before the season happened.

This year it will be about just getting him to show up.

Already this year, Smith has missed a mandatory minicamp and was fined by coach Marvin Lewis.

And, according to Lewis, Smith is working out personal issues.

I may have not liked Smith during the early part of his career, but he has worked his tail off to become one of the best right tackles in the NFL.

But, there was a reason no other team who wanted to sign him this past offseason, so he’s back with the Bengals.

Maybe the “Hard Knocks” camera crews can find out what wrong with the big guy.

‰ The assistant coaches could be on the move. When the Baltimore Ravens were on “Hard Knocks” in 2001, it gave many their first-look at defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis.

Two years later, Lewis reached a deal for his first head coaching gig in Cincinnati.

Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer could have the same path as their boss if the Bengals season ends well.

Both coaches are already on NFL teams’ radars, as both had interviews with several team in the offseason. Both were passed over and stayed with the Bengals.

But maybe with more exposure, and more success, Zimmer and Gruden could find themselves with head coaching positions at the beginning of next season.

‰ Young talent everywhere. In just his third year, wide receiver A.J. Green has become one of the elite players in the league.

Quarterback Andy Dalton had led the team to two playoff berths in his first two years in the league. And people around Cincinnati are questioning if he’s good enough to get them further.

Top draft picks Tyler Eifert and Giovani Bernard are expected to add an explosive element to the Bengals’ offense.

Geno Atkins, who is arguably the best defensive tackle in the NFL right now, is in a contract year and on the verge of making the big bucks.

Carlos Dunlap, Vontaze Burfict and Rey Maualuga will look to make an impact for the Cincinnati defense that has grown each year.

Former first-round draft pick Aaron Maybin — who was drafted by the Bills — is looking to rebound with the Bengals.

There is so much good young talent, HBO could just flip a coin on who they want to cover and come up with a good story.

If I would be a guessing man, “Hard Knocks” will feature, predominantly, Dalton, Eifert and Atkins with minor stories on the rest of the guys.

‰ And finally the owenership and the front office.  Since I was born, the Bengals have been the main football team I’ve followed. The last time they won a playoff game I was 3 years old.

Safe to say, I don’t remember it.

In the league there are two owners who have no general managers and make decisions solely on their whims and hunches.

One is Dallas’ Jerry Jones, who did win some Super Bowls in the 1990s and made the Cowboys “America’s team.”

The other is the Bengals’ Mike Brown, who is basically despised in his own city. He forced the city to build a new stadium or he’d move the team.

He’s made decisions based on keeping the team under budget — the Bengals have the most cap room left for a team that’s a contender.

The rest of the front office is mainly family, and very close friends. And if the cameras are able to be around him, maybe we’ll get an inside look at the man so many have hated over the years.

Maybe the best way to put it came from Bengal great Boomer Esiason, who said he was a nice man who is in over his head.

With cameras everywhere it will be easy to see how far in over his head he actually is.

KYLE HOBSTETTER can be reached at khobstetter@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2658.