It was very difficult for me to identify a true glaring weakness for the Bengals.
The safety play is suspect and last year, the passing game was a huge problem. But I think the supporting cast around the safeties will be strong enough to pull that position group through, and Cincinnati did a lot this offseason to address the weaponry in its passing attack. But the Bengals’ special teams have me concerned.
Although their punt team is strong, the Bengals were below average with their kickoff coverage and in kicking field goals. Only 10 teams were worse than Cincinnati in kickoff return average. The Bengals were exceptional with their punt returns last year, but managed only one return for a touchdown during the 2009 season.
Shayne Graham is gone, but Mike Nugent and Dave Rayner are slated to battle it out for the place-kicking gig. Graham struggled getting his kickoffs deep enough, but Nugent is no better in that department. Frankly, neither Nugent nor Rayner inspires confidence. Kevin Huber will be the punter once again. At 24, Huber looks to have a bright future after putting together a strong 2009 campaign.
The additions of Jordan Shipley and Adam Jones should bolster the return units as a whole, and the lead kickoff return man, Bernard Scott, should be better in this department in his second season in the NFL. Scott already has shown a niche for kickoff returns.
Overall, the Bengals look strong from top to bottom. They addressed their weaknesses in the passing game and their young core on defense is a year older. And there are certainly teams that are worse off with their special teams. But in a division that stands to be extremely competitive, special-teams deficiencies could be an issue.