The Cincinnati Bengals will begin their mandatory minicamp Tuesday. Over the next three days, we should have a good indication of where the reigning AFC North champions stand heading into training camp.
Here are five key questions for Cincinnati:
1. How will the passing game look?
Analysis: When the Bengals were at their best offensively, quarterback Carson Palmer led an explosive unit that was able to throw the football all over the field. Cincinnati won 10 games last year. But the team did it with a run-oriented offense and an inconsistent passing game, particularly late in the year. The Bengals added receiver Antonio Bryant and highly-touted draft picks Jermaine Gresham and Jordan Shipley to help. A consistently explosive passing game would help the Bengals take the next step in 2010.
2. Is Ochocinco focused?
Analysis: This offseason, Pro Bowl receiver Chad Ochocinco has done everything but work on football with the Bengals. He participated in two television shows: "Dancing With The Stars" and a VH1 dating show that will air later this summer. It will be interesting to see how sharp Ochocinco is in his first practices with the team since last season. Palmer recently called Ochocinco out for not being around. But a great minicamp by No. 85 would put most of those concerns to rest.
3. How will the secondary shake out?
Analysis: The Bengals have a lot of competition in the secondary. There are four veteran safeties competing for two starting spots. Chris Crocker, Chinedum Ndukwe, Roy Williams and Gibril Wilson all have different strengths and weaknesses, and the players who perform the best will start in Mike Zimmer's defense in Week 1. The third cornerback spot also is a position to watch for Cincinnati. We will get to that in the next item.
Analysis: Cincinnati made two controversial signings this offseason with Adam Jones and Matt Jones. The pair were out of football last season because of issues off the field. Adam Jones, a former first-round pick, is competing for the third cornerback spot. The Bengals struggled defending the slot last year, and they hope Adam Jones can shake off the rust and be a good complementary piece to starters Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall. Matt Jones is battling for a roster spot with a deep group of receivers.
5. Who's the kicker?
Analysis: Longtime Bengals kicker Shayne Graham recently signed a free-agent contract with the Baltimore Ravens. Therefore, Cincinnati no longer has the comfort of knowing its kicker heading into the season. Dave Rayner and Mike Nugent will compete in minicamp and training camp to replace Graham. Both have been journeymen, but only one kicker will find a home in Cincinnati.