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A Few Good Questions With....Josh Kirkendall,


At last, Week 1 of the 2009 NFL Season is upon us.  No better time to reach out and talk to some of the other outstanding bloggers here at SBNation.  Up first, of course, is Josh Kirkendall, head man over at CincyJungle.  He was kind enough to answer all of your questions in a FanPost and now he gets to answer mine.

Want to see what he asked me?  Check it out HERE!

Milehighreport_small_medium I have to admit, Hard Knocks has been must-see TV, for me at least.  What has been your thought son the show and getting an inside look at your favorite team?  How has this changed your impressions of how Mike Brown runs the team and Marvin Lewis coaches it?

Cincyjungle_m_mediumI've loved it. Seeing the coaches talk about players in meetings and how they coached was very enlightening. I think the best part was watching Marvin Lewis scream and shout at his players; something we've never seen, because Lewis is typically the cool cat in public. I really liked how other people got a first hand look at Chad Ochocinco; he's not that cocky diva receiver that most people see. He's much more laid back off-the-field, very funny and friendly with mostly everyone. Most of what we saw, as Bengals fans, we really liked.

Then there are the front office moments where we just shake our head; sometimes violently. See, we've known for some time that this front office struggles (understatement of the year nomination?). However, to actually see it, to have everything we believed confirmed, was like a punch in the gut. What's worse is that we don't see it improving and the only way we might sustain consistent success, rather than those once-in-a-blue moon seasons, is becoming lucky as hell.

Milehighreport_small_mediumChad OchoCinco has been on his best behavior and seems committed.  What are your impressions of Chad and is he still a Top-5 WR in the NFL?

Cincyjungle_m_mediumThere are a lot of very good young receivers coming up through the NFL. Guys like Marvin Harrison and Torry Holt are fading and if you asked me this question last year, I would have said without a doubt that Chad was one of those guys fading away. Even though his much publicized campaign to get traded last year was all the rage, he was dealing with several injuries; his ankle and shoulder. In his 30s, you had to wonder if his body was wearing down.

Most of us were ready to be done with him this offseason. With his friend T.J. Houshmandzadeh leaving, why not let Chad leave too so we can rebuild the league's worst offense? Decimated by injury, we finished last season 4-11-1. Furthermore, we haven't had a true rebuilding season since 2005. We've been turning over personnel in pieces since, but nothing dramatic in the sense of needing to rebuild new foundations. With youth on the roster to replenish the veteran receivers, the team could have set 2009 as rebuilding year; conclusively, Chad leaving Cincinnati was a very popular argument for the past year.

However, none of that ever came to pass. The Bengals elected to keep building atop of what they had, replacing components here and there and signing veterans to fill in gaps, while drafting quality talent, bringing a semi-rebuilding process together.

Then Chad Ochocinco surprised us all. In the offseason, he started training at a boxing gym to keep in shape. When he came into camp, he was as fit, if not more, than ever. He started working with the offense, learning a system that reportedly underwent radical offseason changes. During practices and scrimmages, he looked faster, quicker, more agile and his routes were crisp. He has admitted that 2008 was embarrassing for him; both on and off the field. He desperately wants to amend that.

If he's not a top-five receiver this year, he's close. 

Milehighreport_small_mediumIs Carson Palmer healthy?  He has missed alot of practice time, does that concern you?

Cincyjungle_m_mediumI think the injuries he's suffered have passed. His elbow has been healthy since he came into training camp. He suffered a mild high ankle sprain against the New Orleans Saints during the first week of preseason and hasn't played since. If any of those preseason games were in the regular season, he's playing. The team took a precautionary approach with Palmer to allow him time to heal on his own, rather than risking any additional injury to that ankle. I think the more troubling question is: can he stay healthy? We've lost our quarterback too many times not to hold our breath when he doesn't jump off the turf.

But don't you worry Broncos fans. He will be ready this Sunday.

Milehighreport_small_mediumI have said that Palmer has never really recovered(mentally) from the knee injury in the 2005 playoffs.  What have you seen from him since his return?

Cincyjungle_m_mediumHe's admitted to it. Two things have stood out from Palmer's play since suffering the knee injury. One, he hasn't stepped into his throws with consistency, which has caused some inaccuracy on his deep ball. In truth, some inaccuracy for him is still more accurate than most quarterbacks in the league. Two, when the rush gets close, he tends to throw the football with a bit more anxiety; some times on his back foot. He doesn't lose his touch as much as he may throw into coverage, making inadvisable decisions. During arguably his best season in 2005, he threw 32 touchdowns against only 12 interceptions. In 2006 and 2007, he threw a combined 33 interceptions.

I think the injury caused some hesitation in the pocket. In truth, I believe that with each passing the season, the threat of injury his knee again was slowly diminished in his mind. Aside from having a little rust, he's looked great this preseason and claims that he doesn't worry about injuring his knee. Now, if everything else can come together and provide some help... John?

Milehighreport_small_mediumWhat does the offensive line look like?  Andre Smith finally signed, then got hurt.  Is there depth behind him?  Is this a concern heading into last season?

Cincyjungle_m_mediumThis time last year, the Bengals released Willie Anderson, who would go on to start for Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship game. Left tackle Levi Jones was on his last wheel, and that tire was all but deflated. Center Eric Ghiacuic was one of the worst centers in the league and Stacy Andrews, the guy that replaced Anderson, would go on to reportedly give up 9.5 sacks in 2008. All of those guys are gone now. In their place is Andrew Whitworth at left tackle, who was the left guard last year, Kyle Cook at center, Nate Livings at left guard and Anthony Collins at right tackle. Most of these guys have performed well enough during the preseason to be called "upgrades".

Andre Smith was destined to be the team's starting right tackle. Of course, contract negotiations pushed back his timeline and then a broken foot will likely keep him out for the first month of the season; that's a generous estimation too. If any of our starting offensive linemen were to fall to injury, then we become substantially nervous.

Our starting center, left guard and right tackle have started a combined 12 games in their respective NFL careers. No matter how you spin it, these guys are young and, for the most part, inexperienced. I think they're strong enough to hold their own. However, inexperience will likely show.

Milehighreport_small_mediumWhat surprise player made the team this pre-season?  Surprise cut?

Cincyjungle_m_mediumSince we got an inside look at the team on Hard Knocks, plus all of the regular coverage that we're charged with, I don't think any one roster move was a surprise. I think it was surprising that the team took on four running backs and stayed with Jeremi Johnson. Chris Pressley, the fullback out of Wisconsin, quickly became a fan favorite and Jeremi has been known to a have a frustrating weight issue for several seasons now. Pressley cleared waivers and he's with the team on the practice squad.

Milehighreport_small_mediumLastly, which Bengal player have Broncos fans never heard do you think will have an impact on Sunday?

Cincyjungle_m_mediumThis is a tough one, for several reasons. One, I'm not sure how much people know, or don't know, about the team's personnel after many of the lower-tier players were presented on Hard Knocks. However, my first instinct is to go with rookie running back Bernard Scott. In two seasons with Abilene Christian, Scott posted 4,321 yards rushing, 5,712 all-purpose yards, 93 receptions for 1,391 yards receiving and 63 total touchdowns. Granted, the competition wasn't like facing the SEC or the Big Ten. Still, impressive. And he's impressed the team enough to draft him in the sixth round, earning the backup gig behind Cedric Benson. He might the steal of the draft.