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Getting to Know the Enemy: Cincy Jungle Talks About the Improved Bengals

I was pleased to be joined by Josh Kirkendall, our Cincinnati Bengals affiliate, who run Cincy Jungle, to preview Sunday's game. Enjoy!

Chris: "I'm confused. I thought the better option for the Bengals was to get rid of Chad "Ochocinco" and keep T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Instead, they only have Ochocinco and are looking like a real good football team. Has Ochocinco's attitude improved so far this season?"

Josh: "Keeping Houshmandzadeh and letting Chad Ochocinco go was the conventional wisdom. Chad had just recorded his worst season, suffered numerous injuries and with his rambling about being traded in the offseason, we had all simply thought he was done. Chad’s attitude this past offseason was a complete, and shocking, turnaround.

He came into Training Camp in the best shape of his career. He regained his spirit and set a goal for himself to erase 2008. While the numbers don’t show it yet, his reversal includes a team-oriented mindset. When asked what his touchdown celebration could be against the Browns, he simply said, "I really haven't thought about it. Right now, my focus is just making sure we get the 'W' this week. As we continue to win, the fun will continue to creep back in." In truth, this is the best we’ve seen Chad since he’s been here."

Chris: "Cedric Benson has been a pleasant surprise in the Bengals running game. Is this something that can be attributed to him, or has the offensive line improved to provide him his opportunities?"

Josh: "You could probably say it’s a combination of both. In terms of Benson, he’s hitting the point of attack much quicker. His vision is better and he’s finishing off runs with good strength and a low center of gravity. He’s also a little deceptive. While strong on the inside, he has shown that he can burn a defense on the edges. The offensive line is improved. Four of the five starting linemen either didn’t start last year, or started at another position. They are much stronger as a rushing unit than in pass protection. Everything about this team’s rushing offense has improved after last year’s 29th ranked rushing offense."

Chris: "After year's of the Bengals defense widely being considered a joke with a lot of "busts", what has changed that the defensive unit is now playing at the top of its game?"

Josh: "Last year we said that our best offseason pickup was Mike Zimmer, the Bengals’ defensive coordinator. He came in with an iron fist and the defensive players responded favorably. Plus, we’ve acquired decent talent in the past two years, ranging from Keith Rivers, Rey Maualuga, Brandon Johnson, Chris Crocker, Roy Williams, Pat Sims, Antwan Odom and so on. This year, Zimmer wanted to focus on rushing the passer. Through three games, the Bengals lead the league with 10 quarterback sacks."

Chris: "Do you fear Derek Anderson more than Brady Quinn?"

Josh: "Oh, absolutely. We still remember 2007. After an impressive win to start the season against the Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football, the Bengals got caught up in the famous shootout against the Browns. Anderson threw for 328 yards passing and five touchdowns."

Chris: "Have a prediction for this Sunday?"

Josh: "I want the Bengals to dominate -- is that surprising? But the Bengals are known for falling into trap games against struggling teams. I normally would call this game close each time we play because of the instate rivalry implications. But as the years go by, I see less and less of that. As much I think we look better on paper, I’m more worried that the Bengals could struggle after coming off an emotional victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers last week.

I call it a Bengals win, but close."