Bengals Week in Review (Steelers Week): Big questions at RB and trading Chad is a bad idea.

What Kenny Watson did against the Jets, is two-fold. You can't bench a guy that recorded 130 yards rushing, three touchdowns with a FedEx Ground Player of the Week award. If you did, it brings the negative discussion of favoritism with earnings being the primary justification to start someone. On the other hand, the old argument that you don't lose your starting job because of injury, will seriously be challenged.

Thinking ahead: There are four running backs generating four different questions heading into 2008.

Will Rudi Johnson be the feature back he used to be?

The general consensus after 2006 was that Rudi Johnson's production went downhill fast. The numbers do not generate the impression of sudden degradation. But he wasn't the same running back that set franchise season-rushing records in 2004 and 2005. His touchdown production was there. In the past three seasons (not including 2007), Rudi Johnson's 36 rushing touchdowns is fourth to LaDainian Tomlinson (63), Shaun Alexander (50) and Larry Johnson (46).

The last time Rudi Johnson missed games because of injury was the first three in 2003 recovering from a quad strain. This season, he's sat two of the past three games with limited work (four carries) against Kansas City. His touchdown production, even if he returns to form, is likely to drop dramatically.

Running backs in the NFL have a moment in their careers where they hit a brick wall. It's not just degradation. It's a moment they suddenly become useless. The beating and pounding accumulate to a point that their career drops so far from their peak, that they're hardly recognizable. It's just the nature of the position.

One has to ask: Has Rudi Johnson hit that brick wall?

Is Chris Perry doomed for a career plagued by injury?

Chris Perry was a big reason for the offense's success during their only playoff run during the Marvin Lewis era. It wasn't just his production though. He was a great out for Carson Palmer under pressure. Only Rudi Johnson (360) had more touches than Perry (112). A quarter of his rush attempts resulted in first downs (15/64). The guy has a threat to make defenses account for his 5.4 yards per touch (rush and receive).

That was one season. Perry has played two others.

In what I believe was a move to pressure Rudi Johnson to sign a contact in 2004, the Bengals drafted Chris Perry. Sitting the opener (Jets) after suffering a hamstring injury in the final preseason game (Colts), Perry played two games (Steelers, Browns). Then he suffered a sports hernia in practice and didn't see the field again that season. After 2005, we thought of Perry as a threat that would repeat 2005. He started 2006 on PUP with ankle and knee injuries. After playing six games, Perry dislocated his right ankle against Cleveland and didn't see the field again that season.

He's still waiting to be removed from PUP in 2007.

Perry has the talent. But the question is similar to Chris Henry, with much different scenarios. Is Chris Perry dependable enough?

Is Kenny Irons destined for the Ki-Jana Carter fate -- or the Carson Palmer miracle?

I only offer that analogy for one reason. Ki-Jana Carter in 1995 dislocated his knee cap during preseason in his rookie season, essentially ending whatever potency his career would project. He went from running back of the future drawing Emmitt Smith comparisons to situational running back. During his rookie season this preseason, Kenny Irons tore his ACL in his left knee.

Luckily, Irons fate has yet to be known. Medical advances have leaped so much that Carson Palmer tore his MCL and ACL in January '06 and didn't miss a game -- or a beat -- the following season. Hard work and medical magic helped Palmer recover at an astonishing rate surprising nearly everyone. More encouraging, Irons only tore his ACL and has nearly a full season to recover. The book on Irons has yet to be written. But Carter still weights on the mind until forced otherwise.

Is Kenny Watson our best running back, injured or not?

Here's one thing about Kenny Watson that's very respectable: he's by far the team's best blocking running back. Now, Watson is essentially pushing Rudi Johnson out of the way in the court of public opinion. It's simple. Watson is producing. Rudi isn't. If there was a leading candidate to start 2008, based on 2007, the answer is obvious: Kenny Watson. But most of you already know of Watson's successes stepping up this season.

Irons and Perry are hurt. There's nothing they can do about that. Rudi Johnson's production has dropped. His running style has shifted beyond his talents. Kenny Watson has caused the knowns and unknowns at running back to become chaotic. He's the biggest variable right now in the backfield. All things considered, with the talent at running back that we have, it's not a bad deal to anticipate next season.

Why the hell are you talking about next season? Alright, let's go to the next game and review this week.

Steelers/Bengals

The status report for both teams.

Cincinnati Bengals
Out: T Willie Anderson (knee), LB Ahmad Brooks (groin), LB Caleb Miller (back)
Doubtful: RB Rudi Johnson (hamstring)
Questionable: WR Antonio Chatman (hamstring)
Probable: S Dexter Jackson (hip), WR Chad Johnson (ankle), LB Corey Mays (hamstring)

Pittsburgh Steelers
Out: DE Aaron Smith (knee)
Doubtful: S Ryan Clark (abdomen), CB Bryant McFadden (ankle)
Probable: LB Clint Kriewaldt (shoulder)

This game will determine the entire season.

I really don't believe this game is about the rivalry. It's beating the division leaders and saving the season. If the Bengals win Sunday, they are one game out -- realistically saving their season with critical offensive talent coming back from injury and suspension. If they lose, then the Bengals are realistically looking at playing spoilers. It's bad that a game of this importance has to come so early in the season. But the chance is there. Even though no one is giving them that chance to win.

Done be funny right der dar, Uncle Dad Fattie.

Thanks, Dave.

The return of Chris Henry, soon.

The speculation is that Chris Henry is on the path towards readmitance. Chancellor Roger Goodell, orgasm-ing with his international homies, still has to approve reinstatement. But the general assumption with Henry returning to practice this week is that he's well on his way to returning November 11 against Baltimore and letting Henry practice so early was a sign of good faith.

The trade of Chad Johnson is a bad argument.

Word got out that Chad Johnson is being shopped by the Bengals front office. That word has yet to be verified after Chris Mortensen started the controversy last Sunday on ESPN's NFL Countdown. Fans are frustrated. The media won't let it go. By Chad's admission, teammates don't understand and he believes there's truth to the trade rumor.

Regardless. If you trade Chad Johnson, you send our offense backwards. For most teams, that's acceptable because the team is more balanced. We're the furthest from balance as it gets -- like the separation of billions of light years . We have no reason to believe a high draft pick will result in any defensive help. Chad Johnson is the team's best offensive player not named Carson Palmer. T.J. Houshmandzadeh benefits. And Chris Henry is too undependable to translate into a trusted player.

There is no good that comes out of trading Chad Johnson unless you plan on rebuilding the infrastructure of the team's philosophy. We are offensive heavy. We lose that advantage losing Chad with a dramatically reduced chance to do much of anything. Rebuilding is one thing. Trading him simply because people are frustrated with him expecting to get defensive help is believing this team can acquire said defensive help. Think of it this way. What talented and play-making defensive player has been drafted in the past five drafts that's playing this season? None that hold close to the same value for the defensive unit like Chad Johnson does for the offense.

I respect anyone that makes the argument. I just don't agree that trading Chad will solve anything. Chad Johnson is one of the most productive players in the NFL. He's hardly the problem the Bengals are facing right now. Once the team wins, this fades away into the file "we're ticked off, so we need to blame the problems on one of the team's best players." But I do concede that the problem could be an issue of lockerroom chemistry. But we really don't know that right now, do we?

Fantastic Four Against the Steelers
Primer Against the Steelers

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