To Draft, or Not to Draft, a Linebacker

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After David Pollack's reported "lean" towards retirement, I thought it would be good to reexamine the team's linebackers -- and NOT talk about that jerkoff that runs around with Oil Slick's.

Let's first realize the obvious. It wasn't expected that David Pollack would drive into Georgetown, throw on some pads and start slamming bodies like a rackin' machen. There would be a season or two of discovering a comfort level like Palmer and his knee in 2006. So in most ways, the Bengals linebackers haven't shifted much in terms of managing the depth chart of their 53-man roster -- with the lone exception being Odell's reinstatement.

As of now, there's 11 linebackers signed with Cincinnati through 2008 -- five signed one-year deals this off-season. Rashad Jeanty, Ahmad Brooks and Dhani Jones are projected as the team's starting linebackers in a base 4-3 set (my assumption). Odell Thurman, if he shines during training camp, could unseat Brooks or join him over the middle in a base 3-4 set. In fact, if Odell plays to a tenth of what he did in 2005, I expect him to unseat Brooks anyway. I like big scary linebackers that play the role of bulldozer blowing up the "A-gap" blitzing the quarterback. But it would be safe to say that Brooks is still playing off his potential rather than his production.

Guys like Darryl Blackstock, Brandon Johnson, Roy Manning, Corey Mays and Jim Maxwell will compete for a roster spot and, most likely, be special teams players, barring injury to the starters. Eric Henderson, if all goes to plan which it never does, would likely become the first outside linebacker that either backs up the outside, or simply wins that position out-right. Corey Mays is also a solid backup.

With Odell Thurman returning. There's questions whether the Bengals will draft a linebacker early now that Odell Thurman in the mix. The obvious is, no. The team is basically set with linebackers and bodies for depth. Though I don't think that's a priority anymore. I still believe that if the team can't draft Sedrick Ellis, then drafting Keith Rivers early won't be a problematic choice. Though other choices could be just as beneficial. Our outside linebackers, while solid in their own right, are hardly the kings of talent. If we can upgrade through the draft, then we must. And granted, I know little of Rivers. Never much cared to watch USC games -- it was broadcasted late and these 30-year old bones are snapping awfully loud these days. So my question is this. Making the point that the team still needs to upgrade at linebacker, and if Ellis is gone, would drafting Keith Rivers first help the team's overall talent at linebacker to significantly improve the position? Or would the team be better off drafting elsewhere?

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