+ PASSING AND RUNNING GAME. You have to believe that after this weekend, the Cincinnati Bengals successfully offered weapons to Jay Gruden's offense. Mohamed Sanu, a 6-foot-plus possession-style receiver will undoubtedly give A.J. Green relief in the passing game, but adds enough versatility that could play any receiver spot on the field.
The Bengals paired him with fourth-round tight end Orson Charles, perhaps the most balanced tight end on the Bengals right now. Aggression and a mean streak, Charles is also very intelligent (several honor rolls) who quickly mentored younger players with quality character. And no, we don't buy that a college kid busted for a DUI is anything more than a college kid making a mistake without any evidence of a trend (apologies to the self-righteous).
Cincinnati addressed the offensive line acquiring Kevin Zeitler, who is defined as a run-mauler, but hasn't given up a quarterback sack in the final three years at Wisconsin. If one takes an intellectual look at the team's rushing offense, it's logical to focus on the team's poor rush blocking before labeling a "desperate need" at running back. The Bengals obviously took that approach this weekend.
+ THE GUARD AND THE TRADE. The Cincinnati Bengals could have selected Stanford guard David DeCastro at No. 21, a position of need with an intensely popular prospect among Bengals fans. However the team swapped first-round selections with the New England Patriots, acquiring the No. 93 slot and eventually drafting Wisconsin guard Kevin Zeitler at No. 27.
Cincinnati turned their second third-round selection into Clemson defensive tackle Brandon Thompson -- the second defensive tackle after Penn State's Devon Still (at No. 53).
The question that will be asked years from now is how well does Zeitler and Thompson produce, compared to DeCastro, who was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 24. If Zeitler and DeCastro play roughly at a competing level, then it's a foregone conclusion that Cincinnati's acquisition of Thompson grants a significantly favorable grade for the trade -- and the impressive resolve to stick with their draft board.
But again. This is only something that can judged well into their respective careers, so we must file this away for discussion for another day (and year).
+ QUESTION ABOUT RUNNING BACK. The Cincinnati Bengals used their tenth and final selection of the 2012 NFL draft on Dan "Boom" Herron, giving Cincinnati six running backs heading into the post-draft season of minicamps, workouts and eventually training camp.
We don't necessarily think that Herron is a throw-away pick, much like Jay Finley was last year. There will be a legitimate chance for Herron to secure a roster spot, with the likely path traveling through special teams. But we have a hard time believing that he's going to out-perform BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bernard Scott or Brian Leonard.
In fact of the remaining prospects at running back by the fourth round, it would have been hard to argue that a better prospect could supplant any player that Cincinnati already held on their roster. So it made sense that whatever "need" the team felt at running back, it was lessened as the draft dragged on.
At the same time Herron's selection might be more about tomorrow than today. Eligible for the practice squad, Herron can develop during his rookie season while Scott, Leonard and Cedric Peerman enter the final year under contract.
+ NO LINEBACKER OR PASS RUSHERS. It was somewhat surprising that Cincinnati didn't hit on a linebacker, or at the very least, a pass rusher. Now it's entirely possible that the Bengals just reacted to their board, which dictated their selections rather than reaching for players with less value than what their board instructed.
Right now the Bengals have their starting linebackers in place, with Rey Maualuga in the middle, Thomas Howard at WILL and Manny Lawson at SAM. Maualuga may face a multi-game suspension, despite his assault against a bar owner ending with a settlement during restitution. If he does, the Bengals already have his backup in place, with either Dan Skuta or Roddrick Muckelroy.
Howard also has his backup in Vincent Rey with Dontay Moch likely backing up Manny Lawson on the strong-side. Linebacker was not a necessity this year, but it will be a major issue next year when only Muckelroy and Moch, both of whom dealt with injuries last year, will be the only signed linebackers beyond 2012.
Now the lack of pass rusher was a little more surprising. As it stands today the Bengals strongest pass rush will come from defensive end Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins. Dontay Moch, who was a strong pass rusher when the Bengals drafted him out of Nevada last year, should make an impact this year and recent free agency signings, Derrick Harvey and Jamaal Anderson, could revitalize their career in Cincinnati as effective pass rushers.
+ THE CORNERBACK POSITION. Dre Kirkpatrick was a near-certainty when the Bengals were on the clock at No. 17. This was after the Bengals signed veterans like Terence Newman and Jason Allen while bringing Adam Jones back for another season. None of that prevented Cincinnati from selecting a second cornerback at No. 156 in Iowa's Shaun Prater.
With the quarterbacks that the Bengals are facing this year, it doesn't hurt to have a surplus in the secondary.
Combining the cornerbacks signed into the 2012 season with Kirkpatrick and Prater, the Bengals will have eight cornerbacks (at least) heading into training camp this year.
Leon Hall: May or may not be ready for training camp while rehabilitating an Achilles injury. Possible candidate for the Physically Unable to Perform list, which enables the Bengals to use a roster exemption -- however Hall would be unable to play the first six weeks.
Nate Clements: If Hall starts the season healthy, then Clements could lose his starting job to Dre Kirkpatrick if the rookie quickly absorbs the defense without any problems transitioning into the pro game. Most than likely Clements starts the season and Kirkpatrick slowly integrates at nickel (all of that depending on Hall being healthy).
Jason Allen: Signed a two-year deal worth $8.2 million during free agency. Possible candidate to play safety, but most likely competing at nickel. Have to wonder about a salary cap casualty. With money available under the cap, the Bengals can take the hit.
Adam Jones: One of the expendable cornerbacks that could be released depending on how Cincinnati's youngest pups transition into the NFL. It's not so much about talent with Jones, we have to believe that it remains his inability to stop appearing at the Hamilton County courthouse.
Terence Newman: Unless he proves that he can rebound into a more productive cornerback during training camp, vastly improving from his departing seasons in Dallas, he's easily a candidate for release.
Brandon Ghee: A significant improvement may not be enough to make the squad. However the one thing going for him is his youth and if he puts durability questions to bed, it's entirely possible that he makes the squad -- though our gut right now says "unlikely".