BB: The Poison Pill Pass Rush Against Poor Opposing Quarterbacks... And Some Bernard Scott

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals awoke from the belly of the free agency beast, appearing interested in Karlos Dansby and Kerry Rhodes. But it's James Harrison that takes the headline.

+ Free agent linebacker James Harrison was observed, by one reader on location, as moving around at CVG Sunday afternoon, wearing his Pittsburgh Steelers jersey; we're not sure if he was arriving or departing. Whether or not it's true or a case of mistaken identity (his nickname is Deebo for Christ sake), Cincinnati has reportedly entered negotiations that's expected to resume on Monday.

Now we offer the AFC North poison pill that opposing offenses will have to swallow.

If Harrison signs with the Bengals this week, Cincinnati would feature a conveyor belt of unrelenting pass rushers against opposing quarterbacks. The Bengals ranked No. 3 with 51 quarterback sacks last season, a franchise record that featured Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson and Wallace Gilberry; all of whom are returning this season.

It also develops intrigue on a number of fronts. Place Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap at defensive end, with Geno Atkins and Wallace Gilberry (as a defensive tackle) collapsing the interior, leaving Harrison to bounce around as a blitzing linebacker. Yes. We envision Harrison as the outside linebacker in nickel formation, not as a defensive end as some have suggested (mostly on twitter).

This leaves the question of Rey Maualuga.

Will Cincinnati find a better coverage linebacker? Do they rely on Rey Maualuga, draft another to develop and play coverage zones or move Taylor Mays up as a linebacker -- we're totally kidding about the Taylor Mays thing (settle down). We're liberally thinking the NFL draft (but conservatively thinking Maualuga). Harrison helps satisfy the need at linebacker this year, but a Harrison signing isn't intended to be much more than that.

Cincinnati could resort to development project with a significant draft pick, allowing an inside linebacker to play coverage in passing situations while eventually being groomed to replace Maualuga, maybe as soon as next season. If released, Maualuga, who signed a two-year deal recently, would account for $1.125 million in dead money next season, but still a $2.75 million cap savings. Remember that for later when the team faces pressure to re-sign Johnson, Dunlap and Atkins.

Or maybe our inner-anti-Maualuga is coming out.

+ After consciously being excluded from Sunday's roundtable (conducted by Jason Garrison, Anthony Cosenza and Nick Seuberling) that specifically reacted to Bernard Scott's return, I wanted to briefly preach my thoughts on the situation.

The question posed: Do you think the Bengals will use a high draft pick on a running back?

Anthony thought it might push a probable second-round selection later into the draft, between the third and fourth rounds. Nick didn't see the team drafting a running back within the first three rounds, regardless of what happened with Scott. We can only gather that Jason just doesn't really like Scott.

My response?

Nothing changes.

On several occasions, Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden preached that the team won't just draft a running back, they're looking for a "game-changer". Gruden said.

"It's hard to put your finger on one thing. I think we need another playmaker. We need somebody who can take the ball 80 yards on a swing pass or a handoff or what have you - a little bit of speed."

Cincinnati has clearly displayed overtures for North Carolina running back Giovani Bernard, who generated a 4.53 40-yard time during the 2013 NFL Combine (comparatively speaking, Bernard Scott ran a 4.44). We know that the Bengals won't draft a running back in the first round. On the other hand, we'd be stunned if the Bengals pass on Giovani Bernard at some point in the second round, if the running back is still on the board.

[Note: We don't put much value in 40-times that are run without pads]

Additionally Scott has only recently been cleared to begin "explosive weight training" by an orthopedic surgeon after suffering an ACL tear in his knee 190 days ago.

Scott's return doesn't figure to upset the team's draft plans. The most probable scenario is that Scott will challenge Daniel Herron, not the vacant backup running back position, for a spot on the 53-man roster. More on that later.

+ Bernard Scott has serious durability concerns

Over the years we've issued our own "durability questions" as it relates to Bernard Scott. Before an ankle, hand and ACL injury limited him to two games in 2012, Scott had actually only missed three games over his first three seasons in the NFL. And that was related to turf toe during his rookie season; he's yet to successfully change people's perceptions since.

Scott played every game in 2010 and 2011, bouncing around as a backup and special teams player. Look at it this way. Bernard Scott has as many 16-game seasons under his belt since 2009 as Leon Hall, three-times as many as Jermaine Gresham and Adam Jones completed his first 16-game season last year for the first time in his career.

"My doctor says I'm ahead of schedule and I've had no setbacks with swelling or anything like that," Scott told Bengals.com "I'm already back to running and cutting. I feel like the way my rehab is going, I feel like, yeah, I can get back to being the old Bernard. Even better.

"I'm going to continue to work hard. I know camp doesn't start for three to four months, so I have to keep that in mind. That's going to be up to the coaches. I'm not going to worry about (the draft). They're going to play the best people and I'm going to fight and do what I have to do to be one of the best guys."

+ Scott will be a participant in a training camp battle this training camp

You can assume BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Cedric Peerman are locks on the 2013 Bengals roster. A rookie selected in the first three rounds of the 2013 NFL draft is a lock. Let's go ahead and summarize Daniel Herron and Bernard Scott as bubble players with their noses pressed firmly against the glass. Cincinnati has kept four running backs on their opening day roster, dating back to 2009.

SEASON First Second Third Fourth
2012 BenJarvus Green-Ellis Bernard Scott Brian Leonard Cedric Peerman
2011 Cedric Benson Bernard Scott Brian Leonard Cedric Peerman
2010* Cedric Benson Bernard Scott Cedric Peerman (Brian Leonard)
2009 Cedric Benson Brian Leonard DeDe Dorsey Bernard Scott
* Leonard began the season injured.

If Cincinnati acquires only one more running back (via the NFL draft), that would promote a competition battle between Scott and Daniel Herron. And by that point you're settling a special teams argument, not a figurative approach on offense. Herron blocked two punts last year while Scott averaged 31.5 yards per kickoff return during his rookie year. His average dropped significantly in 2011 to 22.4 before injury wiped out most of his season last year.

What have you done for me lately?

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