Bengals Questions for NFL Draft: You can stop with Teddy Bridgewater

Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Taking a look at a handful of questions burning to be answered just prior to the NFL draft.

There are grumblings that Cincinnati isn't content with Andy Dalton's performances; if you can't imagine why then re-read the section "how blind loyalty rules poor decisions" in Mr. T's book "I pity the foo." It's not surprising really. Unless your quarterback's name is Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees, this is probably true with every team's quarterback. Always looking to improve, become better than the previous season. Are the Bengals any more exclusive than most teams -- aside from having a wide-open championship window, an owner questioning money commitments and one of the league's top defenses that's adding another year but not much in the way of new new blood (or at least proven to be) since Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins... maybe the "Ass Whisperer", George Iloka.

Leon Hall (2007) and Iloka (2012) are the players that Cincinnati has drafted currently starting in the secondary. Terence Newman, Adam Jones and Reggie Nelson were acquired via free agency and a trade respectively. That might be more of the standard but doesn't bode well for the draft-dependent Bengals. Vontaze Burfict and Emmanuel Lamur, the leading candidate to replace James Harrison, were college free agents and Rey Maualuga was grabbed in the second-round five years ago. Then you have Atkins (2010), Domata Peko (2006), Carlos Dunlap (2012) and an unknown starting on the defensive line. Maybe it's Wallace Gilberry (free agent), or Robert Geathers (2004), Jayson DiManche (college free agent), Sam Montgomery (waivers)... or (drum roll) Margus Hunt (2013).

For whatever reason, the draft hasn't been entirely impressive for the Bengals defense recently. Look at the 2012 draft. Former first-rounder Dre Kirkpatrick flashes moments that argues elite but then generates arguments for being labeled a bust. Devon Still and Brandon Thompson, former second and third-round selections -- considering that the team signed Geno Atkins and Domata Peko to extensions in the past year, have questionable futures but are locked in as rotation players. Cornerback Shaun Prater, after being injured all season in '12, is already gone. On the other hand, Cincinnati drafted three defensive players in 2013 -- and only one, Margus Hunt, played more than 11 snaps on defense; Shawn Williams was a key special teamer and Sean Porter spent the entire season on IR. Maybe the percentages supports the argument?

Yet it was worse in 2011 -- the year of the Andy Dalton and A.J. Green. They used a third-round pick on Dontay Moch, who has played only 73 defensive snaps in the NFL with only five belonging in Cincinnati -- where he returned after being released by the Cardinals. That draft also featured safety Robert Sands and defensive back Korey Lindsey. Sands didn't play a down with Cincinnati and was released after being charged with domestic violence. Lindsey has bounced around with the Indianapolis Colts, Arizona Cardinals, Washington Redskins and New Orleans Saints.

This doesn't suggest that Cincinnati's scouting department has been anything but excellent. To trade for Nelson, then sign productive college free agents says a lot. Nelson was a bust in Jacksonville and every team passed on Burfict and Lamur multiple times. They even found a niche for Taylor Mays, sacrificing a low-cost seventh-rounder for him. Cincinnati even found good talent in the draft and rebuilt the offense at wide receiver, tight end and found one of the more excitable running backs in Earth's history.

Defense. NFL draft. Maybe the Bengals should just draft all offense and then sign undrafted free agents at the end.

Stop being stupid. Are the Bengals going with a quarterback in the first two rounds?

Lol.

Wait, didn't Chris Mortensen just say that the Bengals could target Bridgewater?

Yes. Yes, he did. On ESPN's NFL Insider's show this week, Mortensen has been promoting that the Bengals are targeting Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby and linebacker Ryan Shazier. However, if both are off the board -- or if the Bengals are turned off by Roby's off-the-field conduct (a 22 year-old drinking and driving before the NFL draft is not unlike third century vikings pillaging defenseless villages) -- Cincinnati could nab Bridgewater if he falls.

Far be it from us to get involved in the NFL Insider wars. However, we have it on good authority that the Bengals will not take Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater... or any quarterback for that matter, in the first round. Per the source, the team is afraid of generating a quarterback controversy but also admits that they're not "content" with Andy Dalton's performances.

If true... sigh. Not Bridgewater. Only it goes back to our overall point that Dalton simply can't handle adversity; he crumbles when the pressure is on. National games, intra-divisional games, playoff games... looks like

Weren't there hints about the Bengals waffling on Dalton anyway?

If you call Mike Brown clearly admitting to everyone that he's unsure about paying Dalton $15 million per year a hint, then yes. Brown, who favored Colin Kaepernick (and even Ryan Mallet under our impression) but was convinced by the now-departed Jay Gruden and Marvin Lewis to grab Andy Dalton, may circumvent everyone to decide on a quarterback. Would the proverbial executive stomp disrupt Cincinnati's otherwise impressive draft room?

Would a quarterback controversy destabilize the lockerroom?

It almost happened once. When Carson Palmer told the front office that he'd rather retire than play another game for the Cincinnati Bengals, the team held out. Then they drafted Andy Dalton. The offense was offensive in the preseason and several players in the lockerroom felt that they were wasting their time. Luckily Andrew Whitworth, Domata Peko, Frostee Rucker and Robert Geathers pieced everything back together. What started as a private meeting with those four and Marvin Lewis turned into Whitworth preaching to his flock to stay the course.

"We just kind of said, 'you can sit around and complain about the situation we are in or we can say, we have no excuses, no reason to doubt, everyone thinks we can't do it anyway so let's go out and win football games,'" Andrew Whitworth said via Yahoo! Sports. "We said, 'the truth is we have a young kid who knows what he's doing and if we play well around him, we'll have success.'"

"I let Whitworth talk," head coach Marvin Lewis said. "And they got it back. I think Whit had great words of wisdom for them and what we needed to do. And to not flinch. We have to work through the adversity. It's not going to be like we scripted."

I have more faith in The Wachowskis making good movies than I do the Bengals lockerroom destabilizing -- especially with Whitworth and Peko certainly sticking around and Geathers most likely staying.

Has Mohamed Sanu done enough to claim the No. 2 receiver position?

How about this? Hell, no. Then again, the response isn't so much about Sanu as it is Marvin Jones. Sanu appears to be the leading candidate as the team's slot receiver, who can play big in the red zone and fast on the outside. Yet, Jones scored ten touchdowns last season (with some amazing grabs) including a team-record four scores against the New York Jets. Jones has made the case as the team's No. 2 receiver and Sanu's opportunities will be related to injuries or a sinister decline.

Can Sanu replace Andrew Hawkins as the slot receiver?

Calling Sanu an actual slot receiver will, to me, seems like a stretch. It wouldn't be a surprise to see A.J. Green playing slot in three-wide (or more) formation with Sanu split wide. If you ask me, this team doesn't have the prototypical true slot receiver that's drummed up in people's minds. Maybe Dane Sanzenbacher -- and while I believe he makes the 53-man roster on special teams, I don't see him playing much on offense unless he's a direct replacement for Sanu (or another injury).

So your dark horse draft pick in the first round is a wide receiver?

Don't put me down for a prediction (I predicted the Bengals would win 12 games in each of the last two seasons and TOTALLY missed on my draft predictions). First round wide receiver like LSU's Odell Beckham, Oregon Stat's Brandin Cooks, or USC's Marqise Lee (unless we've entered "reach" category) could be possibilities, especially if you're applying the best-play available mantra. Doubtful? Probably.

But if that's the case, then Sanu is as good as gone. He could be a fourth option in formation, but seeing as Hue Jackson's offense figures to use more Tyler Eifert and a more efficient running game. Sanu could be in trouble.

So you're saying that Sanu could go from Hawkins replacement to being gone?

A career in politics isn't something I've shied away from -- not big-time mind you (I don't want to be hated like Roy Hibbert to the game of basketball). More localized: Because I'm of the people for the people. I've also tied down the centralist art by presenting possible outcomes without actually representing a point of view (and I could just change it later anyway... Politics 101).

What the team decides to do puts Sanu in two vastly difference categories. If the Bengals surprise people and select a first-round receiver, or even someone in the first three rounds, Sanu will undergo the biggest panic attack. To me a receiver is unlikely but thanks to the Eifert selection last year, any outcome is possible at this point.

I have a prediction that the Cincinnati Bengals will draft heavy on defense this year. What do you think?

If you look at the numbers, the Bengals have drafted 28 players in the last three years. Of those 28, only 11 have been on defense. And of those 11 on defense, eight remain. Would it be surprising that Cincinnati goes heavy on defense? No. And they need to. Terence Newman isn't getting any younger. Adam Jones turns 31 this September and Leon Hall, who is recovering from his second torn Achilles in three years, turns 30 in December. Dre Kirkpatrick is... well, heading into his third season, we're not sure.

The Bengals and Brandley Roby are names that are consistently matched in predraft buzz... which is about as honest as The Hound's sense of honor. Shazier, another name associated with the Bengals, tends to warrant second-round projections but there are some that argue for first-round mention.

Shouldn't the Bengals just draft best player available anyway?

Best player according to whom? You? Your draft board won't be the same as theirs. And their draft board won't be the same as another team's. And BPA is conditional. It would be more accurate to name it "Best Player Available at positions that we need." Will the Bengals draft a quarterback in the first or second rounds because a quarterback is at the top of their board? No. It's a waste. Linebacker? God, I hope not. They suck at drafting linebackers.

We should assume that most positions are open but BPA is unrealistic?

Let's recall 2013. Andre Smith was an unrestricted free agent. Negotiations picked up during the NFL draft and when he reached an agreement on a three-year deal prior to the second round, Bengals owner Mike Brown escorted Smith to the team's draft room where Florida State offensive tackle Menelik Watson was at the top of their board.

"Yeah it was nice. He waited until the last possible second. Mike (Brown) brought him in the draft room and showed him we had (Menelik) Watson on the top of our board," said Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander. "He said, ‘It's a good thing you signed.'"

When Smith signed, the Bengals went with the next player on their board... North Carolina running back Giovani Bernard. See? "Best player available at a position that we need." That's not to say that they draft based on "need". Tyler Eifert wasn't a need, but A.J. Green and Andy Dalton were.

It's all relative.

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