Did you watch Sunday's game against Tennessee when CBS showed Dhani Jones riding on a bicycle to Paul Brown Stadium in non-assuming (or is un-assuming?) clothing. In other words, it's unlikely that the first thought in your mind is that you just passed a professional football player. One that's actually had a positive impact on this defense.
Since it depends heavily on which site you export your stats from (ESPN and NFL have vastly different numbers for defensive players) -- I get mine from Stats, Inc. -- Jones has done more than contribute. He's one of the main reasons this defense has stabilized. His 50 tackles is over a nine game stretch. He has one sack, leads the team with 3.5 rushing stuffs and two forced fumbles -- tied with Chinedum Ndukwe for the team lead.
Should we resign him?
Absolutely. If not rewarding for becoming a quality defender, one that's stepped up at a position that's been crawling through the first half of the season, but there's no certainty for next season.
- Landon Johnson -- If there's been one constant at linebacker through the Marvin Lewis era, it's the play of Landon Johnson. A dependable and durable guy that's always willing to play through injuries -- effectively too -- Johnson will be the Bengals biggest free agent going into the off-season. Yes, that includes Justin Smith. Johnson is on his way to being the Bengals leading tackler for the third season in his four-year career. Not only should we sign Johnson, but if we don't, it would represent another example how the Bengals keep trying to "get by" with minimum salary guys while pushing 90% of all their resources to the offense.
- Odell Thurman -- I would assume he's still on track to rejoin the team in 2008 -- admittedly, I thought the exact same thing last year. His talent level and Marvin's dream that Thurman would become one of the league's elite linebackers could aide tremendously in his return. The only concern is if Chancellor Goodell will extend his 32-game suspension to 48. Sadly, I wouldn't put it past the Chancellor. Thurman is signed through 2009 -- about the time the Chancellor may think he's learned his lesson while 50 additional players will be charged with drunk driving, possession, firearms and domestic violence. Then serving their suspension and returning before Thurman is even a second thought. One day, hopefully, the Chancellor will understand the hypocrisy (over-reaction?) he's attaching with Thurman.
- David Pollack -- Nothing's changed, at least from the public's knowledge of updates (lack of). I suppose if he were to make a comeback, 2008 would be it. But who knows. There really isn't a template for major neck injuries. Pollack is signed through 2009.
- Lemar Marshall -- Given some time, I thought Marshall could do a decent job contributing to this defense. The safety he recorded against Seattle was the highlight of his season until he suffered a season ending ACL injury on the second play from scrimmage the following week (New England). Having only signed a one-year deal, with plenty of linebackers available on the team alone, I doubt he comes back. But who knows. Marvin puts a ton of credence with his previous connections.
- Ahmad Brooks -- We hear about his potential all the time. And we're still waiting. In a season that was supposed to spotlight Brooks on defense, the monster of a man suffers an early-season injury and misses the remainder of the season. He just had surgery and claimed that he had no idea how serious his injury was. Brooks is signed through 2009.
- Rashad Jeanty -- Playing the final season of his two-year contract, Jeanty played his best game against Tennessee finally recovering from an early, early, injury that forced him to miss the season's first few games. I wrote in my notebook during the game that "he's everywhere!" This is one of those deals that I really don't know. I imagine they'll sign back based on whether they can obtain Landon Johnson or Caleb Miller. Signing Jeanty back would still greatly help the depth -- something this team struggled with horribly this season suffering injury, after injury, after injury -- and special teams.
- Caleb Miller -- Personally, I think the team should resign Miller. For the same reasons as Jeanty, to keep a strong backbone of depth. Plus Miller can solidify special teams. Depends on his demands though. If he thinks he should get starter pay, then it probably would be best to move on without him.
- Eric Henderson -- Very big Wild Card. He's unofficially known as the Adalius Thomas project. Why Thomas? Lewis and team keep trying to move Henderson away from the defensive line converting him into a multi-purpose linebacker. In 2006, the Bengals put him on the practice squad with the anticipation that he'd contribute this year. But the pesky thing about injuries is that they come in bunches. The season hadn't even started yet when he was played on IR for the season. Henderson is signed through 2008. And in all honestly, I've been anticipating his play more than Brooks.
There's other linebackers on the roster that I'm not going to examine. Long story short (because I have to get back to work), we should bring Dhani Jones back next season.