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Looking at next season: Bengals have to address running back, center and tackle

It's often that Bengals fans are encouraged to look towards the next season because, after all, we tire of talking about the team's losing -- and complaining about the front office, while justified, quickly gets old and realistically, nothing has, nor will it change (but I deeply hope I'm wrong on that). Someone commented on this site, wondering why I don't take more of a pessimistic, bad attitude, tone. Well, there's only so much complaining that one can do before sounding like a broken record -- and that's exactly how to make a website quickly die (and restrict its growth). In truth, you have to offer different perspectives mixing with positive notes, and -- considering we're Bengals fans with an all-too realistic scenario that we'll go winless for the entire season -- unemotional perspectives. Otherwise, what's the point of having a Bengals blog?

With that in mind, keeping away the obviously justified (and scary as hell) argument that Mike Brown will screw up 2009, I wanted to quickly examine the Bengals offense heading into next season. Why not the defense? I thought about that. But in truth, aside from a few spots, the Bengals are basically set with a young foundation of players that has many fans optimistic; even playing with the argument that if there's one positive this year, it's the defense.

Specifically speaking, the only items I wanted to bring up for conversation was the Bengals offensive line and running backs.

First, the running backs.

We learned one thing this year; Chris Perry is not a feature back. In truth, neither is Reggie Bush, but like Bush, Perry can bring dynamics to this team like he did during the Bengals lone winning season. If the Bengals replace Perry with a quality feature back, pushing Perry back to the utility role as change-of-pace receiving running back, then perhaps there's a chance Perry could be of use to us again.

However, Perry is signed through 2009 with $1,008,250 due to him in base salary. After watching what he's done this season, I would expect him to be let go as soon as they're comfortable with the depth -- if not sooner, considering the negative plays he's recorded (aka, fumbles).

With recent hamstring problems in mind, it's surprising that the Bengals haven't increased Kenny Watson's role this season after recording decent performances last season -- notably against the Browns (130 yards rushing) and Jets (130 yards rushing and three touchdowns). Including his 4.3 yards-per-rush last season, Watson recorded 52 receptions at 7.2 yards a clip. Watson is also the team's best pass blocker at running back. Watson is signed through 2009 with $745,000 due to him. Definitely keep him around.

DeDe Dorsey (out for the season), Cedric Benson and James Johnson are unsigned after this season.

In conclusion, it would be rather surprising if the Bengals don't use one of their first day draft picks on a running back. Perry, considered the worst starting running back by various scouting services, is losing his job while the team obviously doesn't consider Watson as a feature back -- otherwise they wouldn't use injuries as an excuse to increase his role.

Let's go through the offensive linemen that are not signed after this season.

  • Stacy Andrews
  • Eric Ghiaciuc
  • Nate Livings
  • Dennis Roland

Levi Jones is signed through 2012 due to earn $3 million (2009), $3.75 million (2010), $4.55 million (2011) and $5 million (2012) in base pay. With Jones' knees degrading to the point that he has to inject FAT, it might be wise to let Jones go -- even if they take a hit. And in truth, he's a shadow from his peak just a few seasons ago.

The team is reportedly high on Anthony Collins, who suddenly becomes the team's leading candidate to be the team's best offensive tackle if the Bengals let Jones go and fail to re-sign Stacy Andrews to a long-term contract. In college, Collins played at both tackle positions, named as a finalist for the Outland Trophy (nation's top lineman).

Now, the Bengals can keep Whitworth (signed through 2013) and Bobbie Williams (signed through 2009) at guard, keeping the position intact. Alternatively, if they let Jones go and don't re-sign Andrews, putting Whitworth at tackle, opposite of Collins, gives the team a good set of tackles to build for the future. This gives the Bengals a chance to go after a natural guard, hoping for another Eric Steinbach type. However, this is a scenario that only exists based on different factors. But it is an option.

That brings us to the center position. Kyle Cook and Dan Santucci are signed beyond this season (and both on Injured Reserve). And you have to admit it, signing Ghiaciuc back would be consistent with the Bengals front office. I do believe that the Bengals should go after a center early in the draft -- either the second round or early during the second day. Either way, for the sake of my health, Ghiaciuc must go.

Based on the above, and the deep necessity to revamp the Bengals offense, I believe the Bengals 2009 NFL Draft should be prioritized as.

  1. Running back
  2. Center
  3. Offensive Tackle

Do you agree, disagree or are you indifferent?