Every once in awhile we have to reset what's going on during the off-season and where (or what) we think the team should focus.
The Bengals "are expecting to receive three or four compensatory picks". [Enquirer.com]
Madieu Williams and Justin Smith signed on with other teams creating a void at their positions.
Safety. Even though Williams left, the break-the-bank contract he got from the Vikings was almost laughable for Bengals fans. Williams was good, but that good? Now we have Dexter Jackson and Chinedum Ndukwe as the likely starters while Marvin White breathes down Jackson's neck. Ethan Kilmer and Herana-Daze Jones, good special teams guys, are likely the fourth and fifth back ups.
However, the team appears to be going after at least one safety this off-season after Marlon McCree was offered a contract.
Williams leaving didn't upset the team's balance at safety. We already had the veteran presence with Jackson as well as two young kids and two guys that will do anything asked of them. And since Williams suffered a three-quarter-season-long injury in 2005 -- ironically the Bengals' most successful season by a long shot -- the coaching staff, media and fans feel that Williams' talent (or potential) took a big hit.
End. A Justin Smith led defensive line didn't produce the pass rushing atmosphere that Marvin Lewis insisted we'll have in 2008. By letting Smith go, the team saved over $16 million with signing eight-sack defensive end, Antwan Odom. Jonathan Fanene signed a three-year deal giving the Bengals a decent three-man rotation at end. Bryan Robinson is unlikely to return. Therefore, drafting an end in one of the first three rounds seems logical if you don't demand that he's an immediate impact player; more like a situational pass rusher while putting Geathers at pass-rushing outside linebacker. Of course, 3-4, 4-3, yada, yada, yada. More pass rushers. More pass rushers. More pass rushers.
You'll note that I'm not including Frostee Rucker here. He's been here two seasons and I've said his name, maybe, three times.
Defensive Tackle. This is the team's biggest weakness. Between them, John Thornton and Michael Myers, are aging tackles that offensive linemen really don't worry about. Then again, you could probably file Domata Peko under that classification also. If I were a betting man, then I wouldn't have my car nor house. But I would say that the Bengals will draft a defensive tackle in the first round. Not only that, but I could legitimately see two first-day picks at defensive tackle -- most likely the second coming from the possible third-round compensatory pick.
Linebacker. Talking about not having a fuggin' clue. Will the team sign back Landon Johnson? The longer that Johnson sits in free agency, the more I think the team will bring him back. How's Ahmad Brooks recovery? Will he be durable enough to be an NFL linebacker? Can we trust Odell Thurman, if he's reinstated, to keep his head straight while, at the same time, getting back into football shape after two lost seasons? David Pollack? Will the Eric Henderson experiment finally have substance behind it (i.e., not a season on IR or the practice squad)? We could go on for hours.
Eric Ghiaciuc. Unless our starting center -- anointed the starter after Rich Braham broke his leg and subsequently retired -- improves, I seriously doubt he returns after this season -- which is the final year of his contract. With big guys like Kasey Hampton, Shaun Rogers, Corey Williams and even Kelly Gregg, most in variant 3-4 formations, the offense needs a guy that can handle defensive tackles. Perhaps he's working on that flaw this off-season. Last season many of Rudi Johnson's stuffed rush attempts came from defenders up the middle.
More on offensive line. Unless something dramatic happens, like nothing happening on December 21, 2012, Willie Anderson and Levi Jones will start at tackle. However, Andrew Whitworth and Bobbie Williams could be competing for their jobs with Stacy Andrews. Why? I don't think that a $7.5 million lineman, under contract for only one season, should be sitting the bench. Whitworth would be the obvious demotion because he could back up any spot on the offensive line except for center.