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Five questions about the Bengals after the 2009 NFL Draft

Decompression can take many forms. It can range from psychology, to medical, to aviation, to diving and data. The process is related to releasing pressure, decoding, and even relaxing; like a vacation after hectic events that requires an unwinding of sorts. Merriam Webster defines decompress as "to undergo release from pressure."

Bengals fans aren't so much releasing from pressure, as they are unwinding. I've always learned that it's best to sit back after an NFL draft, while letting it absorb for a time and then react. Maybe the next day. After all, instantly reacting could make us all look stupid when that draft pick pans out. Or appear a bit whinny.

The front office and the team's coaching staff is in a different scenario, indicative in which differing scenarios unfold. Some are suggesting that this draft is Marvin Lewis' best, while others are saying that this could be a big bust draft, based on the flags given to some players. Conjecture. An NFL Draft's best friend. Either way, if I were to grade it on the Monday after, it was a good draft that addressed several needs. That's the point. That's why we have these things. Plug these guys in and the Bengals depth improves, along with several players that could compete for starting jobs.

With that said, here are five questions after the draft.

What to do about left tackle?

The irony in the fact that the Cincinnati Bengals drafted an offensive tackle is that it's not likely for the left tackle slot. Many experts believe that Smith would an average left tackle, but an elite right tackle. Locally, we're hearing the next Willie Anderson. The issue of left tackle, as of now, is still largely unresolved. However, it's far from dire. Anthony Collins had an impressive stretch-run at the end of the 2008 season and we do have options.

If Collins isn't up to task, and there's no reason to believe he isn't, the Bengals could slide Andrew Whitworth out. However, there's two concerns here.

  • Speed rushers tend to give Whitworth fits.
  • What do you do about left guard?

An interesting scenario is allowing Dan Santucci and Nate Livings to compete at left guard, while Jonathan Luigs (more below) and Kyle Cook compete at center. In the end, the best case scenario is that Whitworth sticks at left guard and Collins takes over as the team's future left tackle. Of course, there's always the Levi Jones factor. If he's healthy and able, the Bengals starting lineup and depth is that much better and more options unfold.

The point here is that the Bengals offensive line is in much better shape, even with the unknown at left tackle.

Will Jonathan Luigs start immediately?

The obvious conclusion is that the Bengals fourth-round selection, center Jonathan Luigs, will be in the starting lineup by kickoff weekend. However, it's more likely that the Bengals coaching staff will dictate that based on OTAs and training camp. A more realistic scenario could be that Paul Alexander and Marvin Lewis allow Dan Santucci and Kyle Cook to compete for the starting job while allowing Luigs to develop. Scouting reports suggest that he was work to do with his technique and needs to bulk up. Luigs is a 2007 Rimington Trophy winner (awarded to the nation's best center in Division 1A), so you know he has the talent and ability. Now it's a matter of development.

Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino said that won't be a problem. "Jonathan will play a long time on the next level," Petrino said. "He is flexible enough to stay healthy. He is very, very smart. He will know what to do and will immediately pick up the offense. He has the physical tools to do it."

Did the Bengals go after too many flagged players?

You know me. I don't much care for overblown character analysis by football experts who have a sudden PhD in psychology. This site has held the firm position that Andre Smith's character isn't bad, nor is it a cause for concern. However, we also admit that there's an immaturity level with Smith that tends to come with young men reaching adulthood. Sure, the added riches could be a concern. But isn't that a concern for the majority of players? Immaturity is something that can fade away once given the realization of responsibility -- who hasn't experienced that (my own sudden PhD in psychology is better, by the way). Could that affect the team? Sure. But it's no reason for alarm and with the right mentorship and guidance, this will be a non-issue as quickly as it was an issue during the Combine. Put Rey Maualuga in the same category.

However there is one that deserves to be flagged. When the Bengals drafted Abeline Christian running back Bernard Scott, I quickly looked him up. And within the first result of my complicated Google Search, a New York Times article stood out.

He did not play his senior season after being involved in an off-field fight. He has been arrested at least five times and is finishing 18 months of probation for giving false information to a police officer during a traffic stop. He is attending his fourth college since 2003.

This is a running story of redemption for Scott, and a high risk by the Bengals. Running backs coach Jim Anderson is sticking his neck out for the guy.

"To be honest, he’s had a little bit of a troubled past, but that was when he was a young guy. That’s behind him. He’s been a really good football player wherever he’s been," Anderson said. "He has dominated the competition where ever he has been in football. That has been a part of him, and football is a part of him. He’s a Texas kid. He’s just a really good football player, and a good person. I had a chance to visit with him at the combine, and (spoke to him) numerous times on the phone. I feel comfortable with him. He’s going to come in here and do the things that we need him to do to be the very best football player that he can be and help us win."

Scott knows what's in front of him and admits that he has learned from his past. "Instead of reacting, now I know I have to think. I need to stay out of bad places and not let things get to me. I feel like now I can sense when something bad is going on, and I stay away from those places."

There is no doubting his talent, and because of his troubled past, Scott was overlooked and passed by every other team in the league. However, this guy was a man among boys in Division II. In 2008, he recorded 100 yards rushing or more in all 12 games. In three games, he recorded over 250 yards rushing and 200 yards rushing in four. On November 22, Scott recorded six touchdowns against West Texas A&M and 292 yards rushing on 19 carries -- a 15.4 yard-per-rush average. He finished the season with 2,156 yards rushing on 256 attempts (8.4 yards-per-rush) and 28 touchdowns. Then there's his hands: 47 receptions, 826 yards receiving and six touchdowns receiving. During the first of two meetings against West Texas A&M, Scott recorded 409 yards total on 33 touches and three touchdowns. We suspect that West Texas A&M struggled against Scott. As a result, Scott won the Harlon Hill Trophy, which is awarded to the best player in Division II. In 2007, Scott set Division II records for touchdown (39), rushing touchdowns (35) and points scored (234).

This guy put up gaudy numbers in Division Two football and you conclude that if off-the-field conduct issues didn't plague him so much, that he'd be a very good Division 1A running back.

Some are also suggesting that this is such a risky draft by the Bengals that it could ultimately seal Lewis' fate if it comes back to haunt them. Is Bernard Scott apart of that reason? Quite simply put, no. Drafting Scott is a definite public relations hit, and it will take another if Scott runs into the law and the law wins. Quite honestly, when has the team or fans cared about public relations. Scott was the final sixth round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft and if worse comes to worse, the Bengals cut him and take no hit against the cap, nor watch their depth suffer. Scott is icing on the cake, sprinkles in the pudding and if he comes through, based on his play, this could be a Houshmandzadeh-type steal.

How does Chase Coffman fit in?

I thought that the Bengals made their first surprise pick with tight end Chase Coffman with their fourth overall pick (98th). Let me be clear, we're not saying it's a bad pick or that Coffman wouldn't be great benefit. In fact, Coffman could be a tremendous weapon for Carson Palmer. However, with Reggie Kelly, Ben Utecht and Matt Sherry, where would Coffman fit in? We don't suspect the team will release Kelly simply because of the respect level players and coaches have for him. Utecht is argued to be one half of the team's 2008 free agency busts (Antwan Odom the other). Matt Sherry was injured early in 2008 and never got a shot to showcase whatever talents he has.

Either way, no matter the scenario, I believe that Kelly is safe. Sherry's injury could be more serious than we thought and Utecht could quickly be listed as the team's third tight end by kickoff weekend. The larger question in Coffman's case could become how does he transform from a spread offense to a pro-style offense.

Did the Bengals draft a punter too high in the draft?

There has been some outrage about the Bengals selecting Kevin Huber in the fifth round. The point is simple. The Bengals needed a punter, wanted Huber and no one else, and would have lost him by the time their sixth round selection came around. Punting was a definite need coming into the NFL Draft, and based on what we saw in 2008, punting was so much of a detriment that it was impossible to hope that the Bengals defense gut it out after already having an offense with embarrassing time of possession numbers.

Since 2003, the Bengals haven't necessarily scored with their fifth round picks.

Draft Selection
2008 Jason Shirley
2007 Jeff Rowe
2006 A.J. Nicholson
2005 Adam Kieft
2004 Maurice Mann
2003 Khalid Abdullah

Those are our fifth round selections during the Marvin Lewis era. So using our fifth round pick on a punter that's very likely to stick around for awhile, as opposed to using it on players that would likely struggle to make the team, and certainly wouldn't start, isn't such a terrible thing.