+ Mel Kiper Jr. examines this year's picks and how they'll fit in (ESPN Insider).
Crucial influx: Antonio Bryant is a good, if enigmatic, complement at wide receiver, but the real pickup of the offseason is Jermaine Gresham. This guy is going to be a star in the league. Whether he picks up the offense so he's a huge part of the scheme early isn't what I'm looking forward to. It's when Carson Palmer takes a snap inside the 20-yard line and realizes he has a guy who will go up for the ball in the end zone like a power forward. Like the Ravens with Boldin, Cincy needed serious help in terms of options in the passing game and made the right call on draft day. As part of that, Jordan Shipley could be a great slot option early on.
The question mark: The Bengals added a little versatility at outside linebacker with the help of Roddrick Muckelroy, but I'm sure the team is really hoping that Carlos Dunlap is the player many of us thought he was to start the 2009 season and not the guy who fell all the way to the 54th pick. That's because, while this defense is on the rise, adding more consistency in the pass rush could push them into the elite. Some of their sack totals are questionable when you consider a guy like Antwan Odom notched five alone in one game against Detroit. Keep an eye on Geno Atkins, who can be slippery as an interior pass-rusher. It's not in his repertoire just yet, but as a stunting defensive tackle at 293 pounds maybe he gets a look on the edge.
Next April's pick, now: Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech
With other pieces in place, the Bengals could use an explosive touchdown-making back to split the carries. Williams is that kind of threat.
We pointed out yesterday that if we were to make a guess as the team's biggest need next year based on what we know now than running back would be the best candidate. Provided that the Bengals repeat as a playoff team, they'll draft in the second half of the first round, still giving them quality running backs on the board.
With Cedric Benson unsigned after this year and the whole assault charge possibly muddying the water during negotiations an extension, the Bengals could be in the running for a feature back. You could also make an argument that the team could find a serviceable replacement to Benson for a fraction of what Benson would cost. We have a full slate of football games to play in 2010 with plenty of time to negotiate a contract extension for Benson. But it does make you wonder.
+ Bengals safety Roy Williams went on a 12-day mission to Uganda earlier this year with other Oklahoma alumni (which includes Adrian Peterson, Mark Clayton and Tommie Harris) to show "a poverty-stricken crowd how to use a water straw."
+ Speaking of Williams (source link above):
Now with a clean bill of health, new boxing and sand workout regimens, and a custom-made carbon fiber pad for his arm that is lighter than summer reading, Williams is ready to be bad to the bone again instead of just out with a bad bone.
“In my case, we won’t have to worry about pads because I’m always going to wear my armpad; even when I use the toilet,” Williams says. “Zim wants me to have it on. He’s somewhere out there. Trust me. I hear from him every day. Every time I step out there this season my pad will be somewhere close strapped on.”
“He’s a puncher. When he hits you, he hits you,” says Zimmer, the Bengals defensive coordinator who has twice lured Williams to Cincinnati in a Texas reunion still sizzling with more potential than pop. “It gets me mad when they write he isn’t what he was and just four years ago he and Troy Polamalu were the two best safeties in the game. He was excellent before he got hurt last year.”
+ Timzilla suggests that the best way for Benson to stay out of trouble is to stay home. I guess that could apply to all of humanity. But as Ahmad Brooks will tell you, even home is trouble when there's neighbors to punch.
+ Not only is Ed Reed expected to miss some time during the regular season with his surgically-repaired hip hurting, the Ravens safety would like to see a new contract.
+ Quarterbacks Donovan McNabb, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Tony Romo and Brett Favre rank second to sixth in terms of quarterback jersey sales. Any guesses on the quarterback that's sold the most jerseys from April 1 through June 30? Tim Tebow.
+ In the "I blame everyone but myself" file, Terrell Owens weighs in.
"People have listened to a lot of the commentaries throughout a lot of the media outlets, mainly ESPN, that has my character in question as far as things that have happened in the past.
"I may do 99 good things right and if I do one thing wrong, ESPN and the people on there ... make it out to be the worst thing ever."
"I think with the years that I've had, the last three to four years, I feel like I've tried to turn over a new leaf. But still they won't let go of what I did in the past."