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Bengals Have Questions About Their Defensive Line

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When we talk about the draft and the 2011 Bengals, we mostly focus on the Carson Palmer issue, the different options at wide receiver or the different weaknesses in the secondary. While we all know that the defensive line could use some attention, we don't talk about it very much. For some reason, the defensive line has just slipped our minds.

That's a funny thing too, especially when you consider that, in the first round, no other position has as much talent as the defensive line positions do. Names like Nick Fairley, Da'Quan Bowers, Marcell Dareus, Robert Quinn and others have been in the mix when talking about top-10 picks in the upcoming draft later this month. Most experts and draft analysts have the Bengals selecting a quarterback or wide receiver in the first round of the draft. A defensive line selection in the first round may be one of the safest things that the Bengals could do in the first round, especially when considering taking either Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert with the No. 4 overall pick. However, do the Bengals really need to spend a high first-round draft pick on a defensive lineman?

The Cincinnati Enquirer's Joe Reedy pointed out a few facts about the defensive line in an article he wrote on Sunday. Last year, Antwan Odom, Tank Johnson and Frostee Rucker all went on the injured reserve list and all three are ready to return to the field. That would leave the team with those three, Domata Peko, Michael Johnson, Pat Sims, Carlos Dunlap, Geno Atkins and Robert Geathers on the roster.

We already know that Dunlap will likely start at defensive end in 2011 after coming off a rookie season in which he racked up 9.5 sacks. Scouts Inc. has also pegged Geno Atkins as a rising star, so we all know that he'll be getting some considerable playing time. So, where does that leave Geathers, Odom and Johnson (if Johnson doesn't move back to outside linebacker), now that there's only one defensive end position left?

Geathers and Odom are both slated to make over $4 million this season and many wonder if it is worth it to keep both. Besides a history of injuries during his three seasons with the Bengals, Odom was suspended for four games last year for violating the league's policy on performance enhancing substances.

Head coach Marvin Lewis, according to Reedy, is taking a "wait and see attitude."

"Robert has done everything we've asked and done everything right. He's not been as effective pass rusher, but he does good job playing the right gaps," Lewis said. "Antwan getting back to the way he played in '09 (eight sacks in the first three games) is going to be big for him. He knows that. It's important to him."

On the interior line, the Bengals have Atkins, Johnson, Sims, Peko and Clinton McDonald. Atkins will definitely be on the field during passing downs, but other than that, Johnson, Peko and Sims will fight a three-way battle to see who is on the field when the game starts, though I'm sure all three will see considerable playing time.

The Bengals not only have some solid talent on their defensive line, they actually have an overflow of players to the point that they're going to have to let people go. While I think it would be nice to have a player like Da'Quan Bowers, Nick Fairley or Marcell Dareus on the line, I don't think it would be wise for the Bengals to select a defensive lineman with the No. 4 overall pick, especially considering how desperately the Bengals need to fill voids in some other positions.