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Bengals Round Table II: State Of The Defensive Safety

Welcome to the second round of our experimental Bengals Round Table. Earlier this afternoon we talked about Rey Maualuga becoming a defensive leader and the general state of the team's linebacker position. This time we look into the general state of the team's safety position. Of course you can add to our discussions in the comments. Consider it something like an open thread, with us providing introductory information to start. All of the questions were asked by Jason Garrison, though we're going to be putting out a call for questions on Twitter in the future. Now on with part II of our Bengals Round table for the day.

Now that talks between the Bengals and Donte Whitner have "cooled," do you think that the team can get by with the safeties that they have if they don't sign another free agent?

Josh Kirkendall: Honestly safety scares me the most. Chris Crocker is a solid guy and Reggie Nelson really came around last year. But there's virtually no depth behind them. Rookie Robert Sands will factor heavily this year, but again, like Moch, even with the hype, he's still an unproven rookie.
Naji Bsisu: The team will be able to get by with the safeties they have. Reggie Nelson showed some flashes at the end of last year, and Chris Crocker has been steady if not unspectacular. Coaches seem to have high hopes for Robert Sands. They had a third-round grade on him, I believe. Jeromy Miles can be solid, but he still needs development. Overall, the position is a little on the weak/unproven side and I would feel more comfortable if they signed another veteran.
Jason: I was excited that the team re-signed Gibril Wilson but we have no clue what he can do for the Bengals since he spent all his time on injured reserve last year. I agree, safety scares me more than any other position.

Josh: If either of our starters get hurt, we're in trouble. And that's from the perspective that I don't think either of our starting safeties are all that great -- though they are good. Nelson struggles on rush defense, but is fairly good against the pass. Crocker, coming off a major injury last year, is an emotional leader, but doesn't shutdown his side of the field. What do the great teams have in the NFL? Safeties. Enforcers. Guys that opposing defenses game-plan around. We don't have those, but then we're not a great team. So to answer the question, I do think they'll get by. But it's also a liability on this defense. Now you have to consider behind the big three (Crocker, Nelson, Sands), the competition for two spots on safety will be with a Gibril Wilson also coming off a major injury and a collection of undrafted free agents, one of whom is Tom Nelson.

Jason: Would you have rather (yes it's one of those) watched the Bengals select Jermaine Gresham in the first round of the 2010 draft like they did, or would you rather have them draft a safety (if they were able to possibly by trading up) like Eric Berry or Earl Thomas and let Chase Coffman develop more?
Naji: I like the drafting of Jermaine Gresham over trading up for an Eric Berry or Earl Thomas type safety. If used correctly, Gresham has the potential to be a huge weapon for this offense. Given the fact that we'll most likely be breaking in a rookie quarterback this year, I feel a lot better knowing that Andy Dalton will have Gresham as his safety valve. With that being said, the Bengals should really look into spending a high draft pick on the safety position. It would be really nice to have that Ed Reed / Troy Polamalu type safety on our side for once. We would also need to factor in what the team would have had to give up to trade up for an Eric Berry or Earl Thomas.
Josh: We wouldn't have had that opportunity to draft one of the top safeties, so I'm fine with Gresham. And the prospects this year for safety were weak at No. 4. Really nothing we could have done about it in the draft in the first rounds.
Jason: Well, knowing what we know now about Palmer retiring and having a rookie quarterback, of course I'm happy that we have Gresham because he's likely going to be one of the biggest safety valves for Dalton. However, safety has been a weak point for this team for a while now and I'm kind of getting sick of it. I'd like to see the team do something about it in the draft. Maybe next year they can look for a running back and a safety high...
Jason: ...and then they can mold them into solid players over the following four years and let them sign with other teams!

Josh: Why not re-sign Chinedum Ndukwe? Solid guy; maybe not as good as Crocker, but helps the depth.
Jason: I agree. They could sign him to a short contract. That wouldn't hurt anything
Josh: Unless his season-ending injury last year is far more serious than we're led to believe.
Naji: The team must feel like Gibril is the better option They also probably feel like Nelson/Miles have higher ceilings
Josh: Wilson at one point was damn good before he started signing big-time contracts. Signed a six-year $39 million deal in 2008, before he was released the next season. Signed a $27.5 million deal for five years with the Dolphins before he was released after a season.
Jason: Hopefully now that he's signing small contracts he'll be good again.
Josh: He did last year and blew out his knee. There's no middle ground with this guy. He has to stop signing contracts entirely.