Sunday, June 02, 2002

Bengals Q & A

Ask Mark
        Darnay Scott will make $3.2 million this season. Some fans are wondering if that money could not be spent better elsewhere.

        Question, from Trevor in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: Why don't the Bengals cut Darnay Scott? The Bengals say they are worried about losing Scott's deep threat, but they never throw deep anyway. It's time for the young wide receivers to step up. The savings can be used to lock up (Takeo) Spikes and (Brian) Simmons or add more depth to the defense. I think the Bengals need a very strong defense to compete in our division; keeping the linebackers together will ensure this.

        Q, from Craig in Woodville: Do you think the Bengals will cut Scott after June 1 to clear some cap room to re-sign either Spikes or Simmons? Or could it be to sign a couple of free agents.

        Answer: The five other wide receivers had a good May. Chad Johnson and Danny Farmer have been especially impressive. Three of the receivers — Farmer, Peter Warrick and Ron Dugans — are entering their third seasons; they're not “young” any more.

        As for Scott, the odds of him being released seem to increase daily. There are questions about the health of his left leg two years after he broke it. Also working against Scott are his age — he'll be 30 on July 7 — and the belief held by many in the Bengals' front office that receivers depreciate markedly after age 30.

        The fear in letting him go, though, is losing the one truly experienced, consistently productive receiver.

        If Scott is cut, the money would most likely go toward trying to sign one of the linebackers.

        Q, from Cody in Moundsville, W. Va.: Who do you think WILL get the starting QB job, and who do you think SHOULD get it?

        A: The job should be Jon Kitna's to lose. His 751 passing yards the final two games of last season can't be discounted. After a season of growing pains in a new offense, Kitna and the receivers appear to be in concert.

        Kitna is determined to dismiss what he says is the perceived knock on his arm strength. His attitude is strong, too, that he is “the man.”

        Kitna probably will start the season if the pass offense looks good in the preseason.

        Signing Gus Frerotte was a good move. He has been impressive in his first month with the team and is not disruptive at all in the clubhouse.

        I agree with something Bengals president Mike Brown said while watching a May practice: This quarterback competition has a “productive” feel to it.

        Q, from Shannon in Bowling Green, Ky.: Just how does Kitna help the Bengals offense? His lack of arm strength boxes the defense in and eliminates Corey Dillon. The Bengals also have excellent depth at wide receiver. If (offensive coordinator) Bob Bratkowski plans on putting three to four wide receivers on the field at a time, wouldn't it make sense to spread them out as much as possible? Is it just me, or is strong-armed Frerotte the logical answer? Or does Kitna bring something to the table that I don't know about yet?

        A: Kitna brings a year of hard-won experience with his receivers, and whatever differences developed because of his public criticism of the receivers last season appears to have gone away.

        But you bring up some good points about arm strength. Kitna's arm is not “weak.” But Frerotte's arm is definitely stronger.

        Last season, when Kitna and the receivers were clicking, there was plenty of room for Dillon to run.

        Q, from George in Middletown: The Bengals bashers continue to complain about the cornerback position. They refuse to realize this is nearing a team strength. My recollection is Ligarius Jennings, who is now playing in Europe, replaced Rodney Heath when he was injured. Kevin Kaesviharn replaced Jennings when he was hurt. I recall that Jennings played well and was effective the short period he played for the Bengals. How would you assess Jennings' abilities and chances of making the team this year?

        A: Jennings did himself a favor by going to Europe, where he is getting experience and playing time. He played well in multiple-cornerback sets last season, although Kaesviharn has more polish and savvy.

        I don't know if you can call cornerback a strength of the team, but it's no longer a glaring weakness. Artrell Hawkins improved a great deal last season, and he gave cornerbacks coach Kevin Coyle a lot of credit for teaching him how to better play the position. Coaching goes a long way in the NFL — in spite of the skill of the players — and Coyle is quickly establishing himself as a fine assistant.

        But, as for Jennings, he should have a good shot to make the team and play this season.

        Q, from Jerry in Dayton, Ohio: If the union has a standard contract with management, what is the problem with getting Lamont (Thompson) signed and delivered to the Bengals, and why is the clause he is fighting for so important for him?

        A: Thompson and agent Michael Sullivan say the player needs written injury protection that bridges the $225,000 first-year tender the Bengals are obligated to pay and the $1.4 million signing bonus the 41st player in the 2001 draft received.

        Thompson has almost 1.2 million reasons to be concerned, even though the Bengals have verbally promised they would bargain in good faith. Sullivan wants it in writing, which the club provided first-round pick Levi Jones.

        True, though, the whole issue would be resolved if a deal could be reached on a contract.

        Q, from Rick in Anderson Township: Will Kaesviharn start? I think, based on performance and playmaking ability, he should. The Bengals don't like to own up to their mistakes, even though that likely means a high draft pick (Hawkins) They never could admit that Tony McGee couldn't catch, and it has taken three years to determine that Rackers can't kick. That said, I would have signed (Todd) Peterson rather than draft another rookie kicker (Travis Dorsch).

        A: Let's see, where to start? No, I don't think Kaesviharn will start if Hawkins and Jeff Burris are healthy. (See previous answer about Hawkins).

        That said, Kaesviharn was quite a find by Bengals scouts, a smart player who is sneaky fast off the scrap heap. Kaesviharn might not start as one of the top two cornerbacks, but he will be on the field a lot. He'll most likely be the nickel back, depending, of course, on the comeback of Rodney Heath.

        As for making mistakes, no organization or business likes to admit its errors.

        As for Rackers, I still hold to what I said last season: If Rackers doesn't blossom here as an NFL kicker, he will somewhere and soon. There's a sense in the NFL that most kickers don't have success until they're cut once. These are not excuses, just facts: Rackers has been kicking off the worst playing field in the NFL, and although he would never say it, he hasn't been well managed.


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