Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Bengals e-mail Q&A

Mark Curnutte
Everybody has an opinion, and a few questions, about the Bengals' draft.

Question, from Ken in Westchester: It seems the Bengals made a mistake in not drafting center Jake Grove with their first overall pick. What are your thoughts? He could have provided synergy with Carson Palmer for years to come. Or maybe coach Marvin Lewis is not confident in Rudi Johnson, so he drafted Chris Perry.

Answer: The criticism of the Bengals' draft is they took players roughly a round before they had to. Taking Grove at No. 26 might have been a big-time reach, though he clearly was the best center in the draft. The interior of the offensive line was not addressed.

The Bengals were hoping Grove would have fallen to No. 49, but he went to the Raiders at No. 45.

Lewis is confident in Johnson's ability, just not his contract status.

Johnson remains unsigned as a restricted free agent, though the Bengals have tendered him a one-year, $1.824 million offer. Johnson would like a long-term deal.

Q, from Tony in California, Ohio: Due to the number of draft picks from this year's draft, what current Bengals will on the hot seat in the upcoming training camp?

A: A lot of current Bengals will face competition for jobs. But don't think all 11 of these draft picks will make the team, and there's a chance a couple of the members of the 2003 draft class won't be around in September.

Linebacker Adrian Ross, who tore an ACL in December at St. Louis, could be released once his knee is declared healthy. Safety Marquand Manuel, though he played through a hamstring injury in 2003, could be another player who goes - based on the acquisitions in the secondary. Another familiar name facing an uphill battle to make the team again is wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh. If injury takes him off the field again, he could be cut as soon as he is healthy enough to release or might receive an injury settlement.

Q, from Dan in Manitowoc, Wis.: Do you think the Bengals got duped in the trade with the Rams? St. Louis got Steven Jackson. Lewis says Chris Perry was their No. 1 running back. If the Rams had selected Perry instead of Jackson, would Lewis be saying that Jackson was their No. 1 guy?

A: Lewis said the Bengals knew they could get Perry at No. 26, so they made the trade down two slots and got the Rams' fourth-round draft pick, to boot. It's not just Lewis making the decision here. Running backs coach Jim Anderson said Perry was the best in his eyes, and Anderson's evaluation - given his unparalleled track record as a position coach with the Bengals for 20 years - counts most.

Q, from Dave in Tampa, Fla.: Not one defensive starter in the entire draft! Unbelievable!

A: Well, there's likely no offensive starter, either, from this draft class as a rookie. The Bengals' talent level has risen, and rookies are no longer drafted in desperate need of starting immediately. Second-round cornerback Keiwan Ratliff could seriously push Deltha O'Neal at cornerback if O'Neal doesn't regain his pre-2003 form.

Actually, the most likely rookie starter is one who wasn't drafted at all, free agent punter Kyle Larson from Nebraska.

Larson, signed Tuesday, could seriously push veteran Kyle Richardson. And the punting battle immediately becomes one of the most intense of training camp. Larson also can hold for kicks.



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