Bengaldom in contention

10-22-03, 8:20 a.m.

Bengaldom is basking in the glow of Sunday's victory over the Ravens and the embers of a AFC North in shambles. Can 8-8 or, dare we think it in the name of David Stern, 7-9 wins it?

The populace gathers around water coolers and in watering holes to wonder about the race, not to mention Kitna, Dillon, and a new backup quarterback named Palmer in this week's Hobson's Choice: **

Hi Geoff, I have been a season ticket holder since 1978 and for the first time in over a decade I sat in my seat Sunday with a smile on my face for 55 minutes of the 60 played, the first 5 after Ravens scored on the opening drive was the only downside of the entire game. I noticed in the Cleveland game that the players have actually started buying into Marvin's plan and it is slowly showing the fruits of their labor.

I have 2 questions for you conerning this team, first is reference the running game, Bennett is at least a step slower than he was before his injury last year, and Corey wether he will admit it or not cannot make the cuts (because of his groin injury) or maybe just slowing down because of the years in the league, but the running game will for the first time in a long time be our achillies heal. Do you see Marvin going after a nice strong running back early in the draft, 2nd or 3rd round? You have to admit that we can not expect to beat teams like we did Sunday with no running game the rest of the season, although it does seem to make the rest of the offense come together like a band of brothers who know what needs to get done to make up for a defficiency.

The second question is this, why doesn't Marvin do anything to make up for TJ being out now for 6 games? What is Danny Farmer doing? And why hasn't he been signed at least until TJ gets healthy? It is clear that we only have 2 wide recievers that contribute, Kelly Washington is absent the majority of the time he is on the field, he looks very aprehensive in his routes and just doesn't look confident at all, sure he has had some big 3rd down catches earlier in the season but he just doesn't look confident out there at all. Without a running game and only having 2 wide recievers to depend on, is limiting the offense by 2 threats (running and a third reciever) It should bring the tight ends into play more which it has but another deep threat who can catch would be nice. Thanks, Joe from Florence.**

JOE: Thanks for your kind words at the top of your e-mail, and if they were able to run the ball, that last quarter would have been as pleasant as the previous three because the final would have been 34-10 and not 34-26. No question Dillon isn't himself, but they had trouble running the ball last year even before he got hurt, and a groin injury is just one traumatic injury and not a sign of wear and tear like a knee or shoulder.

To us, it would seem to be best served that instead of drafting a running back on the first day, go for an interior lineman in the second or third round (maybe a center because while Braham is as tough and as smart as they come and there is no one on the team we admire more, he does turn 33 in two weeks) and go after another one in free agency with both right guards (Mike Goff and Matt O'Dwyer) going on the market.

(It always amazes us how the Steelers invest high in the draft and free agency in guard and centers, but then, that might be one of the reasons they always are among the NFL rushing leaders.)

Dillon isn't always going to be hurt and all this trade talk is simply amazing because Paul Brown's first canon is not to get rid of anyone until you can replace him. No one has proven they can, and if you use a second- and third-rounder on a back, the new guy is still going to need the same help Dillon needs in the running game and you're no better off.

As for the second point, Farmer had no future here because they didn't think he could play special teams, which is why they kept guys like Hamilton and Walter. Lewis had his chance to put Houshmandzadeh on IR and sign Troy Edwards, but they didn't because they didn't think Edwards ran well enough. Yeah, maybe Washington has been up and down out of the gate, but we think the mind set is, 'Let's give the guy snaps and get him up and running because he can be a threat once he gets his legs under him.' This could be a move that pays off in December and not now, and that's the very essence of Marvin. Always big picture. Which no doubt changes as they get closer to the team he wants. **

If you look at the stats of Jon Kitna for the last 16 games, you'll see something that is absolutly amazing. Kitna has been the lightning rod of criticizm from Bengal fans and the media that covers the Bengals every time we lose. If he doesn't play a mistake-free football game, the majority of our fans blame him for the Bengals losing. As bad as the fans think Kitna is, he's arguably been playing at a Pro Bowl caliber level for the past 16 games, dating back to the bye week in 2002. Here are his numbers:

348 comp - 564 att ( 61.7 completion % ) - 4,014 yards - 24 TD - 15 INT - ( 7.11 yards/attempt ) - 86.2 passer rating

Posting those types of numbers will get you close to the Pro Bowl every year. But for Bengal fans, it just isn't enough. All they want to remember about Kitna are the interceptions that he's thrown for touchdowns, which is 4 during this stretch. The numbers that Kitna is putting up proves that his play isn't the sole reason why the Bengals win or lose games.

People that can break down the play of the Bengals know that there are so many things that contribute to us losing. Even in the Oakland game, when Kitna threw the INT, the offense came right back on the field to tie the game, only for our defense to not be able to stop the Raiders when we had to. As much as I've bashed Kitna the past 3 years, even I have to give him credit where credit is due. Carson Palmer may be a better QB than Kitna in about 3 - 5 years, but for right now, Kitna is definitely the man. Kenny, Clarksville, TN.**

KENNY: If we had a Hobson's Choice of the Week to win a SUV, you'd be riding off into the sunset for your rational and thorough approach to it all..

You're exactly right about the margin of error. Poor play on special teams and big plays allowed by the defense served to amplify Kitna's mistakes during his first two seasons here. Sure, he had some bad throws last year. But look at his numbers last year compared to Tennessee's Steve McNair. McNair had four more starts than Kitna did last year and finished with 22 TDs to 15 interceptions for an average pass play of 6.88 yards in hitting 61.2 percent of his passes. Kitna went 16 to 16 for an average pass play of 6.72 in hitting 62.2 of his passes.

Not much difference. But McNair was surrounded by a better defense and special teams that minimized his 15 picks and won 11 games and went to the AFC title game while Kitna went 2-10. The pro Palmer people argue that if he's the future, why waste his development if Kitna isn't your guy in '04 and beyond, anyway? But the pro Kitna people now have the upper hand. You could argue a rookie quarterback wouldn't be 2-4 at this point. And the PBS crowd saw what can happen to a rookie QB like Kyle Boller early in his career. Yes, his Ravens are 3-3, but he got beat up because he fumbled the ball and his defense got him behind because they gave up big plays. **

Geoff, First off, I want to thank you for a great job in keeping fans informed on the Bengals. I'm a long time fan going all the way back to the Virgil Carter years; and I have to admit it's beeen a long rough haul. But I am very optomistic about this year, so much so that I'm even coming out from New Jersey to see PBS and watch the Bengals play the Niners in December. So what do you think, will this game have playoff implications for the Bengals? Seeing them beat the Niners would be nice, but it would be nicer if the game had a playoff atmosphere.**

JERSEY: Thank you. Super Bowls XVI and XXIII always make it nice for Bengaldom to beat the Niners. As we wrote Monday, the numbers of their schedule and those in the AFC North are favorable for a run. The Bengals' toughest foes by record (Seattle and Kansas City) are at home and the only team with a winning record that they play on the road is St. Louis. They've got a good shot playing a meaningful game by the time you get here Dec. 14. **

I know it is early to bring this up, but what is the chance of Dillion be trading for a higher draft pick next year. Whether or not we make the playoffs, (i hope so), we shouldn't be drafting near the top so how about maybe trading Dillion for a chance to move up to get a good, young back. As much as Dillion is a part of the Bengals, i don't think he fits into Lewis's attitude. And Rudi Johnson and Brandon Bennett are decent backs but they are not featured backs, so we need to do something.**

We just don't get how people want to blow off Dillon and his nearly 7,800 yards. Lewis and Dillon might not be in Lover's Lane every night like Brian Billick and Jamal Lewis but they've got a lot of respect for each other and talk quite regularly. There has been nothing said by the pair publicly that hints of a problem in their relationship. Although Lewis didn't like some of his early actions (missing Lewis' first minicamp, being late for training camp), he has indicated lately Dillon is doing all that's asked and Dillon likes how Lewis has turned it around. How do you think Bill Cowher and Jerome Bettis are getting along these days? And weren't Phil Simms and Bill Parcells frequently at each other and still got to the playoffs every year? You don't have to be married to guys to win.

Here's the other thing. Do you want a rookie running back in there with a first-year QB? Of course not. Next year is the year you would think they really need Dillon for Palmer's sake. **

been a bengals fan for 10 years now, and this year I'm seeing alot of improvement in all aspects. Do you think it has somethin to do with the new coaches, or all the new players we got this year? I went to the game on Sunday vs. the Ravens and I haven't ever seen the fans so happy, I was goin nuts, I saw alot of Sportscenter top 10 plays in that game, usually we never get any highlights. One more thing, Where is Weathersby at? I don't even see him in special teams, is he hurt, is he even on our roster anymore? Thanks man.. .Ag, a tru-die-hard bengals fan dayton, OH**

AG: You signed up at a tough time, but I'm sure Sunday was quite sweet for you. No question that Lewis has provided a difference with his focus and detail when it comes to off-season conditioning and planning and in-season preparation. Plus, free-agents like John Thornton, Tory James, and Kevin Hardy have provided a league-wide playoff perspective for career-long Bengals.

As for Weathersby, Lewis is asked about him every week and every week he says the same thing. He's not playing as well as the guys they have chosen to dress on Sundays and until he shows he can contribute on special teams, he won't be on the active list. **

hey Geoff, great site you run here for the bengals, i know we get atleast 1 and sometimes 2 new articles a day and most sites get maybe 2 a week, if they are lucky. Anyways what i wanted to talk about is getting a name for the new Chad Johnson end zone celebration. ThePackers had the Lambeu Leap, so i think we need to run a contest to see what we could name ours, something like the Bengal Bounce or something ya know, what do you think though because i know it gets me so pumped up that i dont think i would've let Chad Johnson back on the field if he'd have jumped in my seat. Go Bengals! Heath, Chesapeake OH**

HEATH: Thank you. Maybe we can get to Chad and some of the other guys to get their ideas and put them up in a fan poll. We're partial to the Paul Brown Plunge, or the PB Plunge. **

Do you think we'll ever see Peter Warrick lined up as a QB and actually throw the ball? I'm sure there is a play/are plays to where he may do so, but I can't remember him ever doing anything besides running the football once taking it. I'm just saying because if you see him in the backfield with Kitna out wide, you can almost bank that he's going to run the ball himself – whereas if he threw the ball once in a great while, he may be able to get the defense to respect him more and open himself up to more yards rushing out of the backfield.

I realize he's no NFL QB, but if I remember correctly he was a standout QB in the state of Florida where he won multiple state titles. I'm guessing a lot of that was on his feet, but you'd still need to be able to throw. He could surely memorize one set of passing routes, and I'm sure he can read coverages as an NFL WR anyway.**

GOOD IDEA: Warrick has lined up as a QB in the past, but mainly as a runner. Throwing the ball would be a nice wrinkle and would be a crisp retort to all the things Hines Ward does for the Steelers out of different sets. But let's do it about once every solar eclipse. He's still a NFL wide receiver for many reasons no matter how many times he took Bradenton High to the playoffs. **

You omitted someone from the game ball list. I give the game ball hands down to Justin Smith, the guy was absolutely awesome Sunday.
Mike, Athens, Ohio**

MIKE: Smith played terrific against the run and had good, consistent pass pressure on Boller. But of the defensive guys, Simmons and Powell forced turnovers that changed the game, and you've got to have some kind of criteria. **

How many wins do you think the Bengals will have by the end of the season? I am hopefull for a 10 and 6 season for Lewis. Is this wishful thinking? Any chance we will ever see Palmer in a regular season game, even if it's just as mop up duty? What's the real scoop on Dillon being traded? Is there any real truth behind this? As a big Dillon supporter, as well as die hard Bengal fan, I think this would be a huge mistake. Now that the Bengals have a possible marquee quarterback, it would be foolish to get rid of such a quality back, with the offense improving.
Respectfully, Bengals fan in NY**

NY: Take back that Boone homer and we can talk.

Looking at the remaining schedules for the AFC North teams, they ought to be in this thing until the end and have a chance to win it at 9-7, 8-8, or even 7-9.

Moving Palmer to No. 2 seems to mean they are looking to ease him into games in certain situations, maybe for a series or two, and certainly in a mop-up role.

The real scoop on Dillon? You tell me. If you draft a guy, now you've basically got a rookie backfield next season. Could things change? Of course. Who in Boston thought three weeks ago that Red Sox manager Grady Little would be in danger of getting dragged to Salem to be burned at the stake? **

I think the bengals need to bring back danny farmer ,which was a big threat to teams ,which wide reciever could they get rid of? hamilton **

HAMILTON: They wouldn't get rid of any of the guys behind Johnson and Warrick to make room for Farmer because they determined he didn't play as well on special teams as the guys they kept, which is why they cut him in the first place. Great hands. Even greater guy. But Lewis is looking for a different kind of player. **

Geoff, you know you're doing your job well when Marvin Lewis tells the players not to talk to you about plays- congrats. What is the early line on what the Bengals might look for in free agency and the 2004 draft (although as the season progresses, it looks like the drafting position is getting worse and worse, and I am not complaining)? Christopher, Chattanooga, TN**

CHRISTOPHER: Thank you, Of course, we'd rather have the information. But we see where Marvin is coming from. Hey, when they had the most accessible front office and team in sports before Lewis arrived, what did it get them?

We've already touched on the interior line. Maybe a running back, but the other thing that makes that a longshot in our mind next to surrounding Palmer with veterans at the skills spots is they've got more pressing needs. They need that big-time playmaker somewhere on defense at either linebacker or safety, and you can always use a cornerback. **

No question, just a statement that I think it's really great to see so many free-agents having an impact on this club. Last week it was Duane Clemons, this week Carl Powell had a good game with a half a sack and a forced fumble and recovery. Kevin Hardy's all over the field even if he's not the first one there, he's coming in to clean up. No one thought Tory James would bring this much livelihood and charisma to the Bengals secondary. It just seems like every week a new guy is stepping up and making big plays or plays to keep the Bengals in the game. As a fan since birth I have to say I'm thrilled the Bengals are playing this well, can we fast forward the week to get to Sunday??? Jeremy, Erlanger**

JEREMY: To us, the key thing there is the philosophy that Lewis brought with him. Those plays were made when they made the decision not to put money into one good, solid player (Takeo Spikes) and put it instead in three, four, five guys they knew could excel in the scheme they were crafting. And that's no knock on Spikes. It just shows what new blood can bring.

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