Bengaldom tuning up

8-29-03, 4:50 p.m.

INDIANAPOLIS _ With the pre-season finale at hand, Bengaldom vents about punters, punt returners, the secondary, and crowd noise. The last Hobson's Choice of the preseason: **

Have the Bengals considering trading one of their punters, as opposed to outright releasing him? If Denver can get a conditional 7th-round pick from Seattle for an undrafted free agent, surely Dorsch or Harris is worth a solid 5th or 6th round pick. It's too bad they couldn't settle on a punter by the Titans game to give another team at least one preseason game to work on timing with our "odd man out." Johnboy.

JOHNBOY:The Bengals have considered it and have no doubt discovered if another team knows Harris or Dorsch is going to get cut, their leverage is nil. Why trade for one of them when you have a shot at getting him on the waiver wire? Dorsch is so unproven as a punter, it's an open question that they could do as well as Denver did in such a trade.

Why does the press seem so negative on Kitna when he throws an interception which was obviously dropped by the receiver? Because of poor perception the media keeps the negativity going which turns off the fans. He (Kitna) would have had a QB rating of 130-150 if two crucial passes on the numbers hadn't been dropped. I personally am sick of the negativity from the media. Tennessee's media on the internet were amazed at Kitna's accuracy and presense on the field. If the coaches have the most confidence in Kitna (for now at least) then let's get behind him. I bet most people so critical couldn't drop a putt from 2 feet or sink a lay-up on a 7 foot basket. Rick from Central Oregon.

RICK:** The fans seem to be with you on that one. In the most recent fan poll on, they gave Kitna

the most votes for the most impressive veteran on offense this preseason. Kitna just happens to bring out that kind of passion in fans and it's probably because of his streaky play When he's good, the guy has just been terrific and carried the team. But he also has the ability to make an egregious mistake, or play a bad enough game (last year against Pittsburgh at home) that he'll stand up and tell you it was the worst game he's ever played. Or the worst decision he's ever made.

You have to love his honesty and his courage for being at his locker after every game to meet the media. Right now, as Marvin Lewis molds his team, he most likely considers that just as important as Kitna's arm strength as he continues to let Carson Palmer develop in the background. **

Looking at the bengals defense for the upcoming season the secondary looks like a concern. The bengals added 3 solid players for the d-line, so you know that it is improved. The linebacking core looks to be very solid with Kevin Hardy and Brian Simmions moving over to ROLB. Even with the addition of Tory James and safety Roger beckett it's still a concern. With a lot of db's being cut couldn't the bengals really try to pick a corner or safety? I see that Otis Smith got released, maybe not the best but could be a inprovement.I think you got to have depth at every position,at least have some dept at the weak points of a football team.Now, what do you think?**

A veteran like Otis Smith just doesn't seem to fit what Lewis is trying to get done back there at cornerback, which is to be physical and fast. It's a concern, but, remember, they are getting used to a different system, one that is far different from the one last year in which they often looked tentative and were playing zone even when they were playing man-to-man.

At least they are playing fast and physical now and when a guy completes a pass, the DB is draped on him and not 10 yards behind him. This defensive thing is going to take time. They may be done trying to add starters and backups that are going to play a lot. When they thought Rams safety Kim Herring might get cut after June 1, that might have been a possibility because of his ties to Lewis in Baltimore, but the Rams kept him. **

Geoff: We, the fans, have been hearing over and over again that the best players will play. Then we see Carson CLEARLY outplaying our other QBs. So the coaches then fall back on the "he's not READY" reasoning. OK that's fine. I'm sure they know more about it than most of us (me included). Sooo, how WILL they know when he's ready? What is he currently lacking that he must gain? How far away is he on those things? How is the fact that he's clearly already ahead on other things factored in?

IMHO, he'll be getting into games after the bye week, which seems right to me, especially if we're not doing so well anyway. What do you think? Kurt, Hilliard, Ohio.

KURT:Thanks for your kind words. We're not sure he's outplayed Kitna in the preseason, but you ask the great, pertinent questions. Truth be told, they won't know when he's ready. He'll have to play a season for anyone to really know what the deal is. Let's face it, if he gets into games this year, it's because Kitna ran into a hellacious slump, or they're out of the playoffs. But Palmer's salary cap number demands he'll have to play in 2004, even if Kitna is named "Comeback Player of the Year."

Geoff, I know Willie's just trying to get us fans fired up, but come on!! Thishas got to be a joke! I was at last year's opening game. That stadium wasrocking when the game started. We thought it was going to be a greatseason, remember all the hype? By the time the first quarter was over itwas obvious that we'd been sold a load of manure.

Does Willie know howdisgusting it was for us to get so pumped up and then watch them get laughed at by the other team? Willie, we'll get loud when you give us reason to. Instead of talkinglike your ineptitude has been OUR fault look at yourself.

Guess what, wefans are even more jealous of the Tennessee, Miami, and Baltimore FANS because their teams give them something to cheer about. TWELVE YEARS, Willie. Try staying loyal to your team for TWELVE YEARS like we have when they play uninspired football and give you NOTHING to be proud of.

Guesswhat, I'm going to the opening day game this year. I'll be cheering you on and hoping AGAIN that you reward me for my loyalty. What are YOU going todo? Spend your time telling us what YOU are going to do to reward ourloyalty despite your constant failure. I'm so sick and tired of hearing players on THIS team cry about howthere's no noise in PBS. Don't you people get it??!!

Play with passion,play with intensity, play with guts and we'll cheer louder than you've everheard before. I've been to Bengals games in the Eighty's that were so loud. I couldn't hear the guy next to me without us screaming at each other. That's why the called it the Jungle. There's no Jungle, Willie, when allthe cats on the field are just kittens. It's time for YOU to become aTIGER!! J.W. Smith.

J.W.:** There's nothing you say with which can be quibbled. You call the shot honestly, but to Willie's credit he did say in the story that it's the team's fault for a quiet stadium.

Willie has been one of the more stand-up guys through this thing, not to mention one of the best players, so he's got the credibility to say some things. The last thing he wants to do is rip the fans. His point is the fans have to keep the faith, too, even when the first thing goes wrong in a game. We think he's just saying, Marvin is starting from scratch, so should the players and fans and block out the past.

But you speak eloquently of the fans' frustrations. **

With TJ showing so much more promise this preseason, will he crack the starting rotation? Right now he seems to be the most reliable receiver. Aaron.

AARON:Houshmandzadeh has been arguably the Most Valauble Player of the preseason, but Warrick sure looked good against the Titans. With rookie Kelley Washington needing time to get adapted, Houshmandzadeh could be one of the top three receivers when they go three-wide, with Warrick in the slot and Chad Johnson in the outside spot opposite Houshmandzadeh. But Warrick looks to be the other starter with Johnson.

Greetings Geoff What's your opinion on the condition of the playing field so far this year? It seems to me that big chunks of turf are still being torn-up during the games. What does the team say? The groundskeepers?
Thanks, Chris, Anderson Township.

CHRIS:** The recent hot weather hasn't been good for the field, but we haven't noticed players slipping and falling, and no one has complained that we've heard. Like any grass field in the NFL, the most wear seems to be in the middle of the field. The vibes are the team is going to take a long look at new field turf surfaces in New York and Philadelphia (and maybe at Anderson High School?) before making a decision on whether to replace grass with an artificial surface.

Is it me or everyone, that after the Tennessee game, They can't compete with the creme of the NFL. This was obvious, the Bengals were predicted correctly by the experts in that; five wins would be good for this team and six might be of a reach. So can Marvin Lewis come up with a new line for the upcoming eleven losses, other than "We'll go back and look at the film, then go out and work hard and see what we can do, to get better". Obviously, not enough, start scanning the waver wire, Wouldn't you agree?

No. A very good Tennessee team needed a last-ditch drive in the first half to take a 13-7 lead against the Bengals when both first teams were in there. That's competing against a possible Super Bowl team. Yes, they very well could win just six games this season, but that would be a big step up considering how bad they were last year and the difficulty of this year's schedule. Look, Lewis is changing a culture, not just plays and players. He can't push a button and go 10-6 in his first season. You would have raised legitimate points if this was August of 2004. **

My name is Rick. I have followed the Bengals for many years. I was stationed in Germany when they played the 49er's in both Super Bowls. Leading to my question,,,, I know there has been a lot of changes from top to bottom. Now my question,,,, Why do we continue to keep Artrell Hawkins? Years we have been talking about his potential, heart, tallent and drive. I know he has worked with Dion Sanders during the off season. Heart and drive he possesses. The end result though is that he gets burned. This year we have a chance I hope to change things around. I dont question Coach Lewis,,, but lets look at the numbers. God knows I love the Bengals,,, I just want them to have a winning season. Thanks a million,,,, Rick, Xenia, Oh. P.S. Just wanted to say I attended the Bengals and Lions game. I was lucky enough to meet Ickey Woood. He was a super guy. There for a moment I felt the spark of winning.

RICK:** Ickey still is the man 15 years later. You can't just shrug off those qualities Artrell has. He's tough, he hits, he plays hard. Those are guys you need. Yes, he has struggled at times during his career. But he hasn't exactly been blessed with the perfect circumstances.

He had to start right away since he got drafted, and until Tory James arrived this year, he had never played with a veteran playoff cornerback. The year the Bengals set their sack record, Hawkins had his best season. It speaks volumes that an excellent defensive mind like Lewis went out of his way to praise Hawkins as one of the Most Valuable Players as this training camp closed. He must be doing something right, and he's now probably playing in his best spot as a nickel cornerback. **

I was wondering, as a Bengals' fan excited about the coming of Marvin lewis, why the team has elected not to change the colors at PBS on the sidelines from the drab green to orange and black. Every other stadium in the NFL has the team colors and logo on the sidelines. Are there any plans to change this in the near future? I think it would help immensely in "bringing back the jungle" if people actually could tell who played there.**

We'll pass it on. Give Lewis some time. He's always taking notes. **

You mentioned the first play of the Lions game when Kitna tried to get the ball to Farmer. The problem was that Chad Johnson was one on one on the left side and beat his defender to the inside and was open for a touchdown and Kitna did not even look his way. My thinking is that Chad Johnson has to be the first look on every pass and then look the other way!!!**

We're not sure what was happening with Johnson on that play, but if Farmer was singled up, you've got to believe there was a good chance another guy was lurking around Johnson. Who knows what Kitna saw? Maybe he missed him. But the point is, if the Bengals can't get another guy on the other side who can run like Johnson, Johnson is never going to get singled up. He'll be bracketed by linebackers and swallowed up by safeties over the top.

**In your opinion what does the pick up of Marquise Walker mean? I myself have been a fan of his for some time and still wonder why did michigan change his position from cornerback to wide reciver? Either way in my opinon he could be an excellent wide reciver for us. How would you cut to keep him? I'd cut Danny Farmer even if the fans like him, he's not fast enough to compete with this years batch of recivers.(and put dugans on "ir" until ready to play). Rob from Forest Park now in Texas.

ROB:** As we now know, both Walker and Dugans are gone. We don't think Lewis was ever a big fan of Walker and he was vindicated when he showed up and didn't exactly practice with abandon. But the pickup of Kevin Walter probably says the same things as the pickup of Walker. They're committed to upgrading the last spot on the roster and if there's a guy on the waiver wire, they'll do it. If Farmer is the fifth and last receiver, he's going to have to fend off these challenges, just like the 10th DB or sixth linebacker.

**With all the talk about the special teams problems, it was mentioned that Peter Warrick would be the punt return guy, but all I ve been seeing is T.J. Houshmandzadeh doing his usual, "muff a punt return", at a critical juncture in the game. What gives? Is Peter going to be the punt return man or not? Jason A. Hensley.

JASON:** You probably didn't talk about T.J.'s muff when he took it 39 yards to set the tone against Detroit. That said, they can't put up with it, and Warrick is still listed as the No. 1 returner and will no doubt be there Sept. 7. But don't sell Houshmandzadeh short once he gets rid of the yips.

**My dad has a question"who was the running back for Cincinnati in their first super bowl against the 49rs? can you help us. Thanks Albert Jeffery.

ALBERT:** The 1981 backfield consisted of fullback Pete Johnson and running back Charles Alexander.

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