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Again with apologies to Cincinnati TalkMaster Lance McAlister and NFL guru Peter King of *Sports Illustrated *, here are some musings I Think I Believe I Know after the Bengals won their preseason opener Monday night in Green Bay.
I don't know if he's as good as he was in '05. But I do know it's a good thing for Rudi Johnson that he reconfigured his body because the Rudi of '06 and '07 couldn't have beat out the Perry that showed up Monday night.
That said, there is a valuable role for both these guys. The Bengals need the '08 Johnson to get his hamstring healthy so he can pound the clock and protect Carson Palmer. Rudi is The Pocket Bus when it comes to getting those clutch, tough yards like Jerome Bettis. The Bengals need Perry's speed to keep defenses honest and protect Carson Palmer. Why run both into the ground when you can use both and spare both?
Keith Rivers: I Think I Believe I Know that if Perry is like getting an extra first-round pick, then Rivers is like getting one of the top young four-year linebackers in free agency this past March. He stepped in like he had 50 NFL starts.
How would he have played Monday night if he signed his contract on July 25 instead of Aug. 5? With virtually no practice, the guy comes in and leads the team with seven solos. The only thing comparable in Bengaldom is Alfred Williams' multi-sack game against, of all teams in all places, the Packers in Milwaukee in the 1991 preseason a few days after he ended a holdout of a couple of weeks.
It's too early to say Rivers is going to be an elite player or a playmaker, or simply a smart tackling machine. But Monday night showed that he certainly gives the Bengals something they haven't had at linebacker since Odell Thurman: An explosive athlete that can move.
Now the question is with SAM backer Rashad Jeanty hopefully expected back by the preseason finale, does Brandon Johnson move over there? And what does that say about Ahmad Brooks if Johnson does?
Yes, the tackling was absolutely horrendous. If the media finished like that, John Edwards would be speaking at the Democratic Convention next month.
But let's face it, no one has tackled anybody for almost a year so you can't react to it like it is the week after the bye. If there is no improvement Sunday night against the Lions, go ahead, jump them.
Jones, the second-year third corner the Saints drafted in the fifth round last year, played the most he's ever played in an NFL game. Counting special teams, he may have hit 70 snaps.
He got fried late in the first quarter on a 30-yard pass, but he had plenty of good coverage, too. Zimmer never stayed away from man-to-man very long. Even, it seemed, on third down. He's making the DBs believe they can cover.
And guys like Jones and Robert Geathers are why this defense has a chance. Jones nicked up his foot a few days ago in practice, but he never blinked. He knows he needs the snaps. And here is Geathers, off a $14 million payday last year, with a bit of a tight hamstring going out and not only starting a preseason game, but getting a sack. He knows the club needs the leadership.
I also Think I Believe I Know that after the top four corners, the Bengals may have to go to the waiver wire in a couple of weeks to get that fifth corner if Ethan Kilmer doesn't return from injury soon.
The Offensive Line: I Think I Believe I Know the line looks as ready to be as effective as it was in '05. I won't say it's as good because it doesn't have Willie Anderson or Rich Braham, but it certainly looks as healthy as it's been since '05 and good enough to win. Particularly when the team focuses on running the ball.
But with backup center Dan Santucci going down Monday night with what may end up being a serious ankle injury that could extend into the regular season, the Bengals may have to go to the waiver wire to in a week or two. The identity of the No. 3 center is already a concern with starting guards Bobbie Williams and Andrew Whitworth getting work.
So what do most teams do to score points without a No. 3? They do what the Bengals did against the Packers. They run the ball and throw to the tight ends and the backs.
But don't kid yourself. I also Think I Believe I Know there is some concern about Johnson's ankle and Houshmandzadeh's hamstring. Both are 30 and both weren't here for the voluntary workouts and except for one minicamp day in which Johnson was hobbled, Palmer basically hasn't seen them in the same play since he tried to get Houshmandzadeh that 113th and NFL-leading reception back on Dec. 30 in Miami.
Both guys work so hard that you know they'll be ready if they can, and Johnson already looks extremely focused and committed to expunge last season while the Bengals are hoping Houshmandzadeh's brains and familiarity with Palmer and the system make the rust moot.
I also Think I Believe I Know that Marcus Maxwell looks good to me, but the club is not enthralled with his speed. You'd like see to Antonio Chatman do more and it's shocking to see what he didn't do, which was not field a punt immediately and opting to let it roll to him.
I also Think I Believe I Know rookie receiver Jerome Simpson is going to be OK. But not until 2009 and after watching Palmer on the sidelines going over a particular route with him, you're thinking he may be inactive the first month of this season.
But Simpson didn't show any sign of backing down when the lights came on and add that moxie with his terrific hands and you have to figure he'll get it done at some point.
The D-Line: I Think I Believe I Know starting tackles John Thornton and Domata Peko, as well as Michael Myers, got some push in the pass rush as the Bengals got some welcome pressure without a blitz. Geathers looked good and it makes one wonder how much injured right end Antwan Odom will make him better once he gets back.
I Think I Believe I Know the two guys that are replacing Odom, Jonathan Fanene and Frostee Rucker, have the kind of talent that coaches love and the kind of inconsistency that makes them talk to themselves. It looks like they did the same thing against The Pack. Some real good snaps and some not so good ones.
I Think I Believe I Know that the two rookie tackles, Pat Sims and Jason Shirley, are works in progress. It seems like the coaches are trying to get them into game shape first.