With Larry Moore out for the season and Rich Braham banged up, what will be the Bengals plan at Center. Is Eric Ghiaciuc ready to step in and play meaningful minutes? Is Ben Wilkerson progressing to the point that he will be activated after Week 6 or is he most likely heading to IR also? What about Jerry Fontenot? Is he ready willing and able to take Moore's spot on the active roster?
Mike, Galion, Ohio
MIKE:** Plan A is getting Braham back for Sunday night. Given his $6 Million Man resiliency ("We can rebuild him"), no one is counting out Braham, especially since he was walking around the day after the game.
Plan B is what The Plan was back in April when they drafted Ghiaciuc in the fourth round. He's the center of the future and with Moore gone, the future just became whenever they need him. There is angst about in Bengaldom, but while Ghiaciuc doesn't have Braham's experience, how does he get it?
Is it an ideal debut Sunday night?
Of course not. On the road against two very good and very huge defensive tackles in Jacksonville's Marcus Stroud and John Henderson. Plus an excellent middle linebacker in Mike Peterson.
But there is never going to be an ideal time. You can't hear in Tennessee, a top five defense comes to town in Pittsburgh before Green Bay comes in with a good defensive line, and then a road trip to another top five defense in Baltimore. So that first one is never going to be easy because you can always find something.
But Ghiaciuc has shown signs he won't blow up this team if they have to go to him earlier than anticipated. The backups scored points while he was in there during the preseason, and he'll have plenty of help from two experienced guards in Eric Steinbach and Bobbie Williams.
You have to figure if they were able to get a lot of their 371 yards last Sunday with a guy who never played center before (Steinbach) playing next to a guy who never played left guard before in a NFL game (Scott Kooistra), they should be relatively OK with a natural center wo can play in Ghiaciuc. He may not have Steinbach's NFL experience, but he's smart and knows the position, and he can be a contributor if needed Sunday night.
Which is why they don't need 39-year-old Jerry Fontenot. If they do anything, they will probably sign a young center to fill Moore's roster spot since rookie free agent Ben Wilkerson isn't eligible to come off the physically unable to perform list (PUP) for two more weeks.
Actually, if they go with Ghiaciuc, they're in better shape at center than the last time they went into a Sunday night game. You'll recall that was last year against Miami and Fontenot arrived barely in time to go through the Thursday walk through before playing in a game the Bengals won, 16-13. Next to last Sunday, that may have been the most amazing accomplishment ever by a Bengals offensive line given it got a new center virtually 72 hours before the game, and Ghiaciuc won't be under nearly the duress that faced Fontenot.
Wilkerson most likely isn't in their plans this year. He's missed too much and is going through too much rehab and they still have to see where he is medically with that torn patella tendon in his kneecap. Once the six weeks of PUP is up, the Bengals have three weeks to activate him for practice. Then they have three weeks to evaluate him. Then, after Week 12, they can either put him on the roster, put him on season-ending injured reserve or cut him. He could be looking at IR so they can make sure he's right, and where do you put him if he has to go on the roster?
But he remains a fine prospect if he can come back from this thing. By the way, he's coming up on the year anniversary of the injury, which came in LSU's Oct. 30 game against Vandy.