Hobson's Choice: A Trotter or a Pacer?

Q: With the release of Trotter in Philly, do you think the Bengals could go after him? Also do you see the Bengals signing another TE before the season starts?
--Jordan B., Marion, OH

JORDAN: Since the agent hasn't heard from the club yet, it looks doubtful. If the Eagles cut such a popular player making a relatively low salary for a Pro Bowler ($2.6 million) maybe he wasn't having that good of a camp. But Trotter is and should be highly regarded here and the Bengals pursued hm three years ago with that in mind.

No question that middle linebacker Ahmad Brooks has had mixed reviews in the first two preseason games. Saturday is a good example. He didn't do much in the first half and played well in the second half. He seems to lack the instincts of an Odell Thurman, but he's also only 23 and has Pro Bowl measurables. He needs snaps and they've got to find out if he can play and they still won't have an answer after the preseason. And they have to be patient.

Yes, Trotter is a fine player (who is contemplating retirement) and a great locker-room presence. And, I hear you. It's a defense looking for veteran leadership and identity.

But they've already gone that route in the Marvin Era with guys like Kevin Hardy, Nate Webster, Sam Adams, Dexter Jackson, and at some point this defense has to be led by some of the 10 defenders they've drafted with the last 13 first-day picks and we're talking about guys like Brooks, Landon Johnson, Madieu Williams, Johnathan Joseph, Leon Hall.

Given the release of 32-year-old Brian Simmons earlier this year and the season-ending injury to Eric Henderson, if they're looking for another linebacker it would probably be a more versatile, fast-type guy that can play special teams rather than a 30-year-old inside guy like Trotter.

As for a tight end, it's the same at every position. After the cuts to 75 (this coming Tuesday) and to 53 (a week from Saturday), the Bengals will scroll the waiver wire and if they think there are guys out there better than Daniel Coats and Nate Lawrie to back up Reggie Kelly, they'll try to get them.

But given that they're going to be going for young guys who won't be free agents and will be available only in a claiming order off waivers, they don't have a great chance at getting anybody real worthy at No. 18.

Plus, at this point they really like Daniel Coats backing up Reggie Kelly. Coats, a free agent rookie from BYU, is viewed by some as their best receiving tight end. He may be raw in some areas of blocking, but they think he's going to progress into a solid two-way NFL tight end.

And who are they going to get that is any better at this point? The kind of guy that is going to be on the wire in a few weeks is the same kind of guy Coats has beaten out in the spring and summer camps.

One of the great fallacies is the Cutdown wire sags with gems. You can find some and we hear you on DeDe Dorsey. But most of them are on the wire for a good reason.

Q: What's this I read about Madieu Williams being tagged as the primary guy to cover the slot? Wouldn't that naturally categorize him as the nickel corner? If so, why? He's our starting safety. If we try to line him up in the slot, who is going to cover, roam, and, most importantly TACKLE, in his place at safety?
--Mark, Chapel Hill, N.C.

MARK: How about Chinedum Ndukwe and Marvin White, the two rookie safeties that have been roaming, covering and tackling all camp? It actually makes the Bengals more physical and faster when Williams goes in the slot.

Plus, Marvin Lewis has been extremely insistent about his corners being physical and getting people on the ground and the nickel is supposed to be the most physical of the three corners, so why not turn to a safety?

(Of course, the safeties have to play a lot more physical than they have in the past and Exhibit A is Deuce McAlister's eight-yard touchdown run from the other night.)

Williams brings so much to nickel because he can blitz and cover and really screw up offenses by disguising schemes. And anything you do to get one of the two kids on the field behind him, Ndukwe and White, has to be viewed as a plus. They've both impressed with their speed and willingness to throw their bodies about. With those guys, you don't have to worry about Williams in the slot. You've probably made yourself better.

Q: It's been a while since I have heard anything on Frostee Rucker. Will he ever be a contributor on defense like he was at USC?
--Brian B., Williamsburg Ky.

BRIAN: It's been awhile because Rucker has been pretty much invisible due to injury. Until Saturday night, when he reminded everyone why they think he'll be a good one.

He blew out his shoulder in the first preseason game of his rookie year last August. Then in the first couple of days this training camp he pulled a hamstring and didn't get on the field until New Orleans a few nights ago.

He's picked up where he left off. Rucker has the ability to play both tackle and end, and he's got an impressive pass rush and has fine technique with his hands that help him inside. Rucker and Jonathan Fanene both look like they can help at both spots as pass rushers, but it's a little early to compare what his role will be to what it was in college.

Q: How is DeDe Dorsey good enough to play for the Super Bowl Champion Indianapolis Colts, but wasn't good enough to play for us? Did we make a mistake letting this guy go?
--Danny G., Xenia, OH

DANNY: It'd be crazy to say they didn't make a mistake. How you can let go a guy that averaged 7.5 yards per 20 carries is beyond it. Who cares if he's playing in the third quarter against the future CPAs of America or doesn't have great technique against the blitz?

The Bengals made some sound arguments. They needed the spot for a bigger, more durable guy in case Rudi Johnson went down. They thought they had speed back Chris Perry coming back for the final 10 games, in which case Dorsey would never dress. His all-around game hadn't been polished in the NAIA.

Of course, Johnson took virtually every carry and Perry got hurt again after only six games.

But if they thought they were going to hide Dorsey to the practice squad via waivers with tape out there that had him getting 7.5 per pop, well ...

Their reasons weren't silly, but speed is speed. It doesn't grow on trees, even if he did play his college ball in the NAIA.

OK, he has yet to carry the ball in a real game and his preseason numbers this year (11 carries, 23 yards) are nowhere near last year's numbers. The jury is still out, but it looks like he'll get plenty of chances with the Colts this season, but let's see.

The Bengals' best strategy could be to poach another practice squad because of that low claiming number of No. 18. If the Bengals see a better running back than their three, or a tight end better than their backup, they could grab him off a squad but they would have to put him on the active 53 right away.

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