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Hobson's Choice: Aberration or Armageddon?

Q: With the lackluster defensive performance this past week, how long do you think that the leash on defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan is? Marvin, in many circles, is being listed as being on the hot seat, so do you see him starting to move in on calling the shots on defense soon? Loyalty is important in the business, but being too loyal to his defensive coordinator may cost Marvin his job. Also, I know that football by nature is extremely physical, but with the injuries to Tab Perry (hamstring) and Ahmad Brooks (groin) is anyone looking into their stretching and loosening up prior to and during the game? Ken Griffey Jr. halted his chance to be the home run king due to lack of conditioning. Are our players on the Bengals halting their chance for a playoff run due to the same lack of stretching prior to the games?
--Eric H., Kettering, OH

ERIC: If Lewis does it now, why didn't he just do it in the offseason? They have played two games on defense that are aberrations and they are most likely somewhere in between. Only when he gets a handle on how far in between would he probably make a move. And we've asked him enough about taking over the defense, so you guys know the answer. He doesn't feel like he can be both head coach and coordinator.

And the only hot seat Lewis is on is the one where he controls the temperature. Cincinnati may be the only NFL city where a vote of confidence from the owner actually is one. Take Mike Brown's pre-camp comments and the fact Lewis has a contract through 2010 and Lewis isn't going anywhere

His loyalty to Chuck was expressed in the offseason. Remember, it was after two seasons Lewis let go Leslie Frazier as defensive coordinator, so he's not afraid to make a move.

At the very least, Lewis has to let some of this play out.

In this game, it's never one answer. It's A, B, C, D, All Of The Above. But given the startling gap in its performance, the Defense Question isn't multiple choice but a brain teaser.

It would be fine if this were a weekly trend, but it's more complicated than that, isn't it?

Under Bresnahan, these are basically the same coaches and players that shut out Cleveland six games ago.

Under Bresnahan, these are basically the same coaches and players that held New Orleans' explosive NFC championship offense on the road to 16 points eight games ago.

Under Bresnahan, these are basically the same coaches and players that six days before allowing Jamal Lewis runs of 66 and 47 yards gave a much better running back in Willis McGahee a long run of 13 yards.

Yes, down the stretch in last year's final two games the defense gave up a 99-yard drive to rookie quarterback Jay Cutler and gave up two big plays to Pittsburgh. But it also played well enough to win those games and gave the offense a couple of chances to win each of them.

And that's all they need really. They just need competence on defense to give this team a playoff berth. In most games last year (not Atlanta or San Diego), they were competent and you can gripe about the rookie QB in Tampa Bay all you want but holding anyone to 14 points should be an automatic win.

Hell, just six days ago they were more than competent so if Lewis is going to do anything drastic he really ought to wait to see trends for '07. The first two games were so different, how can you make any definitive call?

Be careful about this injury stuff. The strength and conditioning Lewis brought in here in 2003 is a major reason for the turnaround. Stretching is not only a staple before, during and after practice and games; it's a science in itself and is treated as importantly as the Xs and Os.

You'd have to say it's a fable the Bengals suffer more injuries than anyone else, or enough that it leaves them incapacitated.

According to Rick "Goose" Gosselin of The Dallas Morning News, in '03 and '05 the Bengals were fifth and sixth, respectively in the NFL with fewest games lost by starters because of injury and the same training and conditioning staff is in place. In '06, they were tied for 21st with AFC finalist New England with 46 starting games lost, three fewer than the Super Bowl champion Colts.

Q: After watching the Bengals' abysmal loss on Sunday it was pretty evident that we are in need of a prime time player on defense. Wouldn't you say that it would be a tremendous help if we just got one big name on "D"? Someone to motivate and keep motivating day in and day out? On another note I don't buy this it's not the coach's fault! I blame Chuck for 65 percent of our defensive inconsistencies. I don't think that he called anywhere near the same game that he did against Baltimore. What do you think?
--Craig M., Washington Court House, OH

CRAIG: Given that they've drafted 10 defenders with their last 13 first-day picks, I'm assuming you mean free agency and a Warren Sapp, Joey Porter or Adalius Thomas veteran type.

Motivation has nothing to do with it. Maybe you mean swagger and attitude, and I'm with you on that, and you make a valid observation.

A Richard Seymour-type defensive tackle that needs to be double teamed. A shut-down corner. An Odell Thurman-type playmaker in the middle.

Those are just tough people to find and when you find them you have to overpay them dramatically.

Of course it would be worth it if they brought you closer to a Super Bowl.

Would Porter and his two double-digit sack seasons be the answer? No question the guy is a winner, but can you hear the second guessing already when he goes sackless in a loss about trying to convert a 3-4 backer who's not exactly grand in the chemistry department and has off-field baggage?

How quickly would people bring up Sam Adams and Tory James?

Would the thing to do have been to let Justin Smith go and get a Thomas? Maybe. Would getting Sapp three years ago have freed up the linebackers to run forever? Maybe.

But what we do know is they hope that defensive end Robert Geathers, middle linebacker Ahmad Brooks, and cornerback Johnathan Joseph are developing into those types of top-tier players.

Can they afford to wait?

Another good question. On Monday it looked like they wouldn't have to. On Sunday, it looked like they couldn't even afford to wait for the sun to come up Monday.

Why 65 percent? At least half of it should be the players' fault, right?

Plus, could and should Bresnahan run the same blitzing game plan down a corner (Joseph) and the guy who made the blitz go in the middle against the Ravens (Brooks)?

For example, that last wide-open touchdowns to Braylon Edwards came against a safety blitz from Dexter Jackson. The problem is, "Big Dawg" in the "Dawg Pound" was closer to Edwards than any Bengals defensive back.

Trailing, 41-38, early in the fourth quarter and your offense scoring at will, and you blitz on first down?

Good call, no question.

But the coverage?

Not so good.

So who do you blame?

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