Hobson's Choice: All eyes on both lines

Q: While much has been made about Palmer's rehab, I'm curious about the rehab of Adam Kieft and Ben Wilkerson. Also, how much more time does Matthias Askew get before Marvin ends the project?
**--Bryan, Cincinnati

BRYAN:** Wilkerson is going to be back for the on-field coaching sessions when they start May 16, and Kieft hopes he can make one of those in early June before he participates in the mandatory minicamp in mid-June. Both should be ready the first day of training camp.

The sand is running out on Askew, but don't look for Lewis to give up on a young, talented lineman all that quickly, either.

Under Lewis, the Bengals have traditionally kept four tackles of their eight defensive linemen and we don't need to use a slide rule to figure out that Askew is in trouble. Using those numbers, He'll have to beat out Shaun Smith to make the club because the incumbent starting defensive tackles - John Thornton and Bryan Robinson - aren't going anywhere, and neither is new free agent Sam Adams.

And while Askew is coming off a disappointing sophomore season in which he played in just one game, Smith did a more than decent job starting for Robinson during the last six games of the season.

But more than roster numbers figure into it. There are injuries and spots at other positions to consider. No question that Askew has to amp up his game to realize his great potential and show the coaches the game means a lot to him.

Yet, he also turns only 24 on July 1. Look for him to stay in a heated roster battle until the bitter end of the preseason.

People are excited about finally seeing Wilkerson play over a long time. Since they signed him as a free agent out of LSU last April, he's practiced just three weeks. He was cleared to play, but there was no room for him on the active roster and he went back to injured reserve after the three-week window. Wilkerson is going to be rusty because that's his only work since tearing the patella tendon in his kneecap back on Oct. 30, 2004.

He's impressed them with his work ethic and desire to make it back. Whether he's the same guy that was rated the '05 draft's top center on some boards before the knee injury remains to be seen. You just don't know.

He and Eric Ghiaciuc, his fellow second-year center who has a big lead on Wilkerson, do figure to also get some work at guard.

Kieft, the fifth-round pick from Central Michigan, is coming along steadily in his rehab. He suffered the Carson injury five months before Palmer on Aug. 6 in the Mock Game, and is eight months removed from reconstructive surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in his left knee.

In some ways, Kieft has a tougher comeback than Palmer because of his size (6-7, 340 pounds) and the fact he has to take on another 300-pound man. The Bengals were quite impressed with Kieft's athleticism and they thought they had a late-round find. If he still has that agility, his future should be just as bright.

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