Hobson's Choice: Backers galore

Q: I think that game meant a lot to our team. They found out they can win with the young guys stepping up and making plays. My question has to do with Ahmad Brooks. How long before he's in the middle with Simmons on his strong side and Landon Johnson on his weak? It seems to me like he has the ability to make our defense significantly more physical. What is your opinion on the whole scenario?
**--Sean, Newport, Ky.

SEAN:** Remember the firestorm that erupted when the Bengals took Brooks? I'm not saying he's Butkus yet, or, yes, Bill Bergey. Just asking what Bengaldom would look like today if they didn't have him? Probably not 28 points in the last eight quarters.

That's not to say the kid dominated, but he's playing one of the most important positions on the field and for the defense to play so well with a guy making his first two NFL starts says he must be doing something right.

If anything, I would think Johnson would stay at strong and Simmons would go back to weak, which is probably his natural position and probably Johnson's natural spot, too. And what about Rashad Jeanty when he comes back and plays strong?

Plus, that's not to say that Caleb Miller hasn't contributed in his three starts at weak. They really like what he's done in the last two games.

It's a good problem to have at a spot that has been drilled by injuries (and Odell Thurman's suspension) ever since Lewis arrived in '03.

Q: First of all, I am excited to hear that the Bengals are looking to give P. Dub another go and I would like to see what he can do as the third or fourth receiver for Carson instead of the first or second receiver for Akili and Kitna like he had to do before. Secondly, do you think the offense we run now is much different than the Bengals offense he is familiar with and if so what would be the hardest part for him to learn? I would like to read more of your thoughts on this subject since Warrick is by far my favorite underachieving Bengal.
**--Adam W., Cincinnati, OH

ADAM:** Good point. How would Warrick's career had gone if he had showed up with Palmer and not Smith? But it certainly worked for Palmer with Houshmandzadeh and Henry and the only way it could work now is if Dub understood he would be a No. 4 receiver and used in a pinch, and I think he has a better handle on that now than when he left.

The playbook has to be close enough to what he had in the '05 training camp, but he's never really played with Palmer. They only hooked up 11 times in '04 for 127 yards and a long throw of 30.

Whether the Bengals think he can help is another story. I think we can all agree that while Warrick is a tough gamer with great hands, his college game based on quickness and elusiveness has had trouble translating into the pro game. He's not particularly big or fast, but he's a solid niche guy in the slot and might be able to pop a punt for you.

Yet, at age 29, that may not make Warrick attractive to those who feel that rookie Reggie McNeal is a bigger, faster alternative. Plus, it depends how nicked up Antonio Chatman is, and it sounds like Kelley Washington's injured hamstring is going to take awhile to heal.

If it's me, I'd say sign him. How healthy can Chatman get this year and McNeal has never played a pro or college game at receiver. It's not Warrick's first rodeo and there's a niche for solid niche guys in a playoff run.

Q: How about Kevin Kaesviharn for the Bengals defensive MVP? Here's a guy who just produces as the third safety. He has iced two wins for Cincy by basically beating teams in the film room. I think that is a quintessential Marvin player.

Also, BIG No. 50 seems to me to make a BIG difference behind BIG Sam Adams, what are the chances he starts from now on?
**--Steve, Batavia, Ohio

STEVE:** Kase gets some votes as would ends Justin Smith and Robert Geathers, and Dexter Jackson as a guy to keep an eye on because he has become an emotional, compelling leader.

Jackson, clearly limited and hurting with his ankle, gave those guys a big lift even though he played just 20-25 snaps against Carolina. It also made Kase better because it allowed Kase to do what Kase does best.

Give you about 25 to 30 snaps on mostly passing downs, letting him use his premium ball-hawking skills, and getting close to a full dose of special teams in a spot he does a nice job as evidenced by downing Kyle Larson's last punt inside the 15 on Sunday to follow up his back-breaking end-zone interception.

If he's playing 50 or 60 snaps at strong safety, now he has to play the run more and can't play as many special teams. You're right. He's been extremely valuable, and it shows how the addition of one guy (Jackson) can make another guy better.

It will be interesting to see what happens to No. 50 (Brooks) when Simmons gets healthy to see what they do because the weak side probably suits his gamed better than the middle. But we heard all last year Lewis bemoan the pitfalls of playing with an inexperienced rookie middle backer.

But he sure sounds more tolerant of Brooks this season than he did of Odell Thurman last year, doesn't he?

Here is Lewis on Brooks on Monday:

"Ahmad works very hard at it. He's very conscientious. We've been very pleased with how he's embraced it, coming in and studying extra film all the time, asking very good questions, and taking great notes. He's a very serious pro and this is why he's been given this opportunity.

"It means a lot to him. Missing the opportunity to play early in the year, he knew he had to work. Nobody's on scholarship around here and you've got to earn your opportunity, and he's worked hard at it."

Can't ever remember him praising Thurman even halfway like that last year, when he rode him in news conferences all the time.

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