Hobson's Choice: Center of attention


I am very excited about the upcoming season. As Paul Brown proved when the franchice began, it all starts with the Center. With that said, how do you see the competition at Center playing out between Braham, Wilkerson and Ghiaciuc? It would appear that Rich Braham is a lock for this season but who between Wilkerson and Ghiaciuc will be Braham's successor. What happens to the second place finisher in this competition? Will he make the roster because it is highly unlikely that some other team would not snatch him up if exposed to the Practice Squad.

Jim - Bengal in Fin Land Palm City, Florida JIM:**
You've got it pretty well nailed. With the Bengals playing in loud, miserable stadiums for offense in the last three road games of the season (Pittsburgh, Detroit, Kansas City), it would stand to reason Braham starts for the entire year. But that doesn't mean they don't like Ghiaciuc. They think he's an up-and-comer and maybe he can play after the Nov. 13 bye if he has to. But he doesn't have to.

You certainly can't rule out Wilkerson in anything. He's a talented guy who very well could have been the first center selected instead of undrafted if not for a torn patella tendon in his kneecap. The injury took him out of all the spring camps, giving Ghiaciuc a clear edge on him in the derby to be Braham's backup.

Wilkerson seems destined for the practice squad, but he's not your average college free agent. You have to clear waivers to go on the squad, and it's just doubtful that 31 teams would pass on him. Yes, 32 teams passed him on Draft Day, but one team that wasn't the Bengals actually offered him more to sign a $20,000 bonus.

Braham and Ghiaciuc make it, meaning the Bengals face a decision with Wilkerson. But it's a decision that will probably be easy to make by Cutdown Day. If Wilkerson is healthy and looks good in practice and games, you'd have to think they'd keep him on the active 53-man roster knowing they'd lose him. Plus, they'll have to consider how he looks at guard because both rookies will have to learn to back up both spots. It's one of those questions that make you stay up past Conan to see the fourth quarter of home pre-season games.

The other Wilkerson option is what they may end up doing with veteran linebacker Nate Webster. Don't let him practice until the sixth week of the regular season by putting him on PUP (Physically Unable to Perform), and then watch him for the next three weeks to figure out what you're going to do with him. But by the end of the June camps, Wilkerson looked like he was close to practicing.

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