Hobson's Choice: Different scheme needs difference-makers

Q: I've read about the Bengals targeting Sedrick Ellis and how fans hope for Vernon Gholston to drop, but doesn't the scheme dictate the draft? If the Bengals went base 3-4, then Ellis isn't the pick since he'd be a poor fit since he or Peko would be the NT, and that's handicapping an already poor line to have only one of the two on the field at once. Calais Campbell seems to be the perfect mold for a 3-4 DE, though a bit of a reach at 9, his potential is off the charts. I'll leave it at that and await your take, since I'm a rambler when it comes to draft talk.
--BengalRuby, Bowling Green, OH

RUBY: Here's my problem with the 3-4 and the 4-3. They need just as many players in both to get competent. To heck with the scheme. Get players and then figure it out and the worst thing would be to reach in the name of the scheme, a la Reinard Wilson.

If they stick in a 4-3 and lose Justin Smith and Landon Johnson, they need an end and a weak-side backer, not to mention more tackles. If they go to a 3-4, they still need a pass rusher and a nose tackle. Not to mention more tackles. Landon isn't the answer in a 3-4.

From listening to everybody in Indy, it doesn't sound like it's going to be a base anything. Given that they've got a little of this and a little of that, and with new defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer looking for a mix of 3-4 and 4-3, that would indicate they're going to go for players of any ilk.

They're building from scratch, right, in the front seven? They're not at the point of Pittsburgh and New England where they can just take guys off the rack to fit a scheme. Those teams already have schemes and experienced players used to those schemes. They also have difference-makers that allow them to merely tweak. The Bengals have none of that stuff.

Their only difference-maker in the front seven is left end Robert Geathers and that's not good enough. To me, that's the biggest question. Not what they're going to play, but who are they going to add with Geathers to make a difference. Then put him where he can succeed.

Reaching for Campbell, I'm not sure, helps. Gholston, of course, would be the answer. But he won't be there. They've got to get a pass rusher. Be it a 4-3 end or an outside backer. But Derrick Harvey at 271 pounds?

Who knows? But now you're at 4-3 again, so he better be able to rush the passer.


Q: I was hoping that the reason we tagged Andrews is so we could trade him to the Jets, who need an offensive tackle, along with our first-round pick for their first-round pick, which is high enough for us to either get Gholston or Ellis. Is this a possibility or am I dreaming?
--Brad, Crestview Hills, KY

BRAD: At 26, Andrews is going nowhere and the effort now is to sign him to a long-term deal. But instead of asking the Jets for that No. 6 pick, what about their linebacker, Jonathan Vilma?

Vilma, who turns only 26 the week before the draft, is on the trading block. He's going to make somebody a wonderful player, and with a year left on his deal it would amount to a free-agent signing because the trade figures to come with a new contract.

The Jets are moving Vilma because he can't make plays in the 3-4. At 230 pounds, he's been having a miserable time getting off blocks and he gets swallowed up by guards. But put him in the middle of a 4-3, or on the weak outside in a 4-3, and he'll run forever.

Plus, the guy is tremendous in the locker room with Grade A attitude and work ethic.

The problem is the Bengals are looking to be more multiple and they might be done with 230-pound linebackers. The fast, small guys haven't really translated here, and shouldn't the money and draft picks be spent on pass rushers and big D-linemen?

On second thought, it's the Lance Briggs question. Yeah, you'd love to have the guy. But how much is it going to cost when you need a pass rush or you're going to die?

Vilma would be a great character and team guy, and there is much to be said for that. But, right now, that has to be seen as a luxury on a defense that desperately needs power at the point of attack.

Seen that '08 schedule? With their tackling problems, you could argue they're one of the least physical teams in football and they have to play the most physical in the game: Tennessee, Jacksonville, Dallas, Giants, Steelers.

Keep Andrews, run the ball, stay on the field, and take the best pass rusher on the board at No. 9.

A postscript on Vilma: He's having problems with his knee and is coming off a complex surgery, but he's young and recovering. But he might not get a call for about a month, or when he can start working out.

All that said, Vilma would look nice in stripes. And if you only have to give up a third, and you figure they're going to have more than one third-round pick, do it. Unless you end up playing more 3-4.

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