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Hobson's Choice: Duke in the mix

Q: Will Chinedum Ndukwe start this year? I know he is behind Dexter Jackson right now and Marvin White is written into the other safety spot, but you have to agree with me that Ndukwe was very impressive this past year in a limited role. And it seems that every time I hear about the OTAs his name is brought up for making some kind of great play. Would it be that difficult of a switch for him to move to the other side and take over Madieu's spot? And sure, White has looked good, but hasn't Ndukwe looked even better? What do you think Chinedum's role will be this season?
--Alan M., Milwaukee, WI

ALAN: Agreed. Ndukwe continues to impress and is battling for a starting spot, but White makes more sense staying in Madieu Williams' old spot because he's more of a free safety.

You know why the Bengals love Ndukwe. Because of the ridiculous spate of injuries last year at linebacker, he flashed his versatility in specialty packages early and often. His size (6-2, 220) allowed him to play a little backer in securing various spots in the nickel and dime packages, and he fits the strong safety slot.

At the very least, you figure he'll be back doing those things. But given there's a new scheme supplied by a new defensive coordinator, the fresh slate puts him in the starting mix with guys like Jackson, Herana-Daze Jones and John Busing.

Plus, he's riding the momentum of his first two NFL starts in the last two games of the year when he had two interceptions against Cleveland and a fumble return for a touchdown against Miami.

His intangibles—brains, solid locker room guy—are also big plusses, just like Jackson's knowledge and experience are big for him.

The man Brady Quinn calls "Duke" figures to get a long look in the saddle as the Bengals try to figure out the starting secondary.

Q: All of a sudden it seems like we have too many running backs. What do you think the chances are that we may be able to trade either DeDe or Kenny Watson for a middle-round pick next year? Not to count the chickens before they've hatched, but it seems (hopefully) that Chris Perry is back and when healthy he's a guy that can do it all so I don't see us getting rid of him or Rudi. So if we are only keeping three running backs, it would seem crazy to just let one of those guys (DeDe and Kenny) walk without getting anything for them.
--TheRealDude, Columbus, OH

DUDE: To me, Watson is untouchable because of what he gives you on third down, special teams, and coming off the bench for spot starts and carrying the load.

And I'm not sure you can have too many running backs if two of them (Rudi and DeDe) ended the year limping, one of them hasn't played a game since November 2006 (Perry) and the other one (Watson) is 30 and been used sparingly this spring.

Perry's got everybody excited and rightfully so. But how do you write him down in pen when he's ended four of his five seasons on injured reserve? You couldn't make any kind of a trade like that until you got out of the preseason and even if you wanted to it'd be a tough trade to make with all the other teams knowing you're heavy at running back.

But what if they decide, for all those reasons, they want to keep four backs and no fullbacks? It could be possible if they think tight end Daniel Coats can make the transition to fullback, and he would take up one roster but play two positions.

That's a huge What If because if Jeremi Johnson gets the message and comes into Georgetown in shape, he'll be tough to move out of fullback, especially for a guy playing the position for the first time.

But maybe it's something they'll think about as a way to keep all four backs.

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