Q: When in fact do the Bengals expect to have Chris Perry, Dexter Jackson, Richy Braham and/or Tab Perry back in the mix? One or more of them could make an immediate impact in their respective spheres of influence on the field. I'm particularly interested in Chris Perry.
**--Matt, Akron, OH
MATT:** Because Marvin Lewis wants no information out there about injuries, you might as well use a Ouija board.
But we do know that running back Chris Perry is eligible to return to practice next week and the word is he's looking good enough to play against Carolina on the 22nd.
Lewis had hoped that Jackson (ankle) and strong-side linebacker Rashad Jeanty (foot) would be back for this Sunday. But neither practiced Monday, Jeanty is still in a boot at times, and a severe ankle sprain that Jackson suffered usually takes closer to four weeks than two to heal. So all that would indicate, at least early in the week, is they won't go in Tampa. But, again, the 22nd against the Panthers looks to be shaping up better than that for them.
Braham (knee) and Tab Perry (hip) are immersed in a little bit more of mystery. If the Bengals do indeed move left guard Eric Steinbach to center that would suggest Braham is out longer than another game or two, and every time Lewis talks about him he talks about "weeks," so the indications are a late-season return.
Perry, like Braham, is still using crutches, so that looks like several more weeks, although Perry said he hopes to be rid of them later this week.
Q: What is keeping Ahmad Brooks off the field? I watched him at Virginia and he was totally dominant and I know he couldn't have forgotten how to play linebacker.
Is he close to getting his chance because I believe he could give us a physical presence we've not had in a while. I totally trust Marvin though so I guess he's not totally ready yet I just hope he will be soon.
**--Justin E, Cincinnati, OH
JUSTIN:** Making the jump from college to the NFL can make you forget about what sport you're playing, never mind what position. He got a small shot against New England with 11 snaps and he should be gradually getting more.
The Bengals saw the same thing at Virginia that you did, and they thought highly enough of him that they took a lot of heat for taking him in the supplemental drat because of his off-field history that resulted in his departure from the Cavaliers program.
The reason he hasn't played right away isn't because he lacks the physical skills. He had to be force-fed the system without any spring practice, and they couldn't give him many reps in training camp because they had to respond to middle linebacker Odell Thurman's suspension and shuffle the lineup at backer.
Also extending the learning curve is the injuries to the strong-side backers. That meant he had to make the move from the middle about three weeks ago and learn the outside. Against New England, he said he took about five snaps at strong and the rest in the middle in goal-line situations, where he made a couple of nice hits.
Here is what defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan said before the New England game:
"He's a very raw mental guy right now, but he just has to learn. He wasn't in our offseason program and that set him back. He's got the athletic ability, he's got all the physical tools you need, he just has to know what to do, and do it fast. Don't do it slow. Fast ... he'll be a very good outside backer. He's got some good veterans around that can help him out."
In the end, the Bengals may have found their middle backer of the future. But until then, the wait is to see how he picks up the game.
Q: Do you feel that Sam Adams is making the impact we had hoped for in the run game? (I say no.)
Also, I think Dexter Jackson had a great preseason. Better than expected! I believe that his size and strength back there will also make a huge difference. No more getting pushed around by straight arms. The sooner he comes back the better. Please tell me if you agree.
**--JD, Sherman Oaks, CA
JD:** The two go hand-in-hand. Nothing was said about Sam until Jackson left the lineup. I think Sam has had an impact. A very good impact emotionally and physically, but clearly not being able to practice every day because of his knee has taken a toll.
Yes, everyone has to play better against the run, Adams included, but it has to be realized that the injuries behind the line have greatly altered the character of the run defense.
You already pointed out how much Jackson's absence has hurt. But what about the umpteenth shuffle at linebacker? Now you've got two small backers in Caleb Miller on the weak-side and Landon Johnson on strong trying to hold down a perimeter of which Willie Parker and Laurence Maroney took advantage.
At the moment, there is probably more concern about the back seven than the front four when it comes to the running game. Adams isn't in top form, but he still has to be dealt with in double teams much of the time, and he's not playing any differently than he did in the first two games.
Q: I've heard a lot of the players and coaches dismiss their problems, (e.g. stopping the run and pass protection) and answer with the "we're 3-1."
Is that to keep morale up or do they really think that matters this early in the season? I love the record as well as anyone given all the issues with personnel, but I firmly believe they are lucky to have that record.
**--Mark S., Cincinnati, OH
MARK:** All that matters any time during the season is the record, right? So it's more than morale. It's just a fact of NFL life.
Look around the league and there are plenty of teams lucky to be where they are and you can start with the Ravens.
They're 4-1, but they're also two late miracles away from being 2-3. The Colts are 5-0, but how impressive is that given they had to sneak past the woeful Jets and Titans the past two weeks?
And the Rams are 4-1, but only because the Cards' Kurt Warner fumbled the ball on what would have been a winning drive in a 16-14 win, they survived giving up 34 points to the winless Lions, and they just squeaked by equally dreadful Green Bay by a field goal.
Hate to use the cliché, but no win is cheap on Sunday. The Bengals are just like everyone else.