Hobson's Choice: Kilmer a slam dunk with seasoning

Q: One question I have not seen addressed and would like your opinion is on the future of Ethan Kilmer.

He produced as advertised on special teams but also added a little intrique as a saftey. Certainly he is way short on experience but the package seems to be there: speed, smarts, instincts, and the desire to lay on big-time tackles.

What is the learning curve at that position and what are your thoughts?
**--Tom, Cincinnati, OH

TOM:** No question the future is higher for Kilmer than one of his hoop dunks, but you have to give him a couple of years if they want him to become the next Kaesviharn.

And no, not because he's white could he be the next Kaesviharn. But because he can play both safety and cornerback and is a beast on special teams in Kase-like fashion. Plus, they both have small-town or small-college pedigrees that kind of snuck up on the NFL.

But Kilmer is a Stacy Andrews-type project who is learning the game of football on the job. Heck, his interception return for a touchdown against the Saints last season came on the fourth defensive snap of his life.

He's clearly a quick learner and quite gifted with speed and athleticism that even bowls over his teammates when he jams on the basketball court in stand-still sandals.

But it's going to take another season or two to give you anything in the ballpark that Kaesviharn gives.

Remember, Kase just didn't fall off Mount Rushmore. By the time he played his first NFL snap for the Bengals, he already had 26 professional interceptions in the Arena league and the XFL.

On top of that he started three years at South Dakota's Augustana College and played in the Division II all-star game. Kilmer is heading into his fifth year of football and second on defense.

But give him time. Kilmer also has that look in his tough guy glint that tells you he likes to hit and get physical.

But would there be a better mentor than Kaesviharn? Great character, knows the game, it means something to him. The kind of guy who doesn't show up on your salary cap count but he does in your roster's soul. Hopefully they re-sign him.


Q: Geoff, agree or disagree:

I think it's very clear the Bengals draft needs lie in the defensive backfield. James, Jackson, and O'Neal are a year older, and Williams could give time at CB, putting a potential hole at S.

Joseph is a keeper, but to me we need more. It appears to be an area of serious need on draft day, outside of finding another TE to back up Kelly. Your thoughts?

It doesn't look like free agency is a real option for the Bengals at this point, unless some real finds go unsigned and are available on the cheap.
**--Kevin A., Powell, Ohio

KEVIN:** Couldn't agree more. Maybe I'm nuts but if this Ann Coulter secondary (looks good on paper but self destructs when it counts) came up with half the plays they made in '05, the Bengals would have gone 11-5.

If they can put another young guy back there, be it a safety or corner, that would be a huge boost where you need guys that make big plays in games.

They don't like to take safeties in the first round, but it looks like there is a gap between the top two corners (Michigan's Leon Hall and Pitt's Darrelle Revis) and they shouldn't reach for a second-rounder at No. 18. So take a long look at Florida safety Reggie Nelson if Michael Griffin of Texas and Florida State's LaRon Landry are gone.

Sure, it's a good crop of linebackers. But at No. 18? If it's not Mississippi's Patrick Willis (long gone at 18), guys like Penn State's Paul Posluszny and Florida State's Lawrence Timmons aren't going to change games. Linebacker should be a second-round spot.

If you go by past history it will be. You have to go back to 1998 and Takeo Spikes (13) and Brian Simmons (17) for the last backers the Bengals took in the first round.

Now, if you get to No. 18 and the backers are the best defensive players on the board, you have to do it. They'd love a D-tackle, but rarely do they last that far into a round.

Really, the front seven didn't play all that badly last season. The big criticism is pass rush, and the lack of that (their tackles combined for just 6.5 of their 35 sacks) didn't help the secondary.

But it goes hand in hand when it comes to rush and coverage.

Agreed.

DB all the way.


Q: Was that direct snap against Indy a sign of things to come for Reggie McNeal and the Bengals or are his off the field transgressions going to catch up to him?
** --Alexander H., Gahanna, OH

ALEXANDER:** They haven't helped him and in this environment it may counter whatever versatility he brings to the table.

And if receivers Bennie Brazell (knee) and Antonio Chatman (groin) come back healthy and play well in training camp, there may not be a spot for him because it's doubtful they would keep seven receivers even if McNeal could play a little quarterback.

But wouldn't you like to see them expand on that stuff that they did in Indy? Who knows? With McNeal having a year under his belt it might allow them to do more of it.

Yet as it stands, he'll be in a roster joust.

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