Q: I know that the game on Nov. 30 against Baltimore is set for 8:30 PM on the NFL Network. Does that mean CBS, ESPN, NBC, or any other television network won't carry the game on TV?
**--Mike, Dayton, Ohio
MIKE:** Right. From what the Bengals understand, the only other place it will be seen is on a Cincinnati station yet to be determined. It looks like a night out for a lot of Bengaldom.
Q: I'm still from the "old school" mentality of "you win games in the trenches." Do you consider this year's Bengals defensive line up to the task of dominating the Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cleveland offensive lines? I've lived in Cincy since 1968 and would really appreciate our defensive line having the strength and talent to shut down any opponent's offensive line, especially all of the AFC North teams!
This year's Bengals offensive line is one of THE best in the NFL, and by the end of this season, I would not be surprised to see it rated No. 1!
**--Dolby B., Maineville, Ohio
DOLBY:** The addition of Sam Adams at defensive tackle is a brilliant stroke. It automatically changes the chemistry of a Bengals-Steelers game. No longer can Pittsburgh sit and pound the ball on first down.
Something that may turn out to be just as good as the Adams signing is the drafting of Michigan State tackle Domata Peko. He gives the Bengals a 320-pound pillar of strength in there, and it will be interesting to see if they can make roster room for Shaun Smith, another big, strong, and young tackle. He's got an uphill climb, but third-round pick Frostee Rucker is showing some strength at both tackle and end.
For years the Bengals came up short in the trenches in the division. Particularly against the Steelers and Ravens. Even as late as 2003 they lost a shot at the division title in December when they couldn't plug the dike against the Baltimore pass rush because of an injury to left tackle Levi Jones and Cleveland running back Lee Suggs bowled them over for 186-plus in the regular-season finale.
That stuff just doesn't happen in the division any more. Or not as often.
The Bengals offensive line is one of the finest in the game and in setting a club record for fewest last season, only six of the 21 sacks came in the six division games. And last year, they didn't allow a 100-yard rusher in three of the six games, a stat that should improve with the addition of Adams and safety Dexter Jackson.
Q: What are the odds of Caleb (Miller) making the team this year? He was the rookie sensation two years ago in camp but has battled injuries since while Landon has shined. With the pickups since of Brooks, Pollack, Thurman, Nicholson and Jeanty and the other LB's (Simmons, Wilkins, Navies, Johnson) LB looks to be real crowded with talented players.**--Jeff S., Salisbury, N.C.
No question, especially since the Bengals will probably only keep seven and then may have to get rid of No. 7 when and if Odell Thurman returns Oct. 2 from a league suspension.
There have to be four locks, right, in Simmons, Pollack, Johnson and Brooks? It would be hard to cut Wilkins because of what he means on special teams. You're right, Miller was the buzz of the spring and training camp in his rookie year (remember he started the '04 opener on the right in place of Simmons and began his spate of injuries that day with an ankle turn in New York?), but he's played just 19 games since.
And he's having that kind of impact again with a very solid camp that should give him a spot. They like what he did on special teams when he came back last season, piling up eight tackles in seven games. If he continues to play like that and the fact he can play all three spots has to help him.
Another guy to keep an eye on is Jeanty, the CFL product whose athleticism as a backup at Pollack's SAM linebacker/rush end spot has caught their eye. The fifth-rounder, Nicholson, has some grinding to do.