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Hobson's Choice: let bye gones be bye gones


         Taking a look at Marvin Lewis' recent bye numbers.

A deeper look into the games following bye weeks indicate more than just tough opponents. I believe it's a lack of focus. Since 1990 following bye weeks the Who Dey boys are 7-17-1, under Marvin they are 4-7-1. Let's hope this trend changes. I enjoy your columns. Let's go all the way. O.J. Dziatkowicz, St. Clairsville, OH

O.J.: Thanks for reading and I respect the research you've rolled out there and thank you for the numbers.

Here's where I disagree. Marvin's 4-7-1 means you're talking about teams quarterbacked by Jon Kitna and Ryan Fitzpatrick with completely different locker-room makeups. There is no player around from his first three teams, so I just think it's a hard stat to elicit a blanket statement. Every team, every era is different.

I think you have to look at the Green-Dalton Bengals to get a better idea of how they'll come out of this bye. And you have to go beyond the first game after a bye to analyze how a team comes out of it. What's one game mean?

Now, you're right, last year they went off the rails after a 3-0 start before the bye. They went 0-2-1 in the next three so they obviously lost momentum. Injuries to Vontaze Burfict and Giovani Bernard were huge factors in that stretch, but, to your point, yes, they didn't come out well out of the bye.

But that was a rarity in the Green-Dalton era. In 2013 they won their first game out of a late bye (Nov. 24) and finished 4-1 the rest of the way to win the AFC North. In 2012 they lost their first game out of the bye similar o this one (Oct. 28), but won their next seven out of eight to make the playoffs. In 2011, they won their first game out of the bye (another 2015ish Oct. 23) and three of their first five after the bye and went on to the playoffs.

So you could make the argument that since 2011 with this group of guys, they've responded quite well to the bye except for last year. Numbers are nice, but my only point is I think in this case they don't tell the whole story and there is even more depth to it.

Geoff, not trying to have a negative tone but had a couple of questions about inactives. We will see Hunt anytime soon. Clarke is getting a chance and hasn't made much of an impact. Why not see what Hunt has to offer as a former 2nd rounder? Also with being gashed in the run, why is Sims, a run stuffer, inactive? Or is it more of a linebacker issue? Thanks as always Geoff. Dustin Merritt, Manhattan, KS

DUSTIN: With Clarke ahead of him, it's tough for Hunt to get on the field. I have to disagree with you because I think Clarke has been very good despite his limited snaps and I'm surprised he's not more of a factor in the rotation. He's had just seven snaps in the last two games and yet he still has made plays. I still think a guy like Hunt gets a shot. It's a long season, but the coaches obviously feel like Dunlap, Johnson, Clarke and Gilberry are ahead of him whether he's a late second or not and it's hard to argue with 17 sacks after just 20 all last year.

I think their inconsistencies against the run are more a product of poor tackling at the second and third levels rather than play in the middle of the line. They've been seeing who has the better weeks in practice, Thompson or Sims, and it's been a bit of a draw. And there are times they've been really good this year against the run, such as against Baltimore (Thompson's first game) and in Buffalo (another Thompson game) after giving up Shady McCoy's 33-yard run on the first snap.

But, I hear you. Their consistent stinginess vs. the run that so characterized the '12 and '13 defenses has been missing and they could use a shot of Sims, which is no shot at Thompson. Maybe both are up against Pittsburgh. It also shows you they really miss Pro Bowl WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict.

What do u contribute the Bengal's staying so healthy this year? Billy Dinger, Hamilton, OH

BILLY: How are you doing Ding? Long time. Other than the law of averages, I would say the two biggest reasons are they've got a lot of veterans who know how to take care of their bodies and the change in the weekly practice schedule.

 At the beginning of the year, head coach Marvin Lewis switched it up so the Bengals have two heavy practices a week instead of three. The Friday workout is now a walk-through supplemented by yoga and other recovery exercises and Saturday is no longer a walk-through but a short, quick, up-tempo practice and it seems to have helped. The proof is in a roster that hasn't changed since the final training camp cut to 53 two months ago.

As odd as it sounds, is it possible the Bengals are taking an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it approach" to Burficts return? Is it possible they a concerned with throwing off the chemistry they have? Steven Hall, Dallas, TX

STEVEN: Absolutely not. My sense is that they believe he's one of the top defensive players in the league and they want him back as soon as possible to shore up an undermanned linebacker corps that has been vulnerable against the run. They're also not going to pack away a guy that signed a $20 million extension last year.

I'm a huge fan of the NFL draft. This team is loaded, and I realize the best philosophy is BPA, but which positions should be a priority for the Bengals in rounds 1, 2, & 3 in 2016? My pick is UCLA LB Myles Jack late in round 1. Mark Beach, Greenville, OH

MARK: You must really love it since it's more than six months away and there's no idea what they'll need after free agency. But I like your style.

 No matter who they've got, the Bengals have sold me on the idea of taking an offensive tackle or cornerback in the first round damn near every year. No matter what. Look at how well they've drafted since '09 starting with right tackle Andre Smith bookended this year with rookie tackles Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher. In between there have been corners Dre Kirkpatrick (2012) and Darqueze Dennard (2014). Can never have enough of them. Let's do it again in the first round.

Since they already have the two tackles, go get the corner in '16 with Adam Jones, 32, and Leon Hall, turning 31 late in the year, both free agents. That's still knowing they've got a good shot to keep both those guys. Remember, you can never have enough. Dennard proved that in Buffalo when Hall went down and he was one of the best corners on the field in a game teeming with first-round corners on both sides.

In the second round take a wide receiver to keep weapons around Dalton and, yeah, in the third round, I like the idea of a linebacker, but I'd probably lean more to a safety. But it depends how Burfict comes back and what happens with Reggie Nelson and George Iloka in free agency.

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