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Hobson's Choice: Let Peko emerge

Q: I liked your roster take. One thing, the team did keep six safeties last year: Madieu, Dexter, Kaesviharn, Busing, Jones and Kilmer. The secondary will play a huge role in how the rest of the team shapes out. I thought Kilmer and Blue Adams could be PUPed? I don't think Rucker should make the team. How come Kieft got IRed and not PUPed? Will the Bengals tender him next season?
--Matt, Cincinnati, OH

MATT: Agreed. The secondary and linebackers are the heart of special teams and it's a passing league so that's why they could keep as many as 11 and dictate the other positions.

Busing didn't open the season on the active 53. He started out on the practice squad.

Starting a season, you always start heavy at corner and given that Keiwan Ratliff has struggled, they may keep Adams and Kilmer on the 53 even if they can't play right away.

Adams can be PUPPED (starting the season on a list that takes him out of the first six weeks and five games) because he hasn't taken a snap of practice since camp started a month ago. Kilmer did get hurt early in camp, and can't be PUPPED. Which means he either makes the 53, gets cut, or goes on season-ending injured reserve.

Since Kilmer just had his knee cleaned out and is looking at two to four weeks out and Johnathan Joseph's foot is sore, they may have to keep guys even though they can't play right away.

They have to keep Rucker, particularly given that Justin Smith probably won't return next year. When he's healthy, which hasn't been often, he plays well. If that hamstring is bad again, be patient. He probably wouldn't dress any way.

Obviously Kieft has a problem with that foot that has now had two stress fractures and they probably
want to give him more time. Plus, they've got plenty of tackles.

Right now.

Since they're putting Kieft on IR instead of releasing him via a settlement, it sounds like they want him back. And they should. With Stacy Andrews headed to free agency and Anderson and Jones such current question marks, you'd think they want to keep Kieft around.

Q: When will Michael Myers, the only one making plays in Atlanta, get the nod over Domata Peko? I like Peko's style, but I believe he is better utilized when he has 110 percent energy. His size is exploited when he doesn't have it and he retreats to the linebacker level to make tackles.
--Tommy D., Greensboro, N.C.

TOMMY: Have to respectfully disagree there. Myers is a nice get, a solid journeyman who will help you as a third tackle in a rotation and on the goal line. In my mind, he's the guy you have to play in spot situations and not give too many snaps.

And don't get me wrong. He's good. He made 16 starts for a Denver defense that finished 12th against the run last year and people around here will certainly take that.

But if you're going to play a 10-year vet on his fourth team over a 22-year-old guy who was the Rookie of the Year on this defense last year with Joseph, something is wrong.

That's exactly why they have to play Peko. He needs the snaps. They think they've got a guy who can be a star and a fine player for a long time.

Q: I don't have a good feeling about this defense and this may be jumping the gun since we haven't played a regular-season game yet. But at what point does this defense have to sink to before Marvin takes direct control for it as Brian Billick did for the Ravens offense last season? It just drives me nuts that our head coach was hired because he's a defensive guru yet it seems he won't put his fingerprints on this defense. WhoDey!
--Greg M., Independence, KY.

GREG: Marvin is sick of me asking this question, so I'm glad somebody else did. Who knows what is going on behind closed doors, but his answer has always been that he needs to coach the entire team Plus, he has said, defense isn't like offense and that it's not geared for a Mike Shanahan-Andy Reid-Mike Holmgrem approach.

And, Lewis has a high regard for his defensive coordinator, Chuck Bresnahan, a guy that has some accomplishments in the league.

And Lewis really took what happened up in Cleveland three years ago in the veins. He took the play-calling duties away from then coordinator Leslie Frazier during some parts of a game the Browns put up 449 yards in a 34-17 loss.

The next day, Lewis said he thought he had made a point.

"I took the question and doubt out of it for them yesterday," Lewis said. "It's not the calls, it's not the paper. It's how you do it. I took the doubt out of everybody's mind. It's not what you call when. It's how you go about executing."

To say he hasn't put his fingerprints on this defense isn't correct. These are the kind of guys Lewis wants playing. Fast and lean linebackers instead of stubby run stoppers. Athletic and not large linemen. Safeties that can run and cover. And you don't see any tiny corners. That is coming right from Lewis.

And he does spend time in that defensive room, where you know he's giving input.

He also goes in the offensive room and special teams room. He prides himself on being the head coach of all three. He feels that his job, and that's a tough thing to argue against.

It's ironic that the guy he worked under in Baltimore, Billick, is laboring under the same criticism. An offensive genius bred in the Bill Walsh system, Billick's teams have won with defense in spite of struggling offenses. But he's also 80-56 and won a Super Bowl as well as a few division titles. So being proficient in your specialty isn't a prerequisite.

But the point is well made. If defense is what is keeping you from getting over the hump, why don't you do what you do best?

Yet the way this preseason has unfolded, the first defense looks stingy against the run and their 11 sacks have put them among the summer's league leaders.

The problems seems to be in pass coverage and whether to be aggressive or soft and getting on the same page. Plus, they've been decimated by injury in the secondary and they aren't showing much.

People don't want to hear it, but you just can't judge an issue as big as that off of what happens in the preseason.

But it certainly isn't going to go away, is it?

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