Hobson's Choice: Lewis defense always under gun

Q: Defense Sacks: ROBERT GEATHERS 1; AHMAD BROOKS 1; MICHAEL MYERS 1; LEMAR MARSHALL 1. These are the stats copied from your web site. Through four games? Why did we keep Justin Smith and give Geathers money like he was Dwight Freeney? When is this team going to emphasize the D-line in the draft? We have the worst one in the NFL! When are you media types going to pressure the Bengals to improve defense?
--Rob, Piqua, OH

ROB: Ask Marvin if he thinks the media hasn't put on pressure about the defense. It's at the point he never wants to hear the words "Defensive Guru" again. He's buried in a media Cover Two.

Here's one headline we had the week after the Cleveland game: "Breaking down the broken down," as well as some advice:

"So it's time that these first-day picks get it done. Brooks, Madieu Williams, Frostee Rucker, Johnathan Joseph, Leon Hall. Geathers isn't a first-day pick, but he's paid like one. They are supposed to be the difference-makers and they have to play, and quick. And if they can't, now you have some decisions to make about attacking free agency. Because how long can you let the offense carry the burden?"

They have drafted two defensive line starters under Lewis, but it's hard to get a dominant, sure-shot defensive lineman picking where the Bengals have been picking in the last four first rounds: 26, 17, 24 and 18.

The Steelers did get Casey Hampton at No. 19 in '01, a year the Bengals picked defensive end Justin Smith fourth. Also that year, defensive tackles supreme Richard Seymour went No. 6 and Marcus Stroud went No. 9. The next year, the Titans picked up Albert Haynesworth at No. 15 and the Jags' John Henderson at No. 13. In '06, the Ravens took Haloti Ngata at No. 12. That's about where they run out in the first round.

You can gripe about Smith being over drafted at No. 4 and the argument is valid. But there also have been few first-rounders in any year that have been as productive and as durable as Smith has been.

Which is where I'll disagree with your statement that the Bengals have the worst defensive line in the NFL.

It may not be blessed with Pro Bowlers, but they know how to play, are athletic and try hard and aren't a throwaway unit.

Smith and Geathers don't have numbers, but that's in part because of the mayhem behind them at linebacker. No defensive line is going to look good playing in front of a corps of backers that virtually showed up in September.

The defensive line takes a lot of heat when it's not its fault. Fits, calls, missed tackles, long balls, a lot of that stuff should be solved behind them.

The lack of consistent pressure from Geathers and Smith is discouraging, but when you are 28th against the rush, how can you tee up for a pass rush? And a lot of those ugly rushing stats can be attributed to the attrition at backer.

Geathers came a lot cheaper than Freeney. But if they didn't re-sign him when they did, they would be looking at Freeney numbers now with another eight to 10 sacks. That's just a fact of the market.


Q: Will Chris Perry be eligible to play against K.C. or not until the following week? Chris healthy is a big boost for this offense. How and when do you see this?
--Andrew L., Cincinnati, OH

ANDREW: Perry is eligible to return to practice the Monday after the Kansas City game, but whether he will is anyone's guess because his status is a closely guarded secret. Since he's on the physically unable to perform list (PUP), the Bengals can take up to three weeks before they put him on the field. Once they do, they have another three weeks to decide if they want to activate him, cut him, or put him on season-ending injured reserve.

Who knows? He virtually has been out a year on his dislocated ankle, and even if he's healthy, how rusty is he going to be even if he starts practicing Monday? He might need the entire three weeks.

Last year on PUP, he returned to his first eligible practice, was activated two days later, and played in the first game he could with two carries and three catches.


Q: Shock us Mr. Hobson. Take off your PR hat for a moment and answer a real question. Is there truth to the rumor that Marvin has openly requested that the Bengals finally hire a football guy to be GM? The reasons this would be a good idea could fill a novel, don't you think? Now shock me and post this and answer it. Sign me not holding my breath. Time for Mike Brown to quit acting like he's Jerry Jones.
--Scott M., Columbus, OH

SCOTT: Well, that was pleasant. From what I can gather, Lewis has not come to management looking for a general manager.

And I enjoy Mike Florio's ProFootballTalk.com as much as anyone, so we all took note when Mike wrote this past weekend that a league source says Marvin is lobbying internally for a GM that would shape the roster.

So is it "openly?" Is it "lobbying internally?" Is it Marvin popping off to friends? What exactly is it?

I doubt it for a lot of reasons.

My sense is that something has been lost in translation and that the GM issue hasn't been brought to the table. Marvin doesn't say much, but he has always left the impression that he likes the administrative structure of the club.

Without a general manager, Lewis has more power and influence with the owner and he seems very comfortable with the lack of a middle man. It's fair to say that Marvin has used the route to get more things from management than any of his predecessors.

And maybe he's looking for more here, but I doubt it's a GM.

Plus, Lewis has said he likes the fact his coaches have a hand in the scouting and draft-room decisions, although he has streamlined their responsibilities.

According to ProFootbalTalk.com, "The problem, as it's been explained to us, is that when players like Frostee Rucker and Chris Henry and A.J. Nicholson are available in lower rounds than their talent might otherwise dictate, the Bengals go for the talent not because they don't care about bad character, but because they lack the confidence to identify the best of the players who haven't slid down the board."

No question taking the bad character guys has been one of the major factors in the Bengals' inability to get over the hump and take the 2005 AFC North title to more consistent things.

But it would seem to me that they have been seduced by the talent and nothing else.

Since Marvin has been here, they've been able to identify and make hay with draft picks deep down the board: defensive linemen Robert Geathers and Domata Peko, offensive lineman Stacy Andrews, center Eric Ghiaciuc, wide receiver Tab Perry, special teams maven Ethan Kilmer, and safety Chinedum Ndukwe are all second-day picks.

A valid rip is they haven't drafted a defensive playmaker or even a Pro Bowler and they tried so desperately that they gambled with Thurman because of the talent and looked past everything else.

But that's not because of a lack of confidence. Ten of their last 13 first-day draft picks have gone to defenders, and at one time or another, before injury and suspension, David Pollack, Thurman and Johnathan Joseph looked to be legit, and Joseph is still a kid coming from injury.

If Lewis wants a general manager, he certainly won't call a news conference. But it doesn't sound like there is one headed here any time soon and I doubt Marvin would want somebody between him and Mike.

Well, I posted it and answered it, and you're probably not shocked by anything. But I'll always be shocked at how personal this all gets.

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