Hobson's Choice: Lewis won't run from plan

We all know Carson has the possibility of missing a couple of games at the beginning of the season and we all hope for the best, but everyone knows defense is the main concern in Cincinnati, just like pitching is the for the Reds. Sam Adams was suppose to be a lock and we haven't heard anything in weeks, and what about Lavar, are we gonna spend any money this year, or just hope for a good draft and let our young guys "Develop"?

**-Concerned about the Run D, Michael, Union, KY

MICHAEL:** Couldn't agree more. It would be nice a spring adding Adams in Bengaldom and Arroyo in Redsland. Of course, every time Bronson spins a good one, some of us will get physically sick if the Sox are more than three games behind the Jays in the Wild Card.

Pardon The Digression. The SAM talks aren't dead. In fact, they've picked up some, but who knows? As long as LaVar carries around that big number, Willy Mo Pena's five tools have a better shot at being in Marvin Lewis' garage Opening Day.

Since the Bengals moved into PBS, they've spent at or over the salary cap. No reason to think they won't now.

At this week's league meeting in Florida, Marvin was again very passionate about his belief that size isn't his overriding concern at defensive tackle. With Lional Dalton staying in Kansas City and Ted Washington leaving Oakland for Cleveland (or "the biggest tackle known to football," as Marvin calls him), Lewis asked where the Chiefs and Raiders finished against the run.

(It's No. 7 and No. 25, respectively, but the Chiefs finished 30th overall.)

"Size doesn't matter," he insists, but he's been talking to Adams a lot and you could see that happening at some point.

Everyone seems to be concerned about the run defense, but that wasn't the biggest problem. What beat them down the stretch last year were lack of pass rush and covering the pass on third down, and big pass plays. Other than what Pittsburgh did to them the first time around and what the Chiefs did to them in a meaningless game, name a game they absolutely got pounded.

OK, Fred Taylor bloodied them a bit in the Jacksonville loss, but '05 was nowhere near the run debacles they had in '03 (Jamal Lewis, Marshall Faulk, and Lee Suggs going 180, 121, 186 in the month of December) and in '04, when they allowed four rushers at least 147 yards.

Those numbers tell you that the additions of tackles Bryan Robinson and Shaun Smith this past season marked an upgrade and helped out John Thornton, a tough, smart guy who is a little light but does produce.

Some would argue that Lewis is overly sensitive about the tackle thing because if he goes out and gets another high-paid veteran, then it means he missed on Thornton back in '03 when they gave him $5 million to sign. I don't think he missed in Thornton. He got a terrific locker room guy who had been on perennial winners in Tennessee and is a very solid, every-down player.

Now, could, they use a bigger guy to complement him? Yeah, and maybe Smith is that guy, but a guy like Adams is an absolute stud when healthy and that no doubt has them thinking.

The additions of Dexter Jackson and Madieu Williams at safety mean as much to the run defense as the addition of a big run stopper. I think they want one, but they're a little leery about age at a spot where Robinson turns 32 in June and Thornton turns 30 Oct. 2.

C'mon. You guys know the answer. Marvin is going to draft and develop the kids. The big money is going to the offensive line. If they can get Sam at "their price," they will, but they're also looking in the draft. The question is going to be if Florida State's Brodrick Bunkley is available at No. 24 and if guys like Gabe Watson are worthy of being a late first-rounder.

The best way to counter The Carson Factor isn't spending a lot of time and money on a backup quarterback, but getting your defense better in a hurry. They've decided not to deviate from their philosophy in order to stack the defense.

They refuse to overpay in a free agent market where they perceive the majority are pretty similar or inferior to what they already have. Could that cost them one or two non-Carson games that keep them from the playoffs?

This is the very difficult line the Bengals and all other teams have to walk. Balancing fiscal responsibility with the short windows teams have available for Super Bowl runs.

But that is Marvin's point in all this free agency stuff. Spend young and smart, develop kids like Shaun Smith, and that window is going to be there most seasons, instead of shutting down in cap hell like the 49ers, Titans, and Jets.

To be fair, they used that plan to build a division winner, so it must have some credibility. But until they become perennial winners, people will scream for the big-buck deals.

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