Hobson's Choice: Major change or panic?

Q: Over the last week we've seen other organizations at 0-3 looking at making major adjustments, whether it be looking at the coaching staff or even their starting quarterback. Do you think that we should take a look at making some changes like that? --John, Daytona Beach, FL

JOHN: You know how I feel about the quarterback. How do you bench a guy that throws for nearly 300 yards and doesn't turn it over in the den of one of the NFL's top defenses? If you're trying to win games, wrong move.

And the effort exuded in Giants Stadium says they are still playing hard for Marvin Lewis.

So making changes in those two spots doesn't make much sense. Certainly they need to review what's going on in the offensive line and the overall pass protection as well as their own pass rush, which has to be considered major.

But if you don't do anything beyond a coach firing or a QB benching, how much can you really do? When you build a NFL team, you put your cards on the table early and get everyone on the same page. It's hard to reshuffle because the deck is stacked with the decisions you made.

You just can't make a major personnel move in midseason because nobody is out there. Even the goofy transactions like Brett Favre are done.

You can make a major move internally, but that's like Sept. 1 in baseball, the biggest giveup in sports. The depth is usually youth.

If you're not happy with, say, Eric Ghiaciuc at center, how do you suddenly stick in a green kid like Kyle Cook and expect to get better right now?

Unless you're talking about tearing it all down and looking ahead to next year, but I don't think that's what you're talking about. And with Baltimore at 2-0, the AFC North is even more wide open than people thought if that's possible.

It's not good, but panic would make it worse.

If anything, I'd like to see a philosophy change in acquiring a certain kind of player in April and May. I'm not talking about the front-line moves, but the moves for depth.

The Bengals tend to shy away from seven-, eight-, nine-year veterans and opt for youth for fear of getting guys that get hurt more easily and can't play. But it seems like spots such as linebacker and the secondary could use a little seasoning right now.


Q: Why have the Bengals continued to give Levi Jones the opportunity to make mistake after mistake? It seems to me as he is always the guy who is "false starting" or giving up a sack. Last week Kiwanuka didn't even have to put a move on Jones in order to get to Palmer. I think he is one of the main reasons our offensive line has not been performing well. However, I love the effort Andrew Whitworth is putting out and we need to clone him about ... four times. What are your feelings about the O-line?
--Todd C., Troy, OH

TODD: Like you, I'm mystified they haven't been better and Whitworth is everything you want in an offensive lineman. Tough. Athletic. Versatile. He can play anywhere but center, and only because he's probably just too big.

One thing the release right tackle Willie Anderson did is cut down on their options if somebody got hurt or if they wanted to make a move because somebody wasn't playing well. Stacy Andrews, the current right tackle, has played both guards.

Now if you make any kind of move, it would probably involve fourth-round pick Anthony Collins, a tackle they like who they think can play some guard, too. But you bust your butt trying to extend linemen's contracts or develop them so you don't have to expose the Franchise QB to the pounding a rookie lineman could very well allow.

So what? you say, Palmer is getting pounded behind a veteran line, anyway, and it looks like Collins is going to be a big-time player so move him into left guard and put Whit at left tackle.

But this is where I'll defend Levi.

Yeah, I thought he had a bad game in Jersey, too, but this is a guy who has kept a lot of good pass rushers away from Palmer down through the years.

That's why they hang with him. And that includes last year, when he had a bad game like this one against Jared Allen in Kansas City and got benched in a game Anderson didn't play. But Jones rebounded to play well enough the rest of the season to be voted a Pro Bowl alternate.

A lot of people want to say Jones has lost his athleticism because of his knee injuries, but it's tough to go off a couple of games to make a judgment like that. He's only 29, he's passionate, competitive, and has a long resume against big-time pass rushers.

Tough guy to discard. And, if you bench him, have you made a problem somewhere else? But, no question, if he doesn't respond like he did after Allen, they may be forced to make a move. But I think the competitor in him takes the challenge.

You have think it can only get better for a line that has opened with what many believe to be the NFL's three best pass-rushing teams: Baltimore, Tennessee, and the Giants. By now, they should be ready to settle in.

One thing is for sure: They better keep Palmer clean against a Cleveland defense that has three sacks.


Q: Does it seem to you that the Bengals' inability to get even minimal pressure on the opposing QB without blitzing is unique in a league where even the worst teams occasionally pressure the QB with down linemen only?
--Tony K., Cincinnati, OH

TONY: They are in some select company, aren't they? With one sack they are dead last in the NFL and the other 0-3 teams have the same problem.

The Chiefs have two sacks while the Browns, Lions and Rams have three each. So while not getting to the passer is not unique to them, the common thread is that they are winless.

Most of the time sacks are the direct byproduct of having a lead. Knowing that the Bengals have just one sack, it can't surprise you they have the fifth lowest time of possession the NFL at 27:11 and they've had the lead for about 17 minutes of 180.

Teams that have had the ball less than the Bengals? You guessed it. Cleveland (25:00), St. Louis (26:03), Detroit (26:30). The Colts have the NFL's least time of possession (24:42), and their usually potent sack attack has been hampered by its offense.

You are right on topic, Tony, with Marvin because he has come out emphasizing it this week.

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