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Hobson's Choice: More of the same?

Q: What is the word on Chris Perry's recovery? I have heard reports his injuries are much more severe than the Bengals are letting on. Do you see the Bengals going after a "utility" back in the 2nd or 3rd round like a Garett Wolfe?
**--Joe, Loveland, OH

JOE:** The Bengals have never said anything about it, but any time a running back breaks his lower leg it's serious and he won't be ready for the start of spring camps.

Marvin said after the season that Perry, after breaking a bone in his fibula, is the only player he expects that won't be ready when May rolls around for voluntary workouts but the hope is he'll be ready for training camp.

So, yeah, no question they're looking for a speed back later in the draft. Ideally they would like a fast guy that can catch, but I think at this point they'll take a guy that can run away from people (hey, we'll see DeDe Dorsey at the Super Bowl) and hope they re-sign third-down catcher Kenny Watson.

It sounds like Wolfe won't be around when they go looking, which you have to believe won't be until the second day.

It's a shame about Perry and you have to wonder how this injury is going to affect the things that make him special: Burst and cutting.

Q: I just read your article about the defense, and it sounds like nothing has really changed.

Why do the Bengals have an approach of we'll wait until we see who we draft before we decide on a defensive scheme? What other team in the NFL approaches defense that way?

Have you ever heard Lovie Smith, Tony Dungy, Bill Cowher, Jimmy Johnson (Eagles), Bill Belichick, the Ryan brothers (Rex & Rob), Jeff Fisher or any other top defensive team make a comment like that? No, because they develop a defensive scheme, then draft players to fit the scheme.

When Parcells arrived in Dallas, he switched to a 3-4 and drafted players to fit the scheme. The development of a defensive scheme always comes first, then players are drafted to fit the scheme.

Secondly, I don't know how Bresnahan can continue to say we are closer on defense than we think. The defense was the lowest rated in franchise history (four years into the Marvin Lewis era). How can that be close to turning things around?

It just tells me nothing has changed on the defensive side of the ball, and next year we will still be talking about the same issues. Where is Donnie Henderson?
**--Mark, Cincinnati, OH

MARK:** Henderson, the former Marvin defensive assistant, was standing next to him during one of the Senior Bowl practices. Which tells me they're still friends but that Marvin believes blowing up the defense would be a setback rather than a move forward.

I agree with you about scheme. On defense, the scheme always rules and you plug in smart players who know how to play instead of 4.3 athletes with low test scores.

(Said smart players also would be sharp enough not to be trying to get through a checkpoint at 2 in the morning on a blitz.)

Look at New England. A role-playing linebacker like Ted Johnson from the '02 title team morphs into a kid like Eric Alexander, a free agent in '04 who started last Sunday's AFC championship game inside. The Patriots could do that because Mike Vrabel is able to play both inside and outside.

In fact, when Junior Seau broke his arm, all their backers ended up playing different spots primarily because they've got guys who know football and have adjusted to the scheme.

That said, I think Lewis and Bresnahan agree with you, too, if you take a look at them talking about finding that ever-elusive identity. After dealing with a traumatic season in which they lost two linebackers of the future and their much ballyhooed secondary badly underachieved, there has to be some measure of taking stock and figuring out what's the next move.

Scheme or personnel?

Chuck's right. They have to wait and see because if right end Justin Smith re-signs then all talk of a 3-4 is dead. If he doesn't, they feel like they have enough young pass rushers like Robert Geathers, Rashad Jeanty and Eric Henderson that they could have enough ammo for a 3-4.

Certainly Lewis doesn't want to get a reputation for canning people like Jack "The Ripper" Del Rio in Jacksonville, and dismissing Bresnahan just two years after he fired Leslie Frazier would have been a major setback.

I still think the most important thing the defense is facing this offseason is not scheme or personnel but Lewis' decision on the major question: Can he still be a head coach as well as becoming heavily involved in the defense? You have to conclude that his decision to be a CEO hasn't coincided with a great defensive run in his four seasons.

And that's no knock on Bresnahan. But Lewis got this job because of his defensive genius. It may be the thing that lifts him from a 35-30 coach to a Super Bowl coach.

Q: I was wondering what the deal with Odell is. I know Marvin won't say his name or talk about him at all, but I'm unsure about what his punishment is. Is it a full calendar year suspension or was just for the rest of the season?

Also what are we going to do if two of our last three first-round draft picks are gone? Especially two good linebackers.

I like Caleb and think Brooks will be good after he gets a little experience but we really need to shore up our linebacker corps. They got abused last season and that isn't going to help us get to the Super Bowl.
**--Anthony C., Cincinnati

ANTHONY:** Saw Thurman's agent at the Senior Bowl and he didn't want to say much. In fact, he didn't want to say anything, which tells me he must think there's a chance Thurman can come back.

If Thurman meets all his requirements, he could be back for the start of training camp because it's believed his year suspension that began in late September is retroactive to July, when he was suspended for the first four games of the season.

You're right. They need a big, fearless presence in the middle and they've got to play Brooks and make him realize his potential. As for Miller, he clearly has some work to do in winning over the coaches but he also showed he can be productive, albeit inconsistent. The team has invested four first-day draft picks in linebackers under Marvin and don't have much to show for it. Here's to the fifth.

Q: Ken Anderson was an exceptional talent for the Bengals. Why are people upset that he is going to coach for the Steelers? Coaching is the next step after your playing days.

Ken will always be a Bengal and should be in the Hall of Fame. His numbers are much better than some other quarterbacks that are in. Do fans forget that he coached the quarterback here and they were not very successful? David Klingler and a guy named Smith. That was horrible. He was in Jacksonville and Leftwich was not very successful and hopefully Ken will have as much success with Roethlisberger as he has had with the other three. The Steelers have helped the Bengals by hiring Kenny Anderson. I wish him the best but what quarterback has Kenny developed?
**--Wally B., Cincinnati

WALLY:** Be careful what you wish for. I'll take up for Kenny on this one. Don't judge him on Klingler and Akili. He's a coach, not a brain surgeon or heart specialist.

Give him a good quarterback and he'll help him get better, and he'll show Roethlisberger just enough to make him even more dangerous.

Anderson did take Jeff Blake from the waiver wire to the Pro Bowl. A major reason Boomer Esiason had a great final stretch of five games was Anderson was calling plays for a guy that could execute them. Jon Kitna improved dramatically between 2001 and 2002 and if Leftwich hasn't panned out in Jacksonville then Anderson certainly got a lot of production out of a backup not regarded very highly in David Garrard this season with an 80 passer rating. After all, the Jags finished in the top 10 in scoring with their No. 2 guy.

So now the greatest Bengals quarterback who ever lived is giving his Hall of Fame knowledge to a guy that has already won the Super Bowl.

Be careful what you wish for.

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