Hobson's Choice: Palmer shows no fear

Q: OK, so I'm not so quick to jump on the "sinking ship" idea after the Pats game like so many seem to be. What I am though, is concerned about some of the mistakes Carson has been making and wonder maybe if some of them are related to the fear of being hit.

He had a disastrous injury and it would make sense. Some of what I've noticed, when he drops back he is patting the ball, which indicates he's more nervous in the pocket. This also led to the fumbles; if you watch a few were right after he patted the ball.

A lot of his misses are high as well which means he's letting the ball go too early, which again would make me think he's nervous and getting it out too quick. So, my question would be is Carson really over the injury or are there still some "skeletons in the closet?"
**--Shawn, Anderson, OH

SHAWN:** Anybody who throws four touchdown passes against the Steelers in the midst of getting sacked six times ain't afraid of nothing. Least of which is getting hit.

I've got to agree with Bengals offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski on this one. If they don't get blown out by the Pats, we're not having this discussion. What more can the kid do?

I also agree with Bratkowski when he observed that Palmer can't keep fumbling he ball, but he also said, "He can't keep getting hit by two and three guys who are getting clean shots at him."

It's not the fear of getting hit. He is getting hit. Of course he's got to get rid of it. He's getting hit a lot and they've got to find a way to protect him. Because when they do, he delivers.

Take one of the crucial third-down incompletions that killed one of the first two drives tat decided the game. Palmer overthrew Chad Johnson on a sideline route. But he threw it early because he was about to get blown up on a blitz failed to be picked up by a receiver that ran a pass route instead. And Palmer didn't want to take a sack and put them out of field-goal range.

OK, maybe at times he's not as sharp as last year, but really now. Maybe I'm nuts, but I think the guy has been better than anyone could have hoped. Can a guy win the Comeback Player of the Year Award without missing a game and still go to his second straight Pro Bowl?

Q: Is Jeanty going to be OK to play next game, has he exceeded expectations, is he team rookie of the year material?
**--Tony, Bear Creek, AK

TONY:** Both strong-side linebacker Rashad Jeanty and Marvin Lewis think he's got a shot at playing next week in Tampa Bay. If Jeanty's not Bengals Rookie of the Year wouldn't it have to be cornerback Johnathan Joseph? Or defensive tackle Domata Peko?

You have to say Jeanty has exceeded expectations because the Bengals basically haven't lost a game since he's started in place of David Pollack. They saw him as a guy who would be very good on special teams and maybe give them a lift on some third-down situations because he had been a productive pass rusher as a CFL defensive end.

But he's been much more than that as an every-down player, and his transition from end to linebacker has been remarkable. You wonder where they'd be without him.

But the draft has also been kind to the Bengals, giving them Joseph in the first round and Peko in the fourth round. Both have been as advertised right away.

Joseph is a mature speedster who can play the ball and had an edge on the nickel job right away and is pushing Tory James for a starting job. He tackles and he's broken up three passes. Peko, now part of the tackle rotation, is big and strong (12 tackles) and he's going to get bigger, stronger, and better as he gets older.

Q: I have a solution for the run defense. What do you think about putting Stacy Andrews (350 pounds) next to Sam Adams (375 pounds)? That is over 700 pounds of beef that an offensive line must block. We only need to get a push up the middle and Stacy Andrews is just sitting on the bench and playing only sporadically. You must take advantage of your strengths (size with athleticism). We don't have any other options?

Or trade our No. 1 pick next year to the lowly Miami Dolphins for Zach "Tackling Machine" Thomas?
**--Dave, Loveland, Ohio

DAVE:** Let's see how Ahmad Brooks plays before dealing that No. 1. After a year of seasoning, he could end up being the middle linebacker they thought Odell Thurman would be. And who's to say Thurman is done here?

As for Andrews, I just don't see it happening. Andrews came in as a project, a guy that played only 70 snaps of college ball before he got drafted in 2004, and he has made marvelous progress in being able to play two positions along the offensive line (guard and tackle) relatively competently, which is a credit to his marvelous athleticism and patient coaching.

But playing defensive line for a guy who doesn't have much football experience to begin with is a good way to kill a project. It's a tougher spot to learn to play, plus you weaken your depth in two spots.

Look no further than Peko as the third guy spelling Adams and John Thornton. The kid is big (310) pounds, very athletic and is having a heck a rookie year, and they have to keep grooming him.

It will be interesting to see if Lewis even entertains thoughts of letting Thurman come back next season. Certainly when he gave the order to clear out Thurman's locker before the NFL even suspended him for a year has to be a warning sign.

As they say, Brooks has all the tools. He's a big guy (6-4, 260) who can run around and blow up people, and he made a few nice plays during his 11 snaps against the Patriots that were split among the middle and outside. Give Brooks, drafted in the third round of July's supplemental draft, an offseason in the weight room, and spring camps and you may have that guy who would have gone in the top five if he'd been eligible for the draft after his sophomore year at Virginia.

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