Q: With all of the talk about the off-field issues, and all the talk about Palmer's chances of being the starting QB on opening day, the subject of David Pollack has slipped off of everyone's radar. Do you think he's progressed enough to make him an impact player in the defense this year? Are the coaches noticing changes in him, or seeing improvement? Is he becoming the player we thought he could be when we drafted him in April 2005?
DK:** Yes, yes, and yes, but the last thing he needed is that hamstring pull like the Bengals needed another off-field incident.
The fact is, the more Pollack plays, the better he gets. That was apparent late in the season when he finally was able to get on the practice field consistently after losing six weeks because of his holdout followed by a knee sprain. He became a factor on the edge on the pass rush and looked poised to have a breakout season after becoming the first Bengals rookie to record a postseason sack.
That's why this hamstring thing is such a downer. He already missed a chunk of time a few months ago with an ankle injury and now this current injury is probably going to keep him out of Sunday's game and maybe the next one.
But look, the kid isn't going to bust. He works at it too hard to do that and plays too relentlessly to come up with nothing. No one watches more film or studies more than this guy.
Yeah, the jury is still out if he can play SAM backer. With Justin Smith headed to free agency, there is some buzz about puffing Pollack up to 270 pounds next year from 255 of 260 and just let him go back to do what he does best all the time and play right end. And maybe potential SAM backers like Rashad Jeanty, Caleb Miller, or Landon Johnson make that more intriguing. But if they go to a 3-4, Pollack has to be one of the outside backers.
Q: How about a breakdown of impressions, highlights, and (hopefully not many) lowlights of all of the draft picks so far in camp. I am especially interested to hear about how Reggie McNeal is performing. There seems to be a lot of focus on Brazell and Rucker, who deserve it, but being an Aggie myself (I attended in the early '90s - when another new Bengal whose name sounds like a popular beer was there too), I want to hear more about how Reggie is looking and how the team is considering using him, should he make the team. **--John O., Fairfield, OH
We will all be saying Sam I Am, soon, John. McNeal looks like he's making some progress as a receiver and he's a remarkable athlete, but he could be the Galloping Ghost himself and still not make this roster as a receiver.
How does he make it? Chad. T.J. Tab Perry. Chatman. Brazell. Henry. And I just don't think they are going to keep seven receivers if they go with just two tight ends. Most teams keep five, but the Bengals run so many three-receiver sets they traditionally have kept six in the Bratkowski era.
It would seem the only way McNeal makes it is as the third quarterback, and then invest two or three years to develop him along with his receiver duties. But how can they do that if Carson Palmer is a question mark and the only thing early this season between a raw McNeal at QB is an Anthony Wright scramble gone bad?
Good thought when they picked him, but it just doesn't seem to fit at the moment. Yes, he'd be a weapon, but he would also need to be developed and it doesn't look like they have the space. There's no way he survives waivers if they want to put him on the practice squad.
As for the eight other picks:
CB Johnathan Joseph: The guy has tremendous 4.3-second speed and has the distinct ability to defend the ball. Of course, we've been here 11 days and it's kind of like watching Russell Crowe. They're waiting for him to hit somebody. But he will once he gets going. This kid is going to be good.
OL Andrew Whitworth: Just could be the Opening Day starter at left guard in 2007. His transition from left tackle has just kind of happened, although he'll get plenty of snaps at tackle in the preseason games. Since his game is predicated on size and muscle, it's hard for him to show up when there's not full contact.
DE Frostee Rucker: Bryan Robinson had some interesting things to say about him. He says he's a technician who is going to be around for 10-12 seasons. They think he can play tackle on passing downs, too, as well as both ends, so that's a roster plus.
DT Domata Peko: He looks strong and tenacious and he'll make it because he's a fourth-rounder. But he's learning. During one of the snaps in the run period Tuesday, center Rich Braham drove blocked him back to Florence.
MLB A.J. Nicholson: He's a tough, feisty down-hill guy who looks like he can help them on special teams.
S Ethan Kilmer: The kid just hasn't played very much football and it's going to show up in pads. But he has flashed and he's a guy they can probably get to the practice squad. With veteran Tony Bua playing so well, it would be tough to keep Kilmer as the fourth, safety right? But I think they've got a guy for the future because he's fast and committed.
WR Bennie Brazell: The future is now. Speed is truth, and B-B-Bennie and his Jets have taken no time to prove it. You have to keep speed like this once he proved he's a solid catch. Here's guaranteeing he'll light up a couple of preseason games. And you know teams coach Darrin Simmons won't hesitate putting him back there to return kicks.
Q: When the Bengals are in a jam 3rd in long or are in need of a big play in a big game the ball always ends up in number 84's hands, so why is he not regarded as the best receiver on the Bengals?
A:** It's a matter of taste and there is nothing wrong with your buds.
No one is a bigger fan of T.J. than I. But look at it this way. Because football is a game of three downs and if you put them all together, T.J. has 12 TDs and 1,943 yards over the past two seasons and Chad Johnson has 18 TDs and more than 2,700 yards.
What's wrong with being the best No. 2 receiver in football? Chad is a guy that does the unique and special things that other teams can't cover or defend with his speed. T.J. does the grimy necessary things, like those huge third-down catches. And you know Housh doesn't mind the No. 1 attention defense's give Chad because that allows him to come up with No. 1 numbers.