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Hobson's Choice: regular-season heat


Brandon Tate keeps impressing the coaches with his reliability.

Geoff, You have been saying since OTAs and through training camp that you believed the final WR on the roster wasn't even here yet. Or something like that. A late pick up after final cuts, a veteran. Now not sure Little qualifies, so do you think we still get someone? And if so, why not get a veteran leader like Reggie Wayne just to show our relatively young WR group how an All Pro does it day in and day out, even AJ could learn something. I know the guy is 37 but we've made hay in the defensive backfield bringing in guys like Jones and Newman, and having Leon there as a mentor even though he's slowing down. Just saying. Mike Pantano, Cincinnati, OH

MIKE: I still think one of the six receivers on the 53-man roster isn't here. I would imagine of the guys here, Brandon Tate has the edge in that group beyond the Big Three and Mario Alford because he has proven to be the most reliable special teamer and receiver. I'm a Reggie Wayne guy, too, but he never reached buzz level here from what I can tell. They're looking for a guy that can also play special teams, plus there seems to be a question if Wayne can still run effectively.  After four years and 329 catches, they've got their mentor in Green.

Hi Geoff, Simon here from across the pond. Hope life is treating you well. I've been thinking that the Bengals need a Lawyer Milloy to the Bills moment. A moment that shocks the dressing room and makes people stand up and notice that, like Coach Lewis said, things are not the status quo and that no one is safe an right here, right now is all that matters. The Bengals have been built on stability which has been great but I fear that stability has slighlty turned itself into comfort and this team needs to break out of the comfort zone to take itself the next level. I understand that the team has a lot of uncertainty with the number of contracts up but those players are here for another year regardless. Do you get the sense they are still too status quo and if so or not, what can be done to take them to the next level mentally which to me is the biggest challenge for this team? Thanks, Simon London, England

SIMON: I hear you. There is a fine line between stability and comfort in any business. But I don't think the preseason is any time to judge something as intangible as that and this locker room has always passed those tests.

Until they offer a couple of egg games like Tampa in the regular season, I'm going to hold to my sense that, for the most part, this is a solid, motivated locker room.

As badly as they played in Indianapolis and against Cleveland last year, they made a hell of a rebound and won 10 games with a reduced roster, so that has to say something about not standing still.   There are a lot of guys with a lot on the line that have held this thing together.

No question, though, the kids played with a lot more energy and fire than the vets. But if they did what I did all day Monday in Tampa and watched TV while Jordy Nelson got carted off the field twice every half-hour on the hour, it makes you wonder what goes through their minds risking it all in a game that means absolutely nothing. I don't think you can talk about stuff like that until reality starts and their track record shows locker-room comfort hasn't been an issue.

Hey Geoff Phew - that was a hard one to watch. Thankfully, it's just pre-season game 2. Quick question - I've never understood why the long snapper takes up an entire roster spot for such a specialized, infrequently used role. I would imagine a center or other position could learn this skill, or the long snapper contribute in another way on the team. Clark Harris has got great size for an DE or tight end, no??? Thanks, as always. Mike D'Amico, Burlington, VT

MIKE: Hope all is well in the land of the Vermont Lake Monsters, where I saw them devour the West Virginia Black Bears last month, 4-2.

I'm afraid the specialization genie is out of the bottle. Harris came into the league as a tight end/snapper type and in the old days he would have been the third tight end. But no way now. The coaches have had 25 years or so of working of working every minute of practice with the snapper, holder, kicker and they're not going to give that up. With every game, every play so important and so scrutinized like an act of war, maybe that's a good idea.

Hey there Greg, born and raised in Cincy and a long time Bengals fan. I was just wondering what the status is on Vontez Burfict. It seems I haven't heard anything in a while. Are we ever going to see him again? Seems that we could use him. While I'm at it on injured player status where are Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher on their respective recoveries? Thanks! Keep up the good work! Bret Duncan, Asheville, N.C.

BRET: Thanks for the note back to your hometown. With Tez not expected to play Saturday against the Bears, the growing sense is he'll start the season on PUP and be eligible to return for the Nov. 1 game in Pittsburgh. The way he's moving around, it would seem to me he'll be able to give it a go that day. Ogbuehi says he could play now if they needed him and he seems to be moving well, but no need to rush him and he'll be on PUP as well. Fisher looks like he'll play Saturday night.

Hey Geoff, Once again I see Marv and Andy not showing any emotion about the game Monday. That's their thing, but what in the name of Sam & Boomer does it take for these guys to get fired up, ticked off and jacked up about games on national TV! Exhibition or not, yet again, we were horrific in front of America! Would you do me a solid and check their pulse? C'mon, man!! Kirk Homrighouse, Newark, OH

KIRK: I understand your frustration but, you said it. That's not their thing. Bill Belichick or Mike McCarthy, guys who have won a lot of games, look like cadavers over there, so I think we've got to find something else. I'm sorry, but I just can't take anything that happens in August all that seriously, unless it's an injury. Now, if they come out like they did Monday night, with all the intensity of a surprise 50th birthday party, in a game that counts, OK, let's talk. I remember Sam going nuts on the sidelines during a big Monday night loss in Buffalo and he was ripped for having a team in disarray. You can't win. Unless you win.

Top 'O the morning from Wisconsin, Geoff! I've been a Bengals fan since '81 (7 years old), and I always look forward to your inside take on things. Here are my questions/concerns, and I hope you can clue me in: As a former small college tight end (Carroll, Waukesha), I was concerned about the tight end situation (injuries, rookies,etc.). However, it seems that Eifert is healthy and effective in the pass game, and Kroft is coming along as both a blocker and pass catcher. Now my concern, and I know it's early, but: 1 - it seems that the front four on defense are not getting the same pass rush that they did 3 years ago. It seems to get pressure, there are more blitzes needed. Do you think the D can survive on this? Also 2- I hate to jump on any bandwagon, but the offense doesn't seem consistent week to week. Cutting to the chase, how long do you feel the leash is on Andy Dalton? I know it's not all on him, but how long do you think the Bengals will go before McCarron gets a shot? Again, I appreciate your opinion, and I still want to see them win the big game. Thanks, Ryan

RYAN: Thanks for reading. That must be the land of TEs. I think Colin Cochart was from up that way.  Dalton isn't going to get benched in favor of McCarron. Not this year. Just can't see it. This isn't a QB competition. Yeah, not a good performance and it had all the feel of Indy and Cleveland. But I think you've got to give the offense more than three quarters, too.

I actually think the pressure is getting back to that. The Giants couldn't block them for two practices and a game and while it wasn't a great pressure game the other night, Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins got some penetration and just didn't finish. Plus, right end Michael Johnson hasn't played at all, so I think it does get back to 2012, Same guys, just three years older.

Hi Geoff, A comment rather than a question: Are the players ready to refund the spectators or take a cut in salary when they perform as poorly as they did against Tampa? When the Special Teams are the highlight of the game... Kudos to the players in the second half. Maybe they played strongly because their jobs were hanging on the limb? Time for all professional athletes to step up and play professionally! Many are still a bunch of immature boys that just think that they are men. being paid CEO salaries! Just a thought. – Lynn Marshall, Cincinnati, OH

LYNN:  Too broad of a brush there. Yeah, they played lousy. But if you have a bad day at the office, do they cut your salary? I think we can all agree the NFL and the NFL Players Association have to get a better handle on the preseason because the customer is always right.

How long of a leash is Dalton on this year? The guy has proven he can win but when it really matters, he doesn't show up. Could we see McCarron at some point? Adam DeBrosse, Piqua, OH

ADAM: I think I answered this above, but just to reiterate: he's got a leash as long as 40 wins. I don't see them benching Dalton in favor of McCarron. Do you? You've got a five-year veteran with 40 wins and a fifth-rounder who has no NFL experience. From what I can see, they don't view it as a competition.

Hey Geoff, My question is why in the first preseason game when Josh J. was in they had mostly the #1s in there? I'm talking offensive line and receivers but the next week when McCarron got in there they had NO 1st string linemen or receivers? How can they really evaluate his play with all backups in there? Then they turn around and cut Josh after the game. I thought Josh played pretty well the first game. Had they already made up their mind on who they were going to keep? Just a little confused on their thought process. Please explain. Craig Ray, Piqua, OH

CRAIG: When you invest a fifth-rounder like they did in AJ McCarron in 2014, you're already making up your mind that he is the guy you want to develop. If he hadn't been hurt last year, they probably wouldn't have signed Johnson back in the spring. But they needed to make sure McCarron was healthy and when McCarron looked like they thought he would look, they made the move. They also wanted to give Johnson a chance to hook on and he did with the Jets.

Johnson is a great athlete with a great arm and a tremendous guy. But lack of accuracy has been his issue. They also wanted to give Johnson a chance to hook on elsewhere and he did with the Jets. Johnson only played seven snaps against the Giants with the first line and none with the starting tackles or A.J. Green, so I'm not sure it was much of an issue.

Okay, Geoff, I know it was preseason, and it doesn't count. But it was still another primetime meltdown in Tampa. A rookie quarterback engineers a perfect, 80-yard drive against a previously stout defense. three turnovers in six plays. A backup quarterback lofts a perfect 22-yard touchdown pass when an all-out blitz is picked up. What's changed? The lights come on, and the Bengals don't show up. Why does this keep happening? Is there any reason to believe this season will end differently than the last four? Give me some hope. I'm desperate! John Pythyon, Columbus, OH

JOHN:  You gave yourself hope. It's the preseason.  I don't think you can question this offense until it comes out of a game trying to give Hill 20 carries. This offense runs through the running game and right now they're playing patty cake. If they play offense like this with a full-blown game plan, now we've got some problems.

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