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Hobson's Choice: Snap judgment?

Q: How did Bobbie Williams look at center even though you can't tell much from a minicamp? Is it an official sign of lack of faith in Ghiaciuc, or was he banged up and couldn't go? If the Bengals wanted to get the best five linemen on the field, Williams moving to center with Andrews and Whitworth sliding over, does it seem like the best move?
--Evan, Dayton, OH

EVAN: Marvin Lewis and Bob Bratkowski said they only looked at Williams in a backup role because they are officially concerned with the guys behind Ghiaciuc. When asked if he would consider Williams centering the first group, Lewis was adamant on Saturday in the negative.

But it wouldn't be surprising if they call in LeCharles Bentley for a physical just to see where he is right now, a week after the Browns cut him.

It would be a longshot for the Bengals to actually go through with it and sign him. Consider he has not only been sidelined for two years, but he's had multiple surgeries on a knee that has also been infected. Given how they never felt wide receiver Peter Warrick came back from similar circumstances, it's just hard to see them doing it for the 28-year-old Bentley.

Williams looked OK there on Saturday, just like you'd expect your emergency snapper to look because that's what he's done before.

But it's not the kind of move they could make overnight. When they switched Rich Braham from guard to center, Braham had been more than an emergency center.

I'm with you. It does seem to be the best way to get all their highest-paid linemen on the field at the same time. But if that doesn't give them the best line, and they think Ghiaciuc is their best center because of his experience at the position, it will be tough to move them on it.

Plus, before all the snapping problems with Dan Santucci and Kyle Cook this past weekend, they were happy with what the duo had done.

But don't let that obscure the biggest question on the line. If Willie Anderson is healthy and practicing at right tackle, what do they do? They have apparently decided they aren't moving Stacy Andrews from right tackle. So who sits?

Andrews, the franchise player? Or Anderson, the best right tackle in franchise history?

Q: Now that mandatory camp is over, what are your early thoughts on what fans and pundits are going to be surprised to see from the Bengals when the season starts? What areas do you think are most underrated and most overrated. I'll understand if you only do the underrated part since you have to share a locker room, so to speak.
--Kurt, Elkhart, IN

KURT: Generally they'll be underrated on defense because the pundits only look at player acquisitions and don't calculate the impact of a new defensive coordinator.

The passing game will be overrated because the experts are always seduced by the big numbers when actually the Bengals had trouble making big plays and avoiding mistakes in the red zone, and they can't tell you who the third receiver is.

One guy who wasn't happy with the efficiency of the offense and their inability to dent Cover 2 zone defenses is quarterback Carson Palmer. They passed for a lot of yards, but they didn't score when they needed to stem and turn the tide of games like they did in '05 and until the last three games of '06.


They had two Pro Bowl receivers. One guy led the league in catches (T.J. Houshmandzadeh) while the other guy (Chad Johnson) broke his own franchise record for receiving yards, and Palmer broke his own club record for passing yards. And yet the offense scored two touchdowns or less in 12 games.

Certainly those three guys aren't overrated. They are the real deals, but it's a matter of making it run smoothly. They did seem to address the Cover 2 quagmire in the offseason by adding a pass-catching tight end and emphasizing the running game.

But the most underrated (and under asked) question of the spring is the third receiver. Glenn Holt was the guy this past weekend, but he has been a No. 5 in past years.

More overrated?

I think that could be it because the pundits/experts/gurus are so down on these guys.

Some would say the offensive line is overrated, but that gets heavily disputed in this corner.

When they set a franchise record for fewest sacks in '05, it was Anderson, Bobbie Williams, Rich Braham, Eric Steinbach and Levi Jones from right to left. Two years later they broke it with three different starters. And when the mindset is there to run the ball, they usually step up. Note the wins over the Jets (when they ran it 41 times the week after 18 against the Chiefs) and the Rams and Browns when the weather was miserable in December and they combined for 69 rushes.

Sure, bad Ds but the Bengals didn't have their running game at top strength, either, and they went for about 5.5 against St. Louis and Cleveland because they had to, thanks to the Doppler.


Put running back Chris Perry in there. Make that a healthy Chris Perry. People forget how important he was in '05.

And while you're at it, put running back Rudi Johnson in the underrated category. I know he doesn't bust big runs and he doesn't have Perry's excitement or hands. But they are 18-1 when the man rushes at least 25 times in a game.

More underrated?

I'm going to buy into what Palmer said last week: It's hard to find a team with two better young cornerbacks than Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall. They're going to sneak up on people because right now you can't find them on any radar north of Columbus or east of the Allegheny.

Q: I think Domata Peko is well worth his $30 million deal. He should have a breakout season this year. I think he has improved as a well-rounded, solid D-lineman each of his last two seasons. I see Peko having at least five sacks this season and really establishing himself as a leader on the Bengals D-line. Would you agree?
--Kurt G., Irvine, CA

KURT: Yeah, and I had to laugh when I saw some people rip them for signing what they say is an average player.

Guess what an average D-tackle is going for these days? About $4-5M per year, and most league people are going to tell you Peko is better than average.

So to lock up a good solid player for the next seven seasons who is getting better and better and won't turn 24 until November for $5.8M per certainly isn't outrageous and it is a good, smart move.

In fact, the Bengals did what they get ripped for not doing, and that's having the foresight to sign younger players before they have to. And then, they really have to over pay, like say for an Eric Steinbach.

If you check it, that's the one thing we've really been on them about in this space. Don't be afraid to do what the Eagles do. If you know the guy is what you need after two years, go get them now. Sooner is cheaper.

To be fair, they've done some great deals like that with Palmer, Chad Johnson and Robert Geathers. Just imagine if they didn't re-up Chad when they did in '06 and the $9-10M per year deal receivers like Randy Moss and Terrell Owens surfaced.

Left guard Andrew Whitworth, like Peko was, is a third-year player up in '09, and you know they'd love to get him locked up, too.

Do it.

Especially with that potential of an un-salary capped year looming in 2010. Not that Whitworth would be available on the market then because free agency goes to six years if '10 is uncapped. But it would help solidify your offensive line with a guy that can potentially play everywhere but center heading into a period of uncertainty.

And the same people that rip them for signing thugs and polluting the room with bad guys can't rip this move, too. Here's a solid community guy who just shuts up and works hard.

All the more reason to get Whitworth done.

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