Hobson's Choice: Taking a side

Q: I'm not sure about the Smith, Whit, Livings combo. I'm not concerned about the arguments I've read elsewhere (i.e. Walker), arguing that Smith should not be a RT because you don't waste a No. 6 pick on a RT and pay him $50M. We needed the best O-lineman available, no matter the position. Plus, once here, you play your best five-man group no matter who gets paid what.My problem is that I think AC (Collins) is better than Livings and the best combo would be RT=AC, LT=Smith, and LG=Whit. AC proved he can stand up to the best pass rushers and deserves playing time. Whit has proven he is very valuable at LG because he dominates the most dominant DTs. And it's those dominant DT's that push the pocket and lead to the sacks. So why aren't they playing their best five, which includes AC? Also, Lewis said Smith will be the RT as long as Whit is here, but what if Smith proves better, wouldn't they switch it then? After all, Smith was the No. 6 and Whit was the second-rounder, so Smith at least projects to be better than Whit. --Brad B., Atlanta, GA**

BRAD:They believe they are playing their two best tackles in Whitworth and Smith. If that's what you believe, how can you have anybody else playing outside? I can see that. But my concern is you switch two guys with the move in Whitworth and Smith. If you keep Collins at left tackle and Whitworth at left guard, the only guy you switch is Smith. As you said, Collins held up pretty well last year and Whit made life miserable for guys like Justin Tuck and John "Mad Eye Moody" Henderson.

Although I do think saying Collins is better than Livings is a bit presumptive. They considered Livings a pleasant surprise at left guard during his stint next to Collins at the end of last year.

But a lot of what they did makes sense.

As Marvin Lewis mentioned earlier this week, he saw Smith as the road-grader right tackle type while he scouted him. Plus, having Collins on the bench makes them more flexible.

There are the typical rookie questions about Smith, weight-wise and his ability to make the transition from college left tackle to NFL left tackle. The soap opera with his various agents also suggests a tractor-pull of a contract negotiation and if he doesn't sign until something like Aug. 17 and you had him working at left tackle, that's a nice little disaster waiting to happen.

Until you get some definite answers about the kid, (i.e., a deal, a good weight, etc.), they've opted to go with what they know at left tackle. And, at this point in his career, Smith's ability to run block is ahead of his ability to pass protect so it seems, although not by much. So put him at right while he learns and if there are snags, you can turn to Collins for right.

Meanwhile, the sun will rise and set, deals will be discussed, empires will rise and fall and you know Whitworth is your left tackle on Sept. 13. More importantly, he knows it and has been getting the work.

I agree with you on the money. At No. 6, you have to pick the sixth player in the draft, not a player who is the sixth pick. We all know they needed a tackle and they would have had to put Eugene Monroe at left and move Whit to right even though he's a natural lefty. You could make the argument Smith is worth every penny because he can play both and I don't think you can say that about the other top two tackles.

At least not yet.

If you ask me, I think Smith is going to be the left tackle some time down the road. I know Lewis said Whit is at left and Smith is at right for the duration, but NFL coaches and women are the two species that reserve the right to change their minds. Like the bumper sticker says, "Stuff happens." There is no script and teams have to adjust to events. It's hard to say it's bad or good because they haven't played. If it doesn't work, you've got to believe he changes it.


Q:

I'm worried about Palmer's comments that Henry will be playing the X spot. My fear is over how Chad will mentally and emotionally respond to that when he shows up at camp. It sounds like we have some good chemistry (finally) and I don't want that to be upset when Chad returns. I think Chad is still a 1,200 yard, 10 TD receiver. I wish Palmer would tread more carefully in his comments and attempt to rope Chad back in.* --Brad J., Cincinnati, OH

BRAD: I think Chad can still be productive, but who knows? He's 31, is coming off a banged-up year, and so much of his game is predicated on quickness, particularly getting off the line. I'd like to see him and talk to him before making a call, but he has proven to be the unreachable star.

I think if they run the ball, I agree, he ought to be able to put up something like 1,200 yards, but the guy has caught 10 TDs only once so I don't know if you can write that in. But he ought to be able to pop some big ones.

As for Palmer treading more carefully, if he went any easier he'd be on a treadmill. He has only mentioned Chad when asked and he hasn't dwelled on it because The Ocho is not returning anyone's call as far as I can tell.

This is the first year Palmer has used the franchise quarterback's bully pulpit and he has done quite well. To me, that's one of the reasons why the chemistry is so good. Palmer has been vocal in front of his teammates and in front of the media with all the right messages on all the issues, and not afraid to say what it is. His support of Henry has always had a positive impact on the guy and why sugarcoat it?

The chemistry is bubbling because guys like Palmer and Andrew Whitworth and Laveranues Coles and Roy Williams are talking about what's best for the team. If the chemistry is going to be upset, it won't be anything those guys did.


Q:

Do you think the Bengals are finished this offseason? There were rumors about Rod Hood visiting, but nothing new has been reported since. Roy Williams, Tank Johnson and Brian Leonard didn't even add $2 million in payroll, and there are some serious holes yet to be filled. Do you see them going out and getting another free agent?* --Ben W., Delaware, OH

BEN: Actually, Rams running back Brian Leonard cost nothing because his salary was pretty much a wash against the pay for defensive tackle Orien Harris, his trading partner. But they are probably done even though they did have Hood, the former Eagles and Cardinals cornerback, in for a visit a couple of weeks ago.

It sounds like the Bengals dropped out of a bidding war. A third corner that can start for a few games in a pinch, Hood is going to command a pretty decent number, probably somewhere in the $1.5 million neighborhood or north of it.

I agree. They could use some experience behind Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph. But with David Jones coming off a decent second season and the club very intrigued with sixth-rounder Morgan Trent, it sounds like they didn't think it was worth trying to stretch their salary cap.

Not that it's an unreasonable number, but the Bengals have been saying they consider themselves tight against the $127 million cap. The way they look at it, they've still got to pay $6 million in a rookie pool. Plus, about another $5-6 million in incentives and injuries in a year those numbers can't be spilled into the '10 cap. For instance, last year's No. 1 pick, Keith Rivers, alone has an incentive of $3 million.

Unless somebody they absolutely had to have becomes available, it's hard to see them signing anybody else much over the minimum.


Q:

A couple of questions: 1) I read an article that questioned why would we draft Andre Smith at 6 and pay him left tackle money at $50m and then move him to right tackle. Was he drafted too high to play right tackle? 2) Do you think we will give Bernard Scott a chance at punt or kickoff returns? We definitely need an upgrade on returns.* --Tim, Roanoke, VA

TIM: He's worth it because they think he can play both right and left and it's not set in stone he's going to be a right tackle for all time. The more I think about it, the more it makes sense. Why expose Palmer's blindside to inexperience? Let the guy get a year or two under his belt.

The jury is out if he can play left, but wasn't Willie Anderson worth a top 10 pick even though he played right? If he turns out to be close to Anderson, an anchor for 12 years, six is not too high, is it?

Good question on Scott. Special teams coach Darrin Simmons says they're going to take a look at him returning both punts and kicks even though he didn't do it last season at Abilene Christian and Simmons isn't aware of him doing very much of it before then.

But he's 200 pounds and has shown a lot of quicks. And, you're right. They don't have much depth at either spot. Rookie receiver Quan Cosby and veteran receiver Antonio Chatman look to be the punt return candidates while Chatman, Andre Caldwell, DeDe Dorsey, and Kenny Watson are what they've got at kick return.

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