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Hobson's Choice: Worrying about Willie

Q: Before Kenny Irons went down if you had asked me what one player can the Bengals not afford to lose to injury I would say Carson Palmer, of course. But big Willie Anderson would be the second most devastating injury to this squad that has proved it is in desperate need of stability and maturity in all areas (especially the O-line). I don't want to bag on Kooistra, but for 90 percent of last year Andrew Whitworth looked like a future star for the Bengals as a rookie. Any chance we leave Levi and Stacy Andrews on the left side and get Whit some looks at right tackle if, heaven forbid, Willie can't go this year?
--Ryan, Fairfield, OH

RYAN: Agreed about Willie being so valuable, but the one place they are deep and mature and versatile is the offensive line. If Willie can't go and Levi can, the move would seem to be to put Whitworth at left guard and Stacy at right tackle.

All three of Andrews' NFL starts have come at right guard (one actually against the Saints), but during his first couple of years in the league his position was right tackle. Because Andrews had only 70 snaps of college football when he arrived, they kept repping him at that spot consistently until he had it down and was able to branch out to guard and the left side.

At 340 pounds, Andrews is built in the road-grader-Anderson-type-hugeness genre of an NFL right tackle. So is Whitworth for that matter, but Whit is so used to playing on the left side and Andrews has so much work at right tackle it only makes sense.

The key, of course, is getting Levi back. But either way, there is no way you can replace a four-time Pro Bowler in Anderson. But in Andrews you get a big, athletic young player that everybody thinks can play. The intriguing thing here is that a lot of NFL teams would be ready to give up the ghost without one of their bookend tackles so close to the season and here the Bengals are missing both and they think they can find a way.

It is far from a good situation, but look at what's happening in Indy with left tackle Tarik Glenn's retirement, and it could be worse.

Q: In 2005 when Robert Geathers started at end, his production dropped significantly. Last year he rushed the passer situationally and had 10.5 sacks. Now he's starting again. I understand that his big contract means he should play more, but what is different from 2005? If nothing, shouldn't we expect that he'll be back down to three sacks and wearing down again at the end of the season?
--Ben, St. Paul, MN

BEN: There are 15 pounds and a world of difference. For whatever reason, and Marvin Lewis has indicated it was a bad move, in '05 they beefed him up to 280 and put him at tackle on passing downs as well as starting him at end.

Strange after he did so well on the edge as a rookie. After he finally got over a gimpy ankle and started playing halfway through the year he ended up with 3.5 sacks when they put him at nickel end in the last nine games.

Cleary he got worn down inside in '05 and didn't get the sacks. So in '06 they got him back down to 265 pounds and put him back on the edge, and voila. So the way I count it is in the 25 or so games he's played on the edge on passing downs he's got 14 sacks, and that's a nice percentage.

I'm kind of with you on this one. If the guy is a great situational player, why tire him out on the non-rush downs?

But the guy is a tremendous athlete, he can do a lot more than pass rush, and I think they want that kind of dynamism on the field. And since he's going to be exclusively outside, he's probably not going to wear down like he did in '05.

Q: Why is it that Chris Henry is suspended but still allowed to practice and play in preseason games with the team, while Odell Thurman is banned from all team functions during the duration of his suspension?
--Drew, Chicago, IL

DREW: Thurman was banned for the entire season. Henry got canned for just the first eight games, so they let him work in the preseason since he's coming back. That's standard throughout the NFL.

Q: I'm not sure how many players the Bengals keep at each position. Last year you had an article showing who was likely in and who's fighting for those last spots! Are you going to do it again?
--Andy, Cincinnati, OH

ANDY: Yes sir. There will be something like that before the cut to 75 on Aug. 28 and the final cut to 53 on Sept. 1, and thanks for remembering.

Just for a warmup, here has been the standard under Lewis: 3 QBs, 3 RBs, 1 FB, 6 WRS, 2 TES, 10 OL for 25 offensive players; 8 DL, 7 LBs, 10 DBs for 25 defensive players and a long snapper, punter and kicker for a total of 53.

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