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Hobson's Choice: Xs and Os add up so far


 Hue Jackson (above) and Paul Guenther have had big starts as the new coordinators.

What do you think of our new offense and defense coordinators ? I'm hoping they will be great.  Mary Penter, Reading OH

MARY: You'd have to say if offensive coordinator Hue Jackson and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther finish like they've started, they'll be hot head coaching candidates next year.

Quarterback Andy Dalton is hitting 70 percent of his passes with no interceptions while the No. 1 offense has scored points on seven of 11 possessions with three touchdowns. The first-team defense hasn't allowed a touchdown in 10 series while forcing three turnovers and holding foes to 1-for-12 on third down.

We hear you, it's only preseason. But although they're 1-2, it's hard to remember when both units together have broken from the gate so crisply.

With as tough of a schedule as we have this year, why should I believe we will make the playoffs. Tom Sabourin, Mansfield, OH

TOM: Nobody can make you believe but you.

But on paper in August, it looks like a fourth straight playoff run. Despite three straight road games to close November and the Steelers twice in December. Simply,  because they have to be the AFC North favorite. You're talking about the heart of a young team (Green, Dalton, Burfict, Atkins, Dunlap) that has known only the post-season in a division coping with transition and age.

The defense looks like it hasn't lost anything from its No. 3 ranking. They're better on the offensive and defensive lines than Baltimore and Pittsburgh and have more playmakers on offense than Cleveland. Plus, a schedule never looks as hard or easy in October as it did in April.

I believe that Marvin Lewis is two teams shy of defeating every NFL team, those teams being the Tampa Bay buccaneers and the Atlanta falcons. If the bengals defeat those two this year, has there been another bengals head coach who has achieved this? Kyle Dannells, Marion, IL

KYLE: You are correct sir. Lewis is 0-2 against both clubs in both 2006 and 2010 and has a chance to make the sweep this year to be the first Bengals head coach to do so. And he's had four years longer than anyone else to get it done.

In his eight seasons, Sam Wyche lacked wins  against, of course, San Francisco, as well as Miami, Denver, and Chicago. In Paul Brown's eight seasons, he swept the AFC but had only one shot each against the NFC's Green Bay, Dallas, and the Rams, and lost. He was also 0-2 against the Lions.

Geoff, I really enjoyed your articles this off-season and the way you treat your readers. I also appreciate that you don't watch and follow this team through rose-colored glasses. You see black and white just like the straightforward words you write. Thank you for sharing your valuable information with us. Now, Andy has been sharp this preseason against really good defenses and we caught a glimpse of what "Uncle Andy" (ultra conservative) will look like during a defensive battle like Arizona. So, with an unblemished preseason, is it possible that we could see Andy with a single digit interception total this year? Jonathan Jeffries, Huber Heights, OH

JONATHAN: Thank you for reading. That would be a tough road to hoe. You have to go all the way back to 1972 to find a Bengals QB who went in single digits with a winning team and that was a young Ken Anderson in an age when the forward pass was one step up from a curiosity.

What they're looking at is more what Anderson did in his MVP season nine years later, when he had 10 picks to go with 29 touchdown passes.

You're exactly right about what transpired in Arizona. It was significant that they came out of that thing with no turnovers against a rugged defense on the road in a prime-time atmosphere. What Hue Jackson has been preaching all spring and summer showed up in HD. If you don't turn it over, particularly with a top ten defense, you win. Instead of throwing a club-record 33 TDs, the sense seems to be the way this team is built, if Dalton pitches 25 TDs and 10 picks, it gives them a shot to win the whole thing.

 There are some Bengals QBs who had pretty good years in that range. Boomer Esiason was an NFL MVP with 28 TDs and 14 interceptions and Carson Palmer was an NFL MVP candidate with 32 TDs and 12 picks with defenses not even close to this one. You feel like anything with a 15 to 20 TD-INT differential on this club could be very special.   

With the receiver group looking a little thin all of the sudden, you think they take a serious look at Jacoby Ford. He was with Hue in Oakland and also can be helpful in the return game. Thanks and Love your work! Will Koshover, Independence, KY

WILL: Thank you much. You know he's Hue's kind of guy because he can run. He's only 27, but at 5-9, 180 pounds he still better be able to run so they'd have to bring him in first and work him out if that would happen.

You hit on a good topic. The receivers behind Green, Sanu, and Marvin Jones just haven't stepped up the way they thought they would. Dane Sanzenbacher has been dinged so he's not a guy I'd lump in there, but the Cobi Hamiltons and James Wrights of the world need to do more.

Still, they've got some depth when you talk about who Dalton is throwing the ball to when Jones isn't in there the first three games. Tight ends Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham can line up outside and in the slot, and running back Giovani Bernard can line up in the slot. So I don't know how much that third receiver is going to be used anyway until Marv comes back.

The hurry-up offense always seems to work well for Dalton and company. But, as soon as something interrupts the hurry-up (i.e. penalties, injuries, etc) they are quick to abandon it. Why do you think that is? Bryce Williams, Conowingo, MD

BRYCE: Right now, Hue is just running plays. He's not executing a game plan. He wants to see different plays with different personnel groups to not only evaluate players, but to streamline his call sheet. I don't think you can make any assumptions out of what you see or don't see in strategy during preseason. He's not looking to show Baltimore any flow or tendencies.  

Where is Tyler Eifert? Jarrod Steinmetz, Bright IN

JARROD: I don't know if he'll be there Thursday night as rests his shoulder. But he'll be in Baltimore Sept. 7.

If a player is on the 53 man squad and doesn't make the dress team of 45, does he get paid the full amount, or somewhat less? Dan Marks, Amelia, OH

DAN:  He gets his full salary whether he's active or not.

The offensive line really struggled in the playoff game and seems to be a massive question mark going into the season. What's your biggest concern with the o-line going forward? Matt Snyder, Liberty, IN

MATT: I wouldn't say massive questions. For one thing, they are a heck of a lot healthier than when they played San Diego. Remember, all five guys were limping. Just another reason throwing 51 passes was the massive question, more than anything, about that game.

Sure, you'd wish right tackle Andre Smith (concussion) had played more than none, but they've got one of the better tandem tackles in the league. They're solid at guard and Kevin Zeitler looks like he's about to blossom in his third year.

The concern, of course, is starting a rookie center against Haloti Ngata in Baltimore Sept. 7. Russell Bodine looks to be a healthier and a more physical presence than what they've had there lately, but can he handle the calls and the array of looks teams are going to throw at him so early? Eventually he will, but will there be a price of inexperience early on? The nice thing is they've got four experienced guys around Bodine as well as a veteran quarterback. But that's the big question and it's not a physical one so they're going to be OK there. It's just a matter of when and if there's a price.   

Geoff, happy with the win, but concerned. Palmer had two sure TD's, but missed both throws. Manning, Brady, etc. would not have missed them, so I can't get too excited how the 1st defense played. I think that we were fortunate. Glenn Groh, Cincinnati, OH

GLENN: I hear you. If the first one wasn't a TD, the second one should have been. But guys make plays in this league like that all the time. It's an offensive league. I think you have to look at the big picture. Four three-and-outs, three turnovers, and 11-for-12 on third down. That will play.

Hi Geoff, Bengals fan since '81, and I enjoy your thorough coverage. My question concerns the tight ends. It seems to me that I haven't heard their numbers called for many receptions so far this pre-season. I know that Alex Smith is in there to primarily block (and he does a good job), but numbers #84 and #85 have been somewhat quiet. Sure, Gresham had the long one against Arizona, but it seems the receivers are carrying the load. Do you feel it is a concern, or is Hue just keeping them in his back pocket for the regular season? Thanks. Ryan "Irish," Flanigan, Ripon, WI

IRISH: Thank you from The State of Krumrie. Eifert hasn't played except for a little bit in the opener. Gresham has had a big catch in each of the games he's played. If you plug them into four quarters and 60 to 70 plays, particularly with Marv out, they'll get some throws.

A lot depends on how the defenses respond. Hue was certainly using Eifert in practice. When Gresham was out and he was healthy, Eifert had some big days. It's so hard to say what will happen because with Hue in charge they've never seemed to be healthy together. They have yet to be suited together, so the Ravens will find out with us.

Hello Geoff, big fan here of not only our beloved BENGALS, but you. Thanks for taking our questions. Here's mine, but they're more like ideas. With all the striping of stadiums going around college campuses, why not try this for one of the prime time games at Paul Brown instead of an orange out. What better team to stripe a stadium than the one who wears them. My second idea was if the NFL is so keen on a game in London, why not try the Pro bowl there. Fans will get to see players from different teams, the players will get a new venue, seems like a win win. Kevin Elmo, Morgantown, WVA

KEVIN; Thank you for the kind words and keep the ideas coming. The striping is a great idea, a great way to welcome Peyton Manning for what could be his last appearance in Cincinnati. Time to Stripe his 8-0 career record vs. Bengals. (Not to mention John Elway's 7-0 record vs .The Stripes.)

As for the Pro Bowl in London, I just don't see I even though it's a solid thought. But the players love it in Hawaii and weren't real happy that it was in Miami a few years ago and is in Phoenix this year. If they don't like South Beach or The Desert, London would be a pretty tough sell.

Geoff, first, thank you for your professionalism and for keeping fans 'in the know.' This might be more of an opinion than a question but here goes, I think Campbell's the right back-up QB, especially with Coach Hue, and I was real happy with the McCarron pick (although I did have a preference for Aaron Murray). Tyler Wilson deserves every chance, as I think he was simply killed his senior season at Arkansas behind a porous O-Line. With the practice squad expansion to 10, do either Wilson or McCarron have a slot there? Thanks again. Blair Schofield, New Britain, CT

BLAIR: Thank you for the note from what I still consider a great Red Sox town.  It's hard getting the arms around the concept of the Twins in New Britain.

McCarron isn't going on the practice squad. Somebody would probably claim him. Given that they have yet to activate him from PUP as he rehabs his throwing shoulder , that suggests at the cut down to 53 they're either going to put him on the PUP list or put him on season-ending injured reserve. If they put him on PUP, he can't practice the first six weeks of the season, but then has three weeks to get on the roster.

Wilson is an intriguing guy and you'd think a QB one year removed from being a fourth-round pick would be worth of at least a practice squad spot. Let's see how he plays Thursday and who else gets cut Saturday.

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