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QBs, Spikes head Choice

8-17-02, 7:45 p.m.

With the Bengals courting their first 2-0 start in preseason since Norman Julius Esiason went on to lead the AFC in passing in 1989, Bengaldom can't get enough of the quarterback derby.

A sampling of Hobson's Choice:

Dear Geoff: Being an overseas fan from France, I can't attend any day of training camp or watch the first preseason game. Thus, I rely on the media reports and your chronicles to try to figure out what is going on about that 'once again' QB derby. So, please, tell me:

Shouldn't Kitna get the job as soon as possible so as to achieve the building of a consistent and productive (if not flashy) team? Or, do the Bengals really need to run the risk of a less consistent team for the price of some of these strong arm passes in which some of the people around seem to be interested in? Thanks. **Peter, Paris, France.

PETER: You make a good point about Kitna's consistency and if he does indeed become the Bengals' first back-to-back Opening Day quarterback since Jeff Blake from 1995-97, he could use that as a springboard.

But Frerotte's ability to throw the ball down field is a big advantage for him. The big number here is his career yards-per-pass of 7.02. The last time a Bengals quarterback approached that number in a season, Blake had the club at 15-17 in 1995 and 1996. There has been a correlation to wins and big plays. The Bengals haven't broken six yards per pass since 1999.**

Have to give the front office (credit) for keeping all of these guys. This is a very nice trend: Re-signing ALL of your stud players.

And Spikes is next. If the transition tag worked on Dillon, it is sure to work on Spikes. No team will pursue him because they know the Bengals will match any offer. Unless a team wants to greatly overpay Takeo, that is the only way we will lose him. Do you agree? **Dave, Columbus, Ohio.

DAVE: For the most part I do, but there is also an

interesting dynamic with Adrian Ross. They have already re-signed Simmons and they could conceivably replace Spikes with Adrian Ross if they feel they need to put the money elsewhere, such as at quarterback, or left defensive end.

But that is a highly unlikely conclusion. The Bengals clearly want to re-sign him before free agency because he is not only talented, but he has become the face of the defensive restoration. They will make several efforts to re-sign him before they have to declare the transition tag by late February.**

I am from Cincinnati and I can't believe that my beloved Bengals are thinking of letting Takeo Spikes go at the end of the year after all the hard work of trying to get a solid defense put together is starting to pay off. What are they thinking? **Samuel, Aiken, S.C.

SAMUEL: They are thinking about signing him to a major deal, but they also know they can't clean out the salary-cap cupboard on defense for another inside linebacker after re-signing Simmons. Teams traditionally put their money into defensive linemen, cornerbacks, and pass-rush linebackers. But the Bengals know Simmons and Spikes are special and that in all probability, they will end up with the most expensive 1-2 inside punch in the league.**

Hey Geoff, keep up the great work on the site. A few quick things:

1.If Rackers truly does beat out Dorsch, will the Bengals honestly keep Rackers? In the past, they have kept potential over production. See: Houshmanzadeh over Damon Griffin. Even though TJ probably is the better WR.

2.How can the Bengals evaluate the third string TEs when no pass plays are called for McMullen, Edmonds, or St. Louis? You can't gauge a roster spot for a TE (only) on blocking. Plus, I do not think St. Louis should get the spot just because he's a (long snapper).

I thought we are keeping four (running) backs, but I hear it is five. Nick Williams should be dropped in favor of Johnson AND Keaton, **Matt Cincinnati.

MATT: Thanks for the note. Let's take the last one first. Williams has to make it because he's not only their lone back-up fullback, but he's also the only tight end who has any experience playing the position. Even if it's minimal at the "move," or second tight end.

You can call plays for guys in games, but it's always tough to translate that on the field because of so many different factors. Every drill these guys do and every practice snap they take is recorded, filmed, and dissected. So you can merge that with game clips to still form a pretty solid evaluation.

Don't underestimate the value of St. Louis. He's been the fastest snapper and the best cover guy of the camp candidates, and you don't notice him for that exact reason. He does his job. The kicking game is already a big enough of a question mark without bringing the consistency of the snapping into the mix.

If Rackers does beat out Dorsch, how do you not keep him? Rackers is still more potential than production. But your point is well made. He has won two pre-season derbies before this one and he still struggled in the regular season. Dorsch's Frank Merriwell college career is attractive, but he also has to show some things in games.**

I think the Bengals have erred in drafting kickers instead of signing a vet. It appears so far this year that our kicking game could again be shaky as are most phases of special teams under Al Roberts. At what point in time do the Bengals bring in a vet to stabilize the kicking game. I wish they had signed Peterson. **Rick, Anderson Township, Cincinnati.

RICK: They are probably past that point now, given what they have invested in the draft. This space has always been a supporter of veteran kickers, but there is a fear in the club that if they give up on these guys, they have only ended up training someone else's veteran kicker.**

What's the (chance) that one of our superb third-string running backs would be traded for a future second or third-round pick? It ought to be fun to see Rudi and Curtis play the entire game this weekend! **Mike, St. James, Minn.

MIKE: The odds of that are virtually zip. Both Keaton and Johnson are fourth-rounders, which is where the bidding would start. Plus, if teams know one of them might get released on Cutdown Day, they wouldn't give up anything for them. Unless it was during the season and some team had suffered a devastating injury at running back.**

I am a long-time fan, but I think this quarterback thing going on is wrong. Akili is healthy and moving the ball, he needs to be running the show. He adds more dimensions to the offense and I think we need to build this guy before he gets too old. But then, I am only a spectator.

Don't get me wrong. Kitna has his moments, but they come at the wrong time. I think his performance in Seattle showed that. Give Akili the nod, and let's march for the Super Bowl baby!! **Manuel, Dinuba, CA.

MANUEL: Kitna gets a bad rap for a run in Seattle that really wasn't all that bad, considering his last head coach there wasn't exactly enamored with him.

We've said it before. Take his 2000 numbers from Seattle, where he was in the second year of of an offense, and his 18 touchdowns and 19 interceptions might have been enough to push the Bengals into the playoffs last year. Remember, the the Bengals lost three straight by a combined eight points. Instead, he had 12 touchdowns and 22 interceptions and many of those picks were products of a first-year offense and inexperienced receivers.**

What is the deal with Sam Adams? Are the Bengals going to sign him? **Glenn, Chillicothe, Ohio.

GLENN: They were ready to sign him three weeks ago, when they had more on the table than any other team and they had yet to sign their top two draft picks and extended Simmons. When Adams backed out. They got the hint that he was waiting for Ray Lewis or Peter Boulware to re-do their deals in Baltimore so the Ravens could get cap room to sign him.

So the Bengals moved on to do their three deals and don't have the room to sign him. Unless it's for a minimum deal.**

We Bengals fans have gone through the ringer as losing seasons are concerned. But sadly, many of my fans believe a free-agent quarterback and wide receiver signing is the brass ring, the missing link, the bling bling.

I call them MY fans because after many many bad years, you are MY people. I think I speak for all Bengals fans when I say, "What's wrong with more wins than losses?" I swear this isn't a strange concept. But yes, I will hoot and holler as much as the next guy during preseason games with the possibility that we will see some glimmer of hope during the regular season. But no matter how loud the hoot, and no matter if we see Akili, Dorsch, Westbrook, or Costello, PLEASE give me a reason to wear my twelve-year-old $80 orange and black purchase with pride! If you can't, well it's too late to get my money back. **Greg, Whitby, Ontario.

GREG: As a lifelong Red Sox fan, your pain is certainly felt here. A dozen years is a long time for a fan to suffer. Some would say we should be in strait jackets instead of team jackets.

But if there is no hope, in the name of Bucky Dent, there would be nothing. You can hang your hat on some key rookie and veteran signings, the franchise's best defense in a decade, and a passing game that only has to be NFL average for Corey Dillon to dominate a season. Those are factors that haven't been around here together in about 12 years.**

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