Tackling depth

10-3-02, 6:05 a.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Remember when the Bengals were so deep at tackle?

Suddenly, they aren't anymore with left tackle Richmond Webb out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle. Backup right tackle Jamain Stephens suffered a season-ending rotator cuff injury during training camp, and they released backup left tackle John Jackson early in training camp once No. 1 pick Levi Jones settled in.

Now Jones is making his first NFL start Sunday at left tackle and there is no one else on the roster who has played regularly on the left side except right tackle Willie Anderson. Guards Scott Rehberg and Mike Goff have done it minimally, but Rehberg is filling in for the injured Goff at right guard and Anderson is hurting himself with shoulder and hamstring problems. Backup guard Victor Leyva has worked pretty much only on the right side at tackle.

There was support among some of the coaches to bring back the 37-year-old Jackson out of retirement, but the club opted to dip into the Washington Redskins' practice squad and sign rookie

Reggie Coleman, a 6-5, 297-pounder out of Tennessee who played in 22 of 24 games at left tackle in his last two years with the Volunteers.

The Cincinnati-based Richard Katz, Jackson's agent, tried to contact the club about signing his client, but they decided to sign Coleman, a sixth-round pick in the last draft.

" "We only need one tackle, and we went over the personnel, and this is what we took," said head coach Dick LeBeau. "We have Willie (Anderson) at right, Levi at left, and Scott Rehberg and Victor Leyva, who both can play tackle. So we feel that we are well-protected depth-wise. Neither of those guys (Rehberg or Leyva) have a lot of experience playing tackle, and that's the reason we acquired some people. But I think we're in good shape in terms of balance and numbers of people to play the position."

Bengals President Mike Brown said the club discussed a lot of options that included Jackson, but they wanted to stay young at the position with the emphasis on Jones getting all the work on the left side.

"At some point he is going to have to play and now is the time," Brown said.

SWEEPS AND SLANTS: A NFL official checked out the Paul Brown Stadium grass last Sunday at the Tampa Bay game and told PBS manager Eric Brown, "the field played well." It marked the fourth straight weekend a game had been played on the field and the first since the middle portion had been re-sodded. Several Chargers had ripped the field after the Sept. 8 opener, and before the Riverfront Classic and Cincinnati-Ohio State games.

With the Bengals pretty much playing every other week at home from now until the end of the season, the field might be able to go until December without being re-sodded. . .

The Bengals have been outscored by 96 points in their first four games, but it was actually worse for WR Michael Westbrook last year with the Redskins.

Washington went 0-4 in getting outscored by 110 points and then went to 0-5 with a two-point loss before winning their next five and finishing 8-8.

"We can do that," Westbrook said. "We can do better than that. (The quarterback switch) should give us some stability." . . .

It just doesn't get easier for the Bengals' beleaguered offensive line. With right guard Mike Goff (leg laceration) already out again and left guard Matt O'Dwyer (elbow) and right tackle Willie Anderson (shoulder, hamstring) limping, center Rich Braham sat out Wednesday's practice with a sore elbow but will play Sunday.

"He hyperextended it late in the Tampa Bay game, but he'll be able to work with it for the next couple of weeks," said trainer Paul Sparling. "He'll take some time during the bye week (Oct. 14-20) and see where it goes from there." . . .

WR Danny Farmer is still listed as questionable, but Sparling said the odds are "very good," he'll play Sunday. After tearing his posterior cruciate ligament before the second game, Farmer originally wasn't expected back until Oct. 27.

"He's getting pretty close," Sparling said. "I want to see how a guy runs full go for a couple of days in a row in practice and he looked good (Wednesday), so we'll see how he does Thursday. He didn't do much last week because we worked him in gradually."

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