Yes, Dillon still here

10-14-03, 5:10 p.m.

Bengaldom has had a bye week to stew at 1-4 and the electorate is jumpy with memories longer than a Pedro Martinez mean streak.

(Hey, the clock ran out in Buffalo 240 hours ago, can we move on?)

The Corey Dillon trade rumors, the specter of Jamal Lewis running downhill here Sunday, and the fate of Carson Palmer have the populace on edge.

The only place Dillon is headed is the starting lineup if his groin holds up Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday in practice. Plus, the NFL trading deadline passed just over an hour ago, or, as Shakespeare called it "Much Ado About Nothing." But somehow that probably won't be enough to ease the fears.

CD and other matters in this week's edition of Hobson's Choice: **

Short and to the point...I was watching the Eagles/Cowboys game today, and the announcers mentioned that "You know, Corey Dillon's agent has spoken to the Cowboys about coming onboard." Basically, did the announcers just need something to say, so they made up a story, or would this potential nightmare be the truth? Brad, Pa.**

BRAD: Agents and teams talk all the time. If every trade that was raised, floated, discussed, saw the light of the day, even cyberspace couldn't handle it. All indications are the teams never talked.

We know Dillon isn't happy getting hurt on the Paul Brown Stadium grass, but we also know he has a good relationship with Marvin Lewis and he stayed here during the bye week to get healthy for the Bengals. He hasn't said he wants out, Lewis knows he needs him for a playoff run, and they couldn't trade him in mid-season because the salary cap hit is in excess of $4 million and couldn't be done. **

Dear Hobson, You obviously are very knowledgeable about the Bengals, but how long have you been on Mike Brown's payroll? Defending Lewis' decision to sit on the ball at the end of the Bill's game is tough to do. Also, praising Brandon Bennett's play so far is absurd, is it not?. . .You do this city, and your own good names an injustice when you blindly back the Bengals in all of their moves and strategies. Sean H., Clifton.**

SEAN H.: Three years on the payroll. Long enough to have criticized the handling of Akili Smith, the lack of carries by Corey Dillon, the poor preparation out of the gate early in past seasons, and long enough to have urged the selection of an impact player at No. 1 this past draft instead of taking a quarterback.

Long enough to have ticked off some players and coaches, and long enough to wonder how defending a coach's decision during a game can be elevated to a civic injustice.

You've watched this team for years, right? Besides the Chad Johnson play against Cleveland, when have they not defied the laws of gravity in the last minute of a half or game? In the name of Akili Smith, Gus Frerotte, and Scott Mitchell, haven't you seen enough to make a NFL Films bloopers tape?

Barely would the ball have touched Bills cornerback Antoine Winfield's fingertips as he began to run back a tipped ball (or a fumble, or a straight pick, take your choice) for a touchdown and it would have been, "What is he doing?"

Heck, get-it-into-OT is a very reasonable defense for a team with the NFL's worst road record since 1993. You don't need to be paid in unmarked bills to suggest that.

Plus, we certainly didn't praise Bennett's work in the Buffalo game, but we did and will praise his career here and show some tolerance. If he drops kickoffs and gains 1.6 yards per carry for the next week or so, OK, you'll get Kenny Watson. But to whack a guy who has been so solid because of a poor game at a position where you are already dinged makes no sense right now as Watson learns the playbook.

If you'll recall, we mentioned Bennett's strength is catching the ball and not running it and suggested they could get the ball to him that way. Maybe they will this week. **

Hey Geoff, Who started the vicious rumor that had Dillon being traded to the Cowboys??? I saw this a few places in cyber-space. I'm sure this is only the Dallas media's early Christmas wish but sometimes you never know. Please tell me that Ol' Mikey boy isn't thinking about trading him to a contender. Thanks Geoff, keep up the good work.

Brian, Cleveland.**

BRIAN: Thank you. All these TV and internet reports remind us of the JFK line, "Victory has a thousand fathers while defeat is an orphan."

Who knows where it came from in this day and age? A chat room? A web site? A breezy throw-away line on a pre-game show?

One thing is for sure. Bill Parcells has a Marvin Lewis-like rule in Dallas in which only he speaks on such matters. If it came out of Dallas, it is under the penalty of Tuna.

Bengals President Mike Brown would make such a call only with the consent of Lewis. From what we can gather, neither would want anything to do with a mid-season trade for football and economic reasons.

**Hey Butch! Having been a Bengals fan for over 20 years I can say this team is very different from the teams of the past 12 years just because they do not go belly up in games. They do need to run the ball better but what are they doing exactly to improve their rushing production? Have you seen any differences in practice?

Also, in the game they won this season the defense and offense both stepped up enough in key situations to win the game. In their 4 losses neither made the plays to win. This teams needs to step up from putting themselves into a position to win a game to making the plays to win a game.

Having TJ will help the offense but what is going on on the defensive side of the ball to create that playmaking ability? Schemes? Familiarity with a new defense and new positions? What have you noticed? By the way, I think Rudi ran pretty well when he got the ball against Buffalo despite inconsistent run blocking. I hope he will continue to get the rock and become a part of the offense even with Dillon's return.

Kevin in Westwood.**

KEVIN: The big difference we see on offense this week is Dillon healthy enough to be in pads. Whether he plays against the Ravens is another question. But let's face it. He's the key to the running game. They are working on it this week and are emphasizing it, but the biggest factor is if he's in there.

We'll say this. If Dillon can't play, they ought to think about giving Johnson all his carries and using Brandon as a complementary guy in the passing game. Johnson seems to be the kind of guy who gets better the more he carries it, not only in a game, but from week to week.

As far as making big plays on defense, scheme can only do so much. The bottom line is you need playmakers. The Bengals' defense has always relied on a solid, smart, all-out group of guys, but they need to intersperse them with one or two game-breakers to score touchdowns and generate turnovers. **

Jeff-Love your columns. This is the first place I go to get my daily Bengal's info fix. I have been a die-hard Bengal fan my whole life, and always will be. This is the first time in a long time that I have felt a bit of pride saying that. Even though Marvin has made a few in-game mistakes, I think he is going to be a fantastic head coach. The players really seem to have bought into his program. I know that the players and coach's want to win now, and quite honestly, so do I, which leads me to my point.

How many games will we win with Jon Kitna? If we win 6, 7 or maybe even 8 games, will that benefit Carson Palmer watching from the sidelines and not getting any actual game experience? Then when he is named the starter for next year, we will have to go through the growing pains of, essentially, a rookie quarterback learning on the field situations, and costing us potential victories early in the season. You never want to show your players or fans that you have given up on the season, but who out there thought that Marvin Lewis inherited a playoff caliber football team? Don't you think that getting Palmer experience this year will make this team much better next year? If Carson Palmer is our future, then I say the future is NOW!! Ed in Cincinnati**

ED: Thanks for the kind words. You make some good points, but you know you won't contend with Palmer this year, so why not see how long you can stay in the race to give your players the confidence that, indeed, this is a new day? And why risk rushing Palmer?

Then, when you're out of the AFC North race, give Palmer the ball. He'll be the guy next year, but he's going to be so much farther along than Klingler and Smith because he didn't hold out, and he'll have many more weapons than they did.

Next year is a watershed for many reasons. One of them is that Lewis is going to attempt to show this franchise that you can run for the playoffs with a young quarterback protected by a great running game, opportunistic defense, and sound special teams. (Hello, Baltimore.)

At the risk of sounding repetitive, now is a hard time to throw Palmer to the wolves with a hurting running game, inexperienced 3-4 receivers, and a defense in transition. **

Hey Geoff, thanks for the daily articles. Now that we've made a smart move at the punting posistion, can we make one at holder too? How about Shane Mattews to keep the rushing ends honest and in man coverage on FGs and XPs. Also, could we put someone like Lawrence Hamilton or Kenny Watson in for a rushing threat.

They've got the bye week to get it straight. It's what the Steeler's do with Maddox and Randle El.

Do you conisider yourself as an independant journalist featured on and running bengals.com, or an online spokesmen for the Bengals?

If the Bengals lose to the Ravens, doesn't that effectivley take them out of contention with a conservative estimate of their projected total wins? I think this should be a must win for Kitna, and if he doesn't then Shane gets one game, and if he doesn't then Palmer gets the rest of the season to learn. That gives Palmer a half season of not needing to win games to get his practice in. People will still come to the games because Palmer will be there so Mike B. needn't fear. Taylor from Fairfield.**

TAYLOR: Hope it's not as a spokesman. That's for soap and politicians. We like to be thought of as a journalist, but are you independent if the team pays you? Probably not, but we still think you get timely information here about what people want to know about the Bengals no matter who is footing the bill. Do you think the publisher liked the "Dillon rips field," story? Do you think the publisher liked the players questioning his competence last year on the team web site? That's your call on independence, not ours.

Agreed on the other stuff. Maybe we're getting old, but we always love it when a QB is the holder and they pull the fake. Wouldn't it be great if Palmer's first NFL TD pass came as he rose up from the hold, rolled right, and threw a 23-yard TD strike to tight end Matt Schobel?

You have to figure once the Bengals are out of contention, Palmer gets the nod fairly quickly. But Mike would rather have the fans coming because they're going for the playoffs instead of stopping in to watch a curiosity **

Geoff, I have been a fan of the Bengals since the early 80's as a young child. Like many fans, I have been frustrated by the slide since the 88 Super Bowl. However, I have tuned in to every game this season and, with the exception of the opener, the Bengals have been in every contest.
This is in direct contrast to last season when they were repeatedly out of the game before halftime. I know Marvin Lewis has not and will not make excuses for his team's 1-4 record, so I'll do it for him.

This team was 2 and 14 last year!! Even with the greatest system (offense or defense) in place, you cannot EXPECT a division title the next year. It's possible and could still happen, but the ranting emails of some "fans" in your last Hobson's choice are unrealistic. To call "anything less than a division title a failure" is ludicrous.

Second, take a look at the schedule. We have not played one team this year that was not in the playoffs last year (Oak, Pit, Cle) or predicted to make some serious push for the Super Bowl this year (Den, Buff). I'm not even going to get into the absence of Corey Dillon from the field.

My question is, don't you think that fans are being a little too quick to judge and condemn this team and its shortcomings? Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see the Bengals go undefeated the rest of the way and win a championship, but I'm not going to bet the farm on it. I think they can win several more games this year, but if they don't I still feel good about them because I think they'll go down swinging. I mean didn't it feel great seeing Duane Clemons sacking Bledsoe several times!! And wasn't the arc of the Kitna pass to Johnson at the end of the first half against Cleveland just perfect!! There are plenty of things to be excited about. These are not the same old Bengals!! I just have to question these doomsday "fans" that are so down on the team so early in the Marvin Lewis era. Maybe I'm a little too optimistic or something, but I can see, and feel, a difference in this team. If some of the other fans don't see or feel it, I just wonder if they're missing the big picture? What do you think? Dan, WV**

DAN: You make an excellent point, one that Lewis has been stressing to his team. But we can't come down hard on Bengals' fans for wanting instant gratification. Not after 13 years. They have every right to gripe and complain. But if they have that right, you also have the right to the big picture and shouldn't be ridiculed for it. We think Lewis is on the right track. But we also know he needs wins soon so the players can see the program's tangible byproducts to get them in the weight room next offseason.

So I hear from my Cowboy-fan friends that there was talk on their game with the Eagles that a Corey Dillon trade is possible? How is this? Is Dillon not happy or management? Surely they are not going to sell out on the only constant factor they've had the past 6 years just because he has been hurt a few weeks!!! And it seems that Corey would have enough patience and insight to know they are going to turn it around soon enough. Is there something behind this or is it purely speculation? It'd be great if you could clear this up for us! Eric, Norman OK

ERIC: It didn't happen, and from what we understand, was never discussed by the two teams. No, the Bengals don't want to trade away their best player now, or during after the season.

The only displeasure Dillon has expressed is with the field. Now, if they continue to lose, would that displeasure grow? He'll tell you himself patience isn't his best virtue. But he likes Lewis and he likes playing for him, so it would be hard for us to see him wanting to get out because it's hard for us seeing them go 4-12 again. Could that change? Who knows? All we know is that Dillon is going nowhere now and he's trying like heck to get back and help this team push for the playoffs. **

Hobbs,

I'm a long time Bengals fan (even if I am only 26 years old) from Browns country in Northeastern Ohio. I fly my Bengals flag every Sunday with pride since I know that Marvin Lewis is taking this team the right direction. I have two questions. First, why didn't the Bengals put the franchise tag on Spikes in the offseason so they could get something in return for him. The Bills did it with Peerless Price didn't they? I love the guys they signed in his place but wouldn't the Bengasl have been compensated with another draft pick?

Second, do you agree that regardless of what happens this year, the Bengals will be making some serious noise in the AFC next year. They have played very well this year already. Then consider another awesome draft, like this year, another year for Lewis to shape this team, and more free agents. It all adds up to success in my opinion. I'm very excited about the future. Do you agree with these thoughts? Nathan Ravenna, OH**

NATHAN: The idea behind putting the one-year transition tag on Spikes was flexibility. If they put the more expensive franchise tag on him (in the $5 million range), they would have been locked into that figure and unable to pursue other players if needed. And, Spikes could have accepted, wiping the Bengals out of the free-agent market.

With the transition tag, they could see what he got offered and if they could fit it into their cap, or get other players for roughly the same price. As you know they opted for other players.

But, they really did get something for him because they used his cap room to basically sign their first four free-agents in defensive end Carl Powell, middle linebacker Kevin Hardy, defensive tackle John Thornton and cornerback Tory James.

Obviously, next year is a huge year as they turn to Palmer, and they should be better with another year under Lewis and because the defense should be hitting stride. Plus, is Pittsburgh leaving a vacuum to fill in the AFC North? **

GEOFF, YOU HAVE REPEATEDLY SAID OUR OFFENSE COORDINATOR IS DOING AN EXCELLENT JOB OF PLAY CALLING. ITS SEEMS WAY TOO CONSERVATIVE AND TOO PREDICTABLE FOR ME. WE COMPLAIN ABOUT OUR RUNNING GAME BEING SO POOR BUT NOTHING IS EVER DONE ABOUT IT.... IN THE EARLY PART OF THE GAME THROW THE BALL LONG, KITNA CAN DO IT. REPEAT THAT DURING THE GAME SO THE OTHER TEAM KNOWS WE WILL GO THERE. OUR CONSERVATIVE THROWING OF SHORT PASSES AND BETWEEN THE TACKLE RUNS ARE KILLING THE OFFENSE.

WHY CAN'T BRAT SEE THAT...ITS SO SIMPLE. SEEMINGLY WE HAVE GOTTEN AWAY FROM RUNNING 3 TO 4 REVERSES A GAME NOW WORK ON THE REST....WHY DO YOU DEFEND BRAT SO MUCH.....BENGAL JOE----CINCINNATI**

JOE: We think Bob would find it amusing that someone thinks we defend him too much. How many times has it been said here that we'd like to seem more runs or wondered about the off-tackle stuff on the goal line?

Please remember what we said. We said Brat has done a good job getting points out of the RED ZONE. He has done a nice job mixing play-action and perimeter runs down there, particularly on the goal line. Of course, he has more weapons than he did last season.

It's real easy to second guess a play-caller, and we don't think it's fair at times. We have given Bob heat on occasion, and he's a classy, gracious guy about it.

We will say this and you can call us "House Man," or whatever you want. But given that Dillon and his best pass-catching tight end have been hurt most of the season, they've shuffled the interior of the offensive line, and his 3-4 wide receivers are rookies who virtually didn't play last year in college, we think Bratkowski has held up pretty well.

And, let's go back to last year and pluck out all the e-mails complaining about the so many reverses with Peter Warrick that didn't work.

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