Q: Could you please give us some information on each of the 2009 draft picks and what we can expect next year? Where is
--Brendon M., Jackson, KY
BRENDON: Smith is behind because he missed all of training camp and the first half of the season with the broken foot, but he showed enough flashes late in the year during some big games to make them think they’ve got a guy that can be a dominant blocker in both the pass and the run. The key is making sure he doesn’t balloon to something ridiculous during the offseason and he shows up at something like 370 or 380 pounds. But if he keeps it under control and stays healthy, what he showed in glimpses at the end of last year would indicate he’s worthy of the sixth pick.
Maualuga obviously has some off-field issues to clear up from last week’s DUI arrest, but his Twitter apology from Monday morning shows he’s got more than a clue and that he should be able to overcome it. As we all know, he’s the middle backer of the future.
There are people that no doubt want to make the comparison to former middle linebacker Odell Thurman, whose offseason problems following his own big rookie year have kept him out of the NFL since. But Maualuga has developed such a bond with the fans that you sense he knows he’s got a lot of people counting on him.
Right end Michael Johnson is coming off a promising season and they’re excited to see what he’ll do after a full offseason in the weight room. Now that he’s got a full year in the system, look for defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer to use him more in different positions, such as a tackle and outside backer. He had some nice plays in those spots and that 6-7 wingspan has already come up big. His tipped pass that resulted in lineman Jon Fanene’s touchdown interception return turned the Detroit game, and he had at least one big deflection against Kansas City. They love him.
As we wrote about Coffman last month, who knows if he’s another Simpson or another Dan Ross or somebody in between? They knew he was a project when they drafted him and he is even more so as he comes back from a late-season scope on his injured foot/ankle. What they do know is that he’s such a big question mark they need to draft a tight end high again.
There were some people around the club who were surprised when they didn’t sign sixth-rounder
Rookie nickel cornerback Morgan Trent impressed with his size and smarts and while had some up-and-down games down the stretch (Hello, Oakland), look for him to come in as the solid No. 3 corner.
Wide receiver, Freddie Brown, a seventh-rounder, doesn’t fit what they need right now. He’s a good route runner, but he’s not a burner and they need guys that can stretch the field. He’s also a good work ethic guy that has an uphill climb now that
Q: What do we need to be a better pass rushing team?
--Keneth D., Atlanta, GA
KENETH: Good call on Geathers. Good guy and an extremely tough one who plays hurt, which he did late this past season. But since he had 10.5 sacks in 2006, he has just 9.5 and seems to be a better run player than anything else. Yet, if Odom didn’t get hurt in the sixth game this season you would have seen Geathers’ numbers climb because offenses were starting to slide their protection to him.
It’s pretty clear. Before Odom got hurt, the Bengals were in the top five for sacks in the NFL. And you can say, well, that was all off that one game against the brutal Packers offensive line. But they have the formula to be a better pass rush team: Good against the run, two solid cover cornerbacks, and a penetrating trio of competent nickel tackles in Tank Johnson, Jon Fanene and
And figure that starting defensive tackle Domata Peko missing the last five games hurt them because he is so good against the run, so they didn’t have as many passing situations.
Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer already uses a lot of 3-4 Parecellian/Belichickian principles on third down (note the liberal use of WILL linebacker
Yeah, like every other team in the NFL, they could use another defensive end who can rush the passer. But the building blocks are in place, particularly if promising rookie end Michael Johnson continues to develop. They’ve got the play-caller and they’ve got some versatile linemen. Some leads, a little health, and maybe a young pair of legs might help.
Q: After watching DeSean Jackson break another one in the Pro Bowl, will we change philosophies and get a speed receiver? And will Jerome have a chance this year to hopefully prove us wrong?
--Jeff H., Batesville, IN
JEFF: You certainly have to hope they’ve changed their thinking on sub 6-foot receivers when they saw what happened to them in the 2008 draft. They love speed receivers, but they also love big receivers and that can limit you.
Look, no one is denying you need tall receivers in this day and age. Yeah, the best ones are going 6-4, 6-3, 230 pounds nowadays. But those guys that are that size and can run are like bipartanship, $2 dollar bills, and unicorns.
You can’t find them.
You can’t let the Peter Warrick disaster dictate what you do. The reason Warrick flopped at receiver is not because he was 5-10ish, but because he couldn’t run and his tear-away jersey moves from college didn’t translate. But speed is the great equalizer and hopefully that is the lesson of Jackson and, to a lesser extent, Eddie Royal. Yeah, size is great. But if you wait for it, you have to get a guy in the first round or not at all. And it forced them into taking
And, really, it’s not fair to Simpson to say he’s a mistake because he’s played only a handful of NFL games. But what it does say after a season he was active for only one game in a season they desperately needed big and fast at receiver is that this offensive staff has serious doubts about him.
And that’s the bottom line. If these guys aren’t going to put him in a game after two years, why keep him around even if there are those that think he has the physical tools? He’s a guy that tries really hard and has great determination. And maybe he is good enough to make it. But after two training camps and 32 weeks of practice, he hasn’t convinced this set of coaches.