Time to Move On? (Defensive Edition)

With No. 2 QB Ryan Fitzpatrick starting yet again in place of Carson Palmer, it’s looking more and more like the answer to the question, “is it time to move on to 2009?” is “yes.”

Last time, I took a look at some of the issues that need to be resolved going forward on offense. This time, let’s check in with the defense.

The advantage the D has over the offense is that, under new coordinator Mike Zimmer, it is already building toward the future, as opposed to the offense, which in many ways is still clinging to a past that simply isn’t there any longer. In the secondary, for example, the core of Johnathan Joseph, Leon Hall, Chinedum Ndukwe and Marvin White is young and improving. Depth and seasoning are needs, but the latter can only be accomplished with time, and the former is being addressed with guys like Simeon Castille and David Jones. That situation stands in stark contrast to the rebuilding effort that’s looming at wide receiver and on the offensive line.

Still, if it is indeed time to start thinking, coaching and playing players with an eye toward 2009, Zimmer needs to make some calls.

1. Up the middle. DT John Thornton, is in the final year of his deal. Thornton has been a solid but unspectacular player whose mediocre performance and high salary have earned him the ire of many fans. I’ve always felt he gets more crap than he deserves, but the bottom line is that the Bengals’ selections of Pat Sims and Jason Shirley last April, coupled with their sizable extension of Domata Peko and snagging of Orien Harris off waivers at the end of preseason point to a youth movement on the horizon. Better, probably, if that movement comes sooner rather than later. Calls from fans and local sports pundits to get Sims and Shirley into the game (both have been inactive all season) are rising. Every live snap they can get now will help next year.

2. This is the end, beautiful friend. Again this season, the Bengals’ pass rush has been largely fictional. The teams two highly compensated ends, Antwan Odom and Robert Geathers, have produced a measly 1.5 sacks in five games. (For comparison purposes, dearly departed DE Justin Smith has 3 all by himself.) Frostee Rucker hasn’t been the answer. Time to find a way to get collegiate standout Eric Henderson off the practice squad and onto the field, and see if he is.

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