The Bengals seem deeper and more talented at linebacker than they have been in a long time. Rey Maualuga and Keith Rivers could be cornerstones for years to come and Michael Johnson seems to be destined for some sort of hybrid linebacker/end role. I like having Dhani Jones in the middle just to get the team lined up right and in proper position. That’s been a weakness in past years. Brandon Johnson and Rashad Jeanty provide good depth and also some versatility. Johnson is supposed to be solid in pass coverage, while Jeanty is a little more physical and better suited for running downs. Darryl Blackstock is also around this year as is Dan Skuta, Abdul Hodge and Jim Maxwell. Some of those guys will get axed in training camp, perhaps in one of the Hard Knocks episodes. Overall, there’s a lot to like here and I would imagine that Maualuga will slowly transition into the middle backer role as the season progresses. If everyone stays healthy this should be a position of strength this fall.
Andre Smith Watch: The Andre Smith situation has provoked a pretty strong response in Bengal Nation. While I agree that rookie contracts are out of control (starting with Matthew Stafford’s MegaMillions Deal at the top), to quote a myriad of NFL players: ‘It is what it is.’ In order to get your rookies into camp, you’re going to have to pay them more than what they’re worth. The Bengals’ current offer is somewhere between $33 and $40 million. Does Smith deserve that given his history of shenanigans before the draft and his weight issues? Certainly not. But if you don’t get the kid signed and into camp soon, you risk a holdout that could jeopardize future years, not just this one. And while I am satisfied (for once) that the Bengals have a contingency plan in Anthony Collins, it doesn’t mean the Bengals should play hardball. Good teams sign their draft picks even if they’re not needed right away (the Steelers come to mind). Perhaps I’d give the Bengals more of a break if they didn’t seem to have extended holdouts every other year. So open up that wallet Mike Brown and get our big (and perhaps even bigger now) offensive tackle into camp. No need to let the optimism of a new season be overshadowed by a training camp holdout. As Larry the Cable Guy says, “Git R Done.”