Bengals Q&A: Questions of Meritt


Feb 22, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Clemson Tigers defensive lineman Victor Beasley runs the 40-yard dash during the 2015 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

As Stripe Hype staff writers, we understand how important it is to involve fans of the Cincinnati Bengals with the site. On the Bengals’ official team site, Geoff Hobson provides fans a question and answer session known as Hobson’s Choice. Our version is, Questions of Meritt, written and facilitated by myself Dustin Meritt. With that introduction, let’s take look at our first round of Question of Meritt.

With only 20 sacks this year isn’t finding a quality pass rusher the number one priority this off-season? Teams are going to pick the defense apart if there is no pass rush. So who can help in the draft/free agency right away? Randy O, Louisville, KY

Thanks Randy for the question. Yes to your initial question and I agree with your statement that the defense will get picked apart in the absence of a pass rush regardless of how many first-rounders are in the secondary.  The problem is everyone wants pass rushers, something the Bengals can use.  In theory, they have two guys on their roster that could help, but neither Will Clarke nor Margus Hunt are seen as pass rush guys, in fact no one knows what they are at this point.

I’ll give two names that could help: draft prospect Vic Beasley and free agent Jabaal Sheard.  Beasley could give the team snaps at SLB and nickel rusher. At the combine, he clocked a 4.5 forty, benched 35 reps, and a produced a 41″ vertical at 6’3″, 246 pounds. This team could use that type of player.

Sheard didn’t get a lot of sacks last year, but the free agent from Cleveland was top 10 in the league for quarterback hurries. At 6’3″, 264 pounds, he offers some diversity, and like Beasley he could give you snaps from several positions.

Hello, why do we keep striking out with these defensive linemen? Hunt, Still, Thompson, and Clarke all seem to be potential busts. What does the team do to stop the bleeding and get some guys who can play in here? Ben T, up North. 

Its frustrating Ben, that’s for sure. They shouldn’t need to draft any defensive lineman because those should be your reinforcements right. Nonetheless, there are several factors working against that theory.

To start, not all guys will transition to the NFL and be successful. Second, Thompson is an effective rotation player when given snaps, we know what Still had working against him of the field, Hunt was hurt for part of 2014, and Clarke was in-active for 10+ games.  Guys can’t make an impact if you don’t give them snaps.

In a recent article on, you hear the same old, same old from Marvin’s good buddy Jay Hayes, the Bengals D-line coach.  The article sites these statements from Hayes.

"“We’ve got some young guys that probably needed to play some more.”“None of them played a lot right away. You have to earn your time”."

My response to that would be to ask what did Robert Geathers do to earn all the snaps last year? Philosophies like these keep guys like Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap strapped to the bench during their first years much like what Will Clarke and Margus Hunt are experiencing.  To boot, Brandon Thompson has shown to be more effective then Domata Peko on the field, but for some reason he sits as Peko gets most of the snaps at nose tackle despite grading out as one of the worst in football.

So what do they do, draft a guy and get him in the rotation early!

My question: I know it’s early but what seems to be the order the Bengals will draft certain positions? It seems like they stay away from DL in the first but that’s a big need and so is linebacker, so shouldn’t that be the priority? Thanks, Greg from Miami. 

I think we see a tackle in the first round because they know it could become a huge hole if Andrew Whitworth were to go down; t’s also beneficial to have his eventual replacement in the house. I think they will be all over a guy like T.J. Clemmings or even C/T Cameron Irving if they’re available.  I’ll say, unless one of the big time pass rushers were there in the first, I believe the order will be offensive tackle in the first, pass rusher in the second, and a jitterbug wide receiver in the third.

As I watch the combine I can’t help but get excited about some of the guy that run fast, jump high, and have big muscles. What are your thoughts on using the combine to evaluate players? Thanks Ryan, Kansas City MO. 

They call it the “Underwear Olympics” for a reason.  I think some undervalue what you see at the combine. I would prefer to see guys run the forty in cleats and pads, but I don’t think that is ever going to happen.  What you can do is see if a guy’s measurables match up to his production. How do they carry their weight? Are they thick in a good way? Do they look more body builder than ball player? Are their legs frail or lean and powerful?   You can watch prospects move and react and see if they are comfortable with their body’s ability to react without thinking.  You can the difference between natural players and those that aren’t even without the inclusion of pads.

I really don’t look at the forty too much.  What I watch for is if a guy knows how to make his body move as fast as possible without struggling to do so. When they catch passes, is it forced or just automatic? When they back pedal and turn, does it look natural or forced? And when they complete the drills, are they winded?

Please post your questions in the comments section below and if you have a question of Meritt.

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