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meanjoecoop 09-09-2006 04:28 PM

Bengal's offense - The final season
 
A fine line's final stand
Bengals' unit could be broken up after season


BY MARK CURNUTTE | ENQUIRER STAFF WRITER

http://news.enquirer.com/apps/pbcs.d...90417/1062/SPT

With the season opener just a day away - Sunday at Kansas City - the Bengals' offensive line will have one last season to establish itself as the league's best.

The starting five, together for the past two seasons, is almost assured of being broken up by the time next season rolls around.

As much as 40 percent of the offensive line - two starters - will be different next season.

Center Rich Braham, one of the toughest players in the NFL, is expected to retire after this, his 13th season, though he hasn't announced a decision. Second-year center Eric Ghiaciuc is Braham's heir apparent.

And with tackles Levi Jones and Willie Anderson signing $72 million in contract extension this preseason, left guard Eric Steinbach could be the odd man out.

The Bengals appear to be grooming second-round rookie Andrew Whitworth as Steinbach's replacement at left guard.

Quarterback Carson Palmer ranked the Bengals' starting five as the game's best - especially now that the Chiefs' line has undergone change at both tackle positions.

"I think we slide right into the spot where they were," Palmer said of the Bengals' offensive line. "They've been banged up. (Left tackle) Will Shields retired. Everyone probably considered them the top or one of the top, and now our offensive line slides right into that spot."

The Bengals' offensive line, with the help of superb blocking tight ends Reggie Kelly and Tony Stewart, as well as fullback Jeremi Johnson, has some impressive credentials.

It allowed a franchise-low 21 sacks last season.

It led the way for tailback Rudi Johnson to set single-season franchise rushing records in each of the past two seasons.

And it helped the offense tie for second with the Atlanta Falcons last season with a 42.9 percent third-down efficiency rate - behind only the Indianapolis Colts (48.7 percent).

Bob Bratkowski is in his sixth season as Bengals offensive coordinator.

"I think expectations are very high for them," he said of the line. "It's always a matter of going and doing it. We can say that it's one of the best in the NFL. They have to go prove it.

"They know it, too. Your r?sum? ends up on tape at the end of 16 games, 20 games, however many you play. And we're fortunate to have them back, with their consistency, but they have to go do it. I have faith they will, but it has to be done."

The line is anchored by Jones and Anderson, a pair of first-round draft choices, Nos. 10 overall in 1996 (Anderson) and 2002 (Jones).

Braham was a third-round pick by Arizona in 1994 but was waived that November and signed by the Bengals. He played guard before moving to center.

Right guard Bobbie Williams was a second-round pick by the Eagles in 2000, and left guard Steinbach was a second-round pick by the Bengals in 2003.

As a guard, Steinbach might be too expensive for the Bengals. Some observers think Steinbach might be an out-of-position left tackle because he is so athletic. Chances are he will test the market as an unrestricted free agent in March 2007.

Guard is not a premium position in the NFL, unlike offensive tackle, quarterback and cornerback, running back and wide receiver.

The Bengals are one of many teams with the philosophy that it's not worth drafting a tackle unless you get the top one or two in each class. Guards normally are drafted lower, primarily in the second to fourth rounds.

Offensive tackles, especially on the left side, protect the team's biggest investment - the quarterback.

And having signed eight of their 11 offensive starters to long-term contracts since March 2005, the Bengals are going to have to address new deals for many of their top defensive players, such as free safety Madieu Williams and linebacker Landon Johnson.

The contracts of cornerback Tory James and defensive end Justin Smith will expire after 2006, though it's unlikely they will bring back James with a big contract. Smith, like Steinbach, seems destined for the free-agent market.

ON THE LINE

The Bengals' offensive line is ranked the league's third-best in the 2006 Lindy 's preseason pro football magazine.

The rankings:

Rank Team Lindy's comments
1. Kansas City The magazine said the return of left tackle Willie Roaf (who retired) was mandatory for success.

2. Pittsburgh Guard Alan Faneca is the lone star, but he's surrounded by a solid cast that plays well together.

3. Cincinnati "Lack of quality depth limits the Bengals' upside."

4. Indianapolis The poor showing against the Steelers in the playoffs can't reduce a strong body of work.

5. Minnesota The return of center Matt Birk from injury and addition of star guard Steve Hutchinson lift the group.

CantStop85 09-09-2006 07:02 PM

Re: Bengal's offense - The final season
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by meanjoecoop (Post 147948)
3. Cincinnati "Lack of quality depth limits the Bengals' upside."

hhmm...I would tend to disagree with this statement. Eric Ghiaciuc, Scott Kooistra, Stacy Andrews, and Andrew Whitworth have all been pretty good backups and shown some upside...add in Ben Wilkerson on the practice squad and I would consider that pretty good depth.

Odds are Rich Braham will retire after this season, but I think Ghiaciuc could do a good job filling that void. There is still a big chance that Eric Steinbach will either be resigned or franchised in the offseason, but if he isn't, Whitworth, the Bengals 2nd round pick this year should be a good option.

Losing two starters on the O-Line could be a big hit, but when you still have two of the top tackles in the league, you're doing alright.

Tankus_Maximus 09-09-2006 07:23 PM

Re: Bengal's offense - The final season
 
The Bengals O-Line is rated especially high in the area of allowing season-ending-injuries to their QB too!! Damn, I'm gonna miss Kimo.

Exit: Kimo
Enter: Keisel!!

CantStop85 09-09-2006 07:54 PM

Re: Bengal's offense - The final season
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Tankus_Maximus (Post 148023)
Damn, I'm gonna miss Kimo.

Indeed you are.

Tankus_Maximus 09-09-2006 09:04 PM

Re: Bengal's offense - The final season
 
That's it?? That's all??

WEAK!!

CantStop85 09-09-2006 10:19 PM

Re: Bengal's offense - The final season
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Tankus_Maximus (Post 148069)
That's it?? That's all??

Yup. That's it, that's all, that's all there is.

Stillers#1 09-09-2006 10:31 PM

Re: Bengal's offense - The final season
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by CantStop85 (Post 148039)
Indeed you are.

There will be times I miss Kimo, but IMO, keisel will be fine. You guys do have a pretty Hoss O-line though. I would actually rank us 2a and 2b, in no particular order. I would give us the slight edge is Barret Brooks weren't a basket case.

tony hipchest 09-10-2006 12:12 AM

Re: Bengal's offense - The final season
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by CantStop85 (Post 148039)
Indeed you are.

detecting sarcasm isnt your strong point is it? isnt it like $250,000,000 tied up in contracts to 3/5 of the offensive line and carson and chad now?

LMAO! havent the bengals learned anything from the colts in the past 5 years.:busted:

no threat from the bengals! the steelers reign of the afc north will continue for the NEXT 15 years. :bouncy:

Tankus_Maximus 09-10-2006 10:52 AM

Re: Bengal's offense - The final season
 
If there's anything I've done here, it's expose CS85's weak game.

Yup, no threat from the bengals!

steelersblowballs 09-10-2006 12:19 PM

Re: Bengal's offense - The final season
 
The only weak game thats coming soon is the steelers when they play the Bengals


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