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Old 09-29-2007, 04:54 AM   #1
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Default Bengals paying for draft miseries

Bengals paying for draft miseries
Column by The Post's Lonnie Wheeler

At this point, I don't know whether to sympathize with the Bengals or stick it to them.

This is not the week in which they want to be measured against the New England Patriots. The Men, as we call them, are pretty much depleted - uncommonly so, for so early in the season. And the Patriots, well, they're not.

The Patriots lead the NFL in offense. They also lead the league in defense. And the Bengals, well, they don't.

In the offseason, the Patriots signed Adalius Thomas, the ferocious linebacker from Baltimore, as a free agent. The Bengals, in spite of many helpful suggestions along those lines, didn't. They went instead for Ed Hartwell. And cut him.

The Patriots, who by the way came within five points of the Super Bowl last year, also signed Randy Moss, the controversial and good-as-it-gets receiver. Nobody suggested that the Bengals, who didn't make the playoffs last year, should do that, because, in Chad Johnson, they already have a controversial superstar at the same position. For pass-catching purposes, the Patriots also signed Donte Stallworth and traded for Wes Welker. The Bengals lost Chris Henry to a half-season suspension. And miss him.

They miss a lot of people.

They miss their second, third and fourth draft choices from 2003. Eric Steinbach is in Cleveland, Kelley Washington is in New England, Dennis Weathersby is out of the game.

They miss their first and second draft choices from 2004. Chris Perry is hurt again. Keiwan Ratliff was released this week.

They miss their first, second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth draft choices from 2005. David Pollack had the neck injury. Odell Thurman is on his second year of suspension. Henry is unavailable for five more games. Eric Ghiaciuc has a chance to return to the lineup this week. Adam Kieft doesn't. Neither does Tab Perry.

They miss their second draft choice from this year. Kenny Irons is on crutches.

That makes two injured running backs bearing heavy investments. Rudi Johnson could make three if his hamstring doesn't heal up fast.

There are those, however, who feel that his likely replacement, Kenny Watson, could be a better choice anyway. Carson Palmer wouldn't say that, but he loves Watson. He campaigned for the Bengals to hold onto Watson in the offseason.

"We lose some things with Rudi, of course," Palmer said Thursday, between questions about Tom Brady, his famous Patriots counterpart, "but I think we also gain some things with Kenny. Kenny's great out of the backfield (catching passes). He understands the hots (reads), he's quick in and out of his breaks.

"We keep drafting players and trying to replace Kenny, and he hasn't looked at that negatively. There's a second-rounder (Irons) in front of him, there's a first-rounder (Perry) in front of him, and he just kept his head down and kept working."

All that work meant, mostly, that he could play on special teams. But the more that guys like him get their chances on offense or defense, the less Darrin Simmons has to work with on fourth down. The Bengals' special teams have stunk this year. The Patriots' have come up roses.

You could sympathize with the Bengals by pointing out that there are only a couple of position groups on the entire roster that haven't been somehow disadvantaged. Palmer is practically a position group unto himself. The defensive line has been relatively healthy, as well. But the linebackers - unless Ahmad Brooks makes it back this week, which he probably won't - are down five guys (Brooks, Pollack, Thurman, Rashad Jeanty and Caleb Miller) who would be starting if they were able to. The secondary is beset by inexperience at cornerback. The offensive line is a tag team. The No. 3 receiver spot is down to the fourth option. So's running back.

The problem is that Cincinnati's recent drafts, for various reasons - among them, a lack of wisdom and luck - haven't enriched the inventory very much. When that happens, a team needs to acquire good players other ways.

Like New England.

For their failure to do that, you could stick it to the Bengals.

Come Monday night, the Patriots probably will.
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