The most complicated team in the NFL added to its strange intrigue by drafting talented players with baggage. Once again, the Bengal brains have selected the yellow-cake uranium of young talent to refine in the team’s centrifuges and hope for the best.
If these new players are only discussed about their football careers, then this could become the best of Marvin’s drafts; if the team finishes with six wins or less and the locker room is filled with nothing but egos and anarchy, Marvin packs his bags. Either way, the Bengals filled some key spots with some impressive rookies.
Andre Smith is the perfect fit for the offense. A ferocious run-blocker, Smith becomes an immediate upgrade over Stacy Andrews at right tackle, and allows Anthony Collins to stay at left tackle; a position he looked comfortable in last season.
Smith has been knocked for his inconsistencies and giving up on plays, but he has no serious health issues and was everybody’s draft darling before the compound. With Smith, Collins, Luigs and Whitworth in as starters, the youth movement is in full-effect up front.
This is not to say that they will be worse because they’re young. Levi Jones will be cut any day now, Stacy Andrews and Eric Ghuiciuc weren’t offered new contracts and, sadly, Willie Anderson is gone forever. The pressure is on offensive line coach, Paul Alexander. There’s a lot of good clay to be molded within this bunch; one would expect to see success fairly soon.
The second pick was mind blowing. Rey Maualuga: the man I’ve coveted for so long, who I would have taken at number six without hesitation, somehow remained on the board when the Bengals turn came up again, and we did the unthinkable, we drafted him.
This, the most exciting draft pick since Carson Palmer, was reason to whoop and holler about. How could this have happened to us? All the fuss over inconsistent play, an average combine and college party life allowed an animal like that to slip past every other team in the league. Suckers.
Rey is a wrecking ball that runs through walls and plays with the same kind of insanity that the great ones are known for. He immediately helps the Bengals’ run defense, as he’s good-sized (249) and can plug up the middle running lanes as well as seek-and-destroy when backs run outside of the tackles.
College teammate Keith Rivers will be leaned on more heavily to cover tight ends and running backs on passing plays. Brandon Johnson showed nice coverage skills last year and will likely play more in nickel packages as a result.
Dhani Jones will rotate in for Maualuga and hopefully be a kind of mentor to bring him along – possibly off the field too. Rey should blend well with the familiar Rivers and the veteran Jones. He’s the most exciting pick draft pick since Carson Palmer, and could be the defensive rookie of the year.
In Rey, defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and linebackers coach Jeff Fitzgerald, have a piece to the defense that might become a Pro-Bowler very soon.
Tight End Chase Coffman is a pass-catching tight end that might actually be able to catch passes (free-agent tight end, Ben Utecht, was unable to live up to a similar moniker, and I expect will soon be cut). Perhaps Coffman can become the third-down tight end that the Bengals have sought after for so long. Like Jones for Maualuga, consummate pro Reggie Kelly can show Coffman the ropes around the NFL.
The new center Luigs from Arkansas, fell outside of the coveted top-3 prospect at his position. With no decent center on the team and already in the fourth round, the Bengals got a guy who may still turn out to be pretty good.
He has been called a finesse center and Bengal fans know the terrible effects those can have in a division where giant nose-tackles roam the countryside looking to ransack smallish centers. He’s listed at 301 lbs. – which is big enough for a center – but it would have made the pick sweeter had Luigs been called powerful or strong somewhere in his scouting report.
In Marvin’s never-ending quest for more pass rush, he added the 6’7’’ speed rusher, Michael Johnson. The depth at defensive end looks solid now as Johnson joins Odom, Geathers, Rucker and Fanene. Johnson was another player criticized for a low work ethic and giving up on plays, but he has tremendous upsize if he decides that he likes football.
The Bengals were also able to score a fullback, Fui Vakapuna; a critical upgrade that was a major problem last year. They also helped themselves in special teams when they took local punter, Kevin Huber. It’s encouraging to know that the team isn’t satisfied with the shaky work of too long-time punter Kyle “Beth” Larson.
In a sure sign of addressing their concerns, the Bengals chose only four defensive players out of their 11 selections. I wouldn’t expect many problems with this draft class. On the field, they’ve helped the team form what looks like a promising foundation on both sides of the ball. Off the field they’re a wild card, but ultimately, they would probably prefer to just play football.
Mojokong – still waiting for the NFL to come take Maualuga away from us. It just can’t be true.