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News » Bengals need to help offensive line in draft

Bengals need to help offensive line in draft

Bengals need to help offensive line in draft
CINCINNATI (AP) - If it were up to Carson Palmer, the Cincinnati Bengals' draft plan would be simple.

"I'd like us to use all of our picks on receivers and offensive linemen and have a bunch of weapons," Palmer said. "But obviously, that's a quarterback's fantasy."

His fantasy is part reality.

The Bengals' biggest challenge in this weekend's draft is to do something about an offensive line that let Palmer get turned into a pinata last season. He broke his nose in the preseason, sprained an ankle in the second game of the regular season, and tore up his passing elbow in the third game.

Palmer appears to be fully recovered from partial tears to a ligament and tendon in his elbow, which healed with rest rather than surgery. Now, it's time to fix that line.

The Bengals released right tackle Willie Anderson in the preseason last year, giving the job to Stacy Andrews. Andrews left for Philadelphia as a free agent after the season. Left tackle Levi Jones had another injury-filled season. The entire line struggled to open holes for runners and protect the passers.

This group needs help.

The Bengals will have the sixth overall pick, giving them the opportunity to take one of the top-rated tackles. Baylor's Jason Smith and Virginia's Eugene Monroe are likely to be gone by then, leaving the Bengals to decide whether to take a chance on Alabama's Andre Smith.

Smith's weight has fluctuated throughout his career, and scouts question his dedication. At 6-foot-4 and 332 pounds, he's got what it takes physically to be a solid NFL lineman. The question is whether his heart is in it.

"This guy's perception has been all over the yard," coach Marvin Lewis said, referring to the scouting reports. "In spending time with him, it's a positive. It really is a positive. You've got to look at his background, who he's played for."

If owner Mike Brown isn't sold on Smith, the Bengals might turn to their second-biggest area of need in the first round: the defensive line.

While the O-line was bad last season, the defensive line wasn't much better. The Bengals gave up 51 sacks and had only 17 sacks last season, the two numbers that best defined their 4-11-1 season. They signed defensive tackle Tank Johnson as a free agent in the offseason, but could use more help.

Either way, there shouldn't be much first-round intrigue. A lineman - of one variety or the other - it is.

Beyond that, it gets interesting.

A year ago, the main drama involved receiver Chad Ocho Cinco, who was doing everything he could to get himself traded. He skipped voluntary workouts and threatened to sit out the season unless the team traded him during draft week. Brown dug in and turned down an offer from the Redskins that included at least one first-round pick.

In essence, the owner sent a message: I'm in charge, not you.

There's been very little "trade Ocho" talk this time around. He has kept a low profile, and the Bengals insist the receiver with two years left on his contract is going to stick around, like it or not.

"I don't know why people continue with this speculation of moving Chad," Lewis said this week. "I think it's been told many times ... I don't know if anyone's keeping count of this, but Chad's not getting moved."

Instead, he'll get more company.

The Bengals decided to let receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh leave as a free agent after last season rather than using their franchise tag on him. They replaced him with Laveranues Coles, who has more ability to turn a short catch into a big gain.

No. 3 receiver Chris Henry is back - Brown wants him - and will be pushed for time by Andre Caldwell, a third-round pick last year. Second-round pick Jerome Simpson was much slower to come around in 2008, and it's not clear where he fits with the receivers this season.

The Bengals are likely to add at least one more.

"I don't know that any team goes through a draft without drafting a wideout," Lewis said. "I'm sure there will be at least 32 receivers taken by 32 teams, so the chances are we'll take a wideout at some point."

That's fine with their quarterback.

"The more the merrier," Palmer said.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 24, 2009

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