As the Bengals reshape their roster (and take their lumps in the process) with a stockpile of young and hungry talent, their bitter refusal to re-sign and play productive role players continues to perplex me.
I completely understand the need to give rookies like Andy Dalton and A.J. Green every opportunity to succeed. I am even willing to live through the growing pains because I believe in them, even after their latest error-laden performance. I also understand cutting talented and stable players like Dhani Jones and Tank Johnson in favor of younger alternatives in Rey Maualuga and Geno Atkins.
There are also players like Jerome Simpson, Jermaine Gresham, Bernard Scott, Michael Johnson, Carlos Dunlap, Clint Boling, and Jordan Shipley; all very talented. All whose time has come. After watching last year’s debacle with a veteran team, I’m more than willing to watch the bucks come of age—even if that means some ugly moments along the way.
That said, it continues to boggle my mind that other players, who seemingly perform at or above starter-caliber levels are routinely regulated to back-up status or even tossed out like trash. I submit that there are numerous players who have provided this team with big plays and solid performances who are continually being overlooked, bypassed, or discarded.
Now, I must temper this by characterization as just one poor fan’s opinion. After all, I’m no coach. I am not privy to things like practice habits, playbook knowledge, and coachability. I concede I do not have the inside knowledge that Marvin Lewis has. I’m sure he’d readily remind me of that if I were to discuss this with him. With an icy glare or a condescending chuckle, he’d most certainly dismiss my questioning as foolish.
Nonetheless, this is my blog, and thus I will pose the questions that rattle around in my brain when watching our beloved Bengals get their collective arses handed to them by other team’s back-ups.
- Why did you let Evan Mathis walk? The guy was tough as nails and certainly outperformed Nate Livings. Now we’re apparently stuck with Livings. Offensive Line coach Paul Alexander insists Livings is grading out well. Maybe so, but all I know is Mathis was a solid performer and the lack of interest in re-signing him seems criminal.
- Speaking of criminal behavior and the offensive line, why is Anthony Collins still a back-up? He’s at a minimum a starting right tackle, and could have potential as a guard. He couldn’t be worse than Livings. The guy started at left tackle in Pittsburgha few seasons ago as a rookie and acquitted himself well. Since then he’s done nothing to disappoint.
- Why is it that only now is Jay Gruden realizing that Andre Caldwell could be a solid wide receiver? The guy plays all three spots and had some of the best late-game catches I’ve seen inCincinnati. While Jerome Simpson shows all the out of this world athleticism,Caldwellhas been nothing if not consistent. He’s been unceremoniously relegated to back-up behind Simpson, who seems overly anxious and excitable on the field, and Shipley.
- On the defensive side of the ball, why do we continue with the Tom Nelson experiment when Chinedum Ndukwe is on the street? Nelson is too slow to play corner, and too small to play safety. His injuries have made him go from a feel-good underdog project to a waste of roster space. Ndukwe is still only 26 years old, and has recorded 257 tackles, 7.5 sacks, and 6 interceptions in four seasons. The Bengals are letting him languish while they try inexperienced guys like Nelson, Jeromy Miles and rookie Robert Sands to back-up guys coming off injuries in Cris Crocker and Gibril Wilson. It seems to me that Chinny is a better option than all of them.
Maybe I’m wrong. After all, I’m no coach, and I don’t have the luxury of being able to watch every practice. Nonetheless, while I believe in youth being served, I do not understand what often seems to be simple stubbornness in keeping some players from blossoming and helping win football games.