Hobson's Choice: needs and wants

Posted Apr 9, 2018
Geoff HobsonEditorBengals.com

Is wide receiver John Ross this year's William Jackson, the cornerback that had a break-out sophomore season last year?

Florida State safety Derwin James figures to be long gone at 21.

Hi Geoff, love your articles keep doing what you are doing. All the mock drafts have the Bengals going O-line with their first pick. Which is definitely a position of need, but I think rounds 2 and 3 can still give an upgrade over what they have currently, so what I am asking is if say Derwin James, Roquan Smith, Marcus Davenport or Tremaine Edmunds fall to 21 do they draft one of them, or still go O-line? I just feel safety and linebacker are a bigger need in round 1, but I only coach from the couch and am no NFL scout that's why I am asking a professional. Joe Pollack, Mayfield, PA

JOE: Thank you for the kind note. I’m no pro scout, but you do have a coach’s name on the couch, matching new offensive line coach Frank Pollack.
I would tend to agree with you and we’re just using common sense. According to the Scouts, Inc., board on ESPN.com, those four guys are listed in the top 16 (Edmunds five, Smith 10, James 12, Davenport 16), so if any of them where there that boards suggests they’d probably be the highest-rated guy. Then go get the center and/or tackle later.

Geoff, I've been a diehard fan since I graduated high school in '88 and our Bengals went on a super bowl run. My 30th class reunion is coming up and it reminds me of how little success we've had since. Admittedly, my fanaticism is waning as a result of our lack of success combined with our lack of change. Please give me something to re-ignite my enthusiasm. I am desperately looking forward to your response. Sincerely, Vernon Lawson, Stone Mountain, GA

VERNON: So you’re almost as old as your team. Then you know better than anyone that A.J. Green and Andy Dalton have stood sentry to the winningest decade in Bengals’ history and are back for more. No question the lack of a post-season win has frustrated everyone, but the talent hasn’t dried up. Start with another Lawson from Georgia.

As in pass rusher Carl Lawson, he of last season’s 8.5 sacks as a rookie that’s emblematic of the kind of draft class that gets teams over the top. The fourth-rounder Lawson, the second-round running back Joe Mixon and the third-round defensive end Jordan Willis are all starters this upcoming season. Mixon and Lawson have already proven they can take over games and Willis has provided enough glimpses to show he’ll be a steady as he goes 800-900-snap player. Fleet wide receivers John Ross and Josh Malone can be special with their speed.

The 2016 first-round cornerback William Jackson is an elite player and second-round wide receiver Tyler Boyd is the best receiver on the team next
to Green and has shown he can produce a la Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu. Put the 2018 draft on top of the last two and it conjures up the solid
run of the 2011-13 drafts that saw them win two division titles and 33 games in the three seasons from 2013-15.

But I’ll tell you what is huge and changes everything. Head coach Marvin Lewis ripping up the offense. Had to be done. Sorely needed. Overdue. The
way Dalton has been hit and pressured the last two seasons has prevented their skill players from producing. Lewis is talking about all the right
things, particularly about finding a way to marry the run game with the pass game. Please. That sounds like more play-action and a better running
game. An extreme bummer to go out there and run the ball like they did last year. No Bengals team had worse numbers running the ball. Can’t
happen like that.

The fact there’s a new line coach and new coordinator and the fact the run and protecting Dalton are being emphasized and stressed, look for the
offense to be different. With Dalton unleashed, it should be better. Rip it up. Had to happen.

Happy 30th.

William Jackson (with his first pro interception, a pick-six): elite.

Does William Jackson get his chance to be a full time lock down corner in this league? Tyler Smith, Hamilton, OH

: He already did. According to profootballfocus.com, the web site graded him on 698 snaps as the seventh best cornerback in the NFL. Given
that he had the 54th most snaps of all corners, figure he gets 200 more plays this year. But PFF only needed to see about 700 to call him shutdown.
Here’s what the site said when it named him one of the NFL’s top ten sophomores in 2017:

“Through the regular season, Jackson allowed just 34.9 percent of the targets thrown into his coverage to be caught, which is not only the best mark
among cornerbacks this year, but the second-best mark ever recorded by PFF. All told, he surrendered an average of 0.38 yards per coverage snap
and a miniscule passer rating of just 36.1, which ranked first and second among 124 qualifying cornerbacks, respectively. After completely dominating
in what was essentially his first year in the league, Jackson not only established himself as the team’s best cornerback, but one of the very best
shutdown corners in the NFL.”

Hey Mr. Hobson thank you for taking your time to answer fan questions. The draft now is pretty much with a few weeks. The 2 players I like
lot at 21 are Isaiah Wynn and Will Hernandez. Out of those 2 who would you prefer? Greg Luther, Cincinnati, OH

Thank you for reading and taking the time to write. Going by that ESPN.com big board provided by Scouts, Inc., I’d have to go with
Hernandez, the guard from UTEP. He’s rated No. 22 on that board while Wynn, the guard from Georgia, is No. 32. Can’t I get a tackle at 21?

Josh Malone has the speed and size the Bengals covet.

What's up Geoff! Thanks for all the insider info during the dog days of the off-season. Do you think Bengals would consider trading back
to end of 1st round if they decide to go Center? Teams may be looking to trade in front of the Patriots & Bills to grab a QB. Also, I know
Bengals like their stable of WRs they have now and feel they can show more if the OL protects Dalton, but they are still missing that pass-
catching playmaker that can do something with the ball in his hand. Without looking Bengals WR/TE Yards After Catch has been bad. Let
me know your thoughts. Beau Christopher, Los Angeles, CA

I would never rule out the Bengals trading down in the first round, especially for an offensive lineman. That’s how they got right guard Kevin Zeitler in 2012 at No. 27 when they swapped this 21st pick with New England. But if there’s a defensive tackle at No. 21 (Maurice Hurst or Da’Ron
Payne) don’t take the call.

Now, the receivers. Do they need that guy or do they already have him? Some Bengals officials left last month’s NFL scouting combine convinced
they didn’t see a receiver better than the two guys they drafted last year, Ross in the first round and Malone in the fourth.

Time to play them.

Ridiculous that people are making judgments on Ross after 17 rookie snaps and Malone after 17 rookie targets.

Play them.

People were trying to bury Boyd all last season and all the kid did was make plays. Big plays. Play him. That, and protect the quarterback, and it’s a
recipe for yards- after-catch with the way Ross and Malone run and Boyd jukes.

Hello Geoff, hope things are on the up and up over there in Cincy! I just want to start off by saying that The Bengals have worked this
offseason and free agency acquisitions the way it should be done, in my opinion. They've stepped out of the box and gained some
potential upgrades without throwing crazy money around. I'm very pleased with the direction and hope its the start of a little more urgency
than in the past.

My question centers on John Ross with all the articles coming out these past few days about him working with Housh. It makes my
stomach turn when fans want to write him off or label him a bust after a pretty much redshirt rookie year with almost zero production. The
kid has the intangibles, there is no doubting that. I say give him some time and the benefit of the doubt before you bash him as a bust at #9
overall. It takes some players a little more time to adjust to the big leagues, and from what I've been told, Receiver is a position that can be
a tricky transition to the pros. I'm pleased with the way Ross took responsibility for his few mishaps last year, and the kid seems like he is
willing to put in the work to improve his situation. Hints him working with T.J., and JuJu Smith-Schuster.

I just want your honest opinion on how much improvement you think we might see this year out of him? I don't expect him to be a 1,000 yd
10 TD complimentary receiver next to AJ obviously, but I think he might surprise a lot of negative fans. Do you think his touches and how
much he's targeted and involved in the game plan goes up drastically? Although we haven't exactly put it all together, that doesn't change
the fact that with a healthy Eifert and the addition of Mixon... this team is full of weapons and offensive playmakers which could take away
some of his chances. I know he still has a very steep mountain to climb, but I'm backing him and I'd bet my chips that this season goes
much different for him if healthy. I'd love to know what you think in detail. Thanks for all the insight, Geoff! Who Dey Nation. Cale Smith,
Shelbyville, IN

John Ross isn't the only Bengals rookie wide receiver to struggle.

Thanks for weighing in. I haven’t questioned the urgency. I thought picking Ross in the first round was a move by a team looking to win right away because they went for need quicker than usual. After losing Marvin Jones they needed a speed merchant opposite Green and even though they
don’t usually take receivers in the first round or draft sub-6 feet receivers, they did both with Ross.

And what they did this year wasn’t so much urgency, but reaction. The offense was so bad they had to rip up the staff and scheme. Cedric Ogbuehi
didn’t come through at left tackle, so they traded for Cordy Glenn. They moved on from Kevin Minter after he struggled at middle linebacker and when
Preston Brown walked through the door looking for a job it was an offer they couldn’t refuse. In my mind it was more pragmatic than urgent because
it’s always urgent in the pros.

Well said on Ross. After talking to T.J. Houshmandzadeh Wednesday for the Ross story, I was impressed how impressed T.J. was that Ross
volunteered to meet him for a second session after he originally said he didn’t have time. And, you’re right. Very few rookie wide receivers make an
impact. The Bengals have had only two rookie 1,000-yard wide receivers in Cris Collinsworth and A.J. Green and only six with 50 catches
(Collinsworth, Green, Boyd, Eddie Brown, Peter Warrick, and Jordan Shipley).

Green and Boyd are still here, which shows you the talent in this corps. Ross is in a proud line of young Bengals wide receivers that struggled early.
Just look at the franchise’s three leaders. Chad Johnson got hurt and had just 28 catches as a rookie. Carl Pickens had to wait until Jeff Blake got the
QB job and went from 69 catches in his first two seasons to 71 in his third year. After catching 62 balls in his first two years, Houshmandzadeh nearly
got cut in his third season when he had no catches and only played two games because of injury and coach’s decisions. But then he broke out in his
fourth season.

So, yeah, you’re right. Receivers need time. Ross will obviously play more than three games and 17 snaps and he’ll get his first NFL catch. Beyond
that, who knows? If Eifert stays healthy, it would be nice if Ross and Malone could combine for what Marvin Jones gave them in 2015, which would
be 55 catches for 930 yards and four TDs. So we’ll take 32 catches for 538 yards at 16.8 yards per and four TDs from Ross. Certainly Boyd can give
them what Mohamed Sanu gave them in the slot in ’15: 33 catches for 394 yards and no TDs. Heck, Boyd did better than that when he replaced him
as a rookie in ’16 with 54 catches for 603 yards and a TD.