Receiver, defense are glaring needs for Bengals
Scouts Inc. puts the Bengals on the clock, breaking down their offseason moves and looking at what questions still need answers.
As the NFL draft approaches, "SportsCenter" is putting every NFL team with a first-round pick "On the Clock," and Scouts Inc. will break down each team and look at what questions still need answering.
For a complete list of all of the Bengals' free agents and all their offseason signings, check out Scouts Inc.'s free-agent tracker.
• Who they signed
• Who they lost
• Complete free-agent tracker
The Bengals have talent, but they faced a tremendous number of injuries last year, especially at linebacker. However, they are one of the few franchises in the league with tremendous stability at quarterback (Carson Palmer), which goes a long way toward helping overcome other deficiencies.
Key AdditionsThe Bengals are notoriously frugal, and while they had interest in quite a few prominent free agents, they didn't ante up to land most of their targets. They did sign DE Antwan Odom, who is an up-and-coming player with a lot of potential, but it remains to be seen how he will perform without the Titans' supporting cast. Adding to the risk, he doesn't have experience playing in a 3-4 scheme, which likely will be Cincinnati's primary defense in 2008.
The Bengals also signed LB Darryl Blackstock and TE Ben Utecht. Blackstock isn't a great player, but he does have some upside. He will compete with LB Rashad Jeanty for the starting spot opposite Robert Geathers in the 3-4 or as the starting Sam linebacker in their traditional front. Utecht should become a key target for Palmer near the goal line and in the middle of the field.
However, the Bengals' best move was franchising OT Stacy Andrews. With the massive shortage of linemen in the NFL right now, the Bengals were wise to hold on to this young, versatile lineman who is dripping with upside.
The Pick (No. 9 overall):
DT Sedrick Ellis, USC
Todd McShay: The team is starving for a playmaking defensive tackle, and Ellis, who notched 58 tackles and 8.5 sacks as a senior, is one of only two elite prospects at the position. While it's highly unlikely he will fall to the ninth pick, I do hear the Bengals and Saints are among a handful of teams considering trading up for Ellis and/or DT Glenn Dorsey, depending on how the top of the board unfolds.
• Complete mock draft
• Vote: Team needs
Key LossesThe offense remains capable of big things and returns mostly intact. But the subpar defense from '07 should struggle even more because the team did not re-sign free agent DE Justin Smith, LB Landon Johnson or S Madieu Williams. While it can be argued that this defense greatly needed to be shaken up, these three will not be easy to replace.
Offensively, C Alex Stepanovich signed in Atlanta and WR Chris Henry was finally cut. Stepanovich has some starting experience and interior versatility, but the Bengals should be able to upgrade through the draft. On the field, Henry's loss will be substantial, but this has to be considered a step in the right direction.
Remaining QuestionsRegardless of which scheme the Bengals predominantly run on defense, they still need pass-rushers and run-stuffers up front. They will get help from within, though, because several prominent injured or suspended players should return, including playmaking LB Odell Thurman. There also remains the question about Johnson's status with the team, which could become an even bigger distraction as the season progresses. Wide receiver is now a pressing need, considering Johnson's situation and Henry's release. However, after losing G Eric Steinbach in free agency a year ago, the Bengals receive four compensatory picks and will have a very good opportunity to substantially upgrade their roster in this deep draft.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.
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On The Clock
• NFL draft: Saturday-Sunday, Radio City Music Hall in New York. First round begins at 3 p.m. ET. Round 3 begins at 10 a.m. Sunday.
• Format: Teams have 10 minutes per pick in Round 1, seven minutes in Round 2 and 5 minutes in Rounds 3-7.
• TV: ESPN coverage beginning at 3 p.m. ET Saturday.
• Draft Central | First-round order | Discuss
During the past month, Scouts Inc. examined the state of all 32 teams heading in to the draft. Meanwhile, "SportsCenter" broke down each team's needs.
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