Friday, April 27, 2012

Bengals Hit Needs Again

For the second year in a row, the supply met the Bengals demand. Last year the Bengals hit pressing needs in the first two rounds with wide receiver A.J. Green and quarterback Andy Dalton. This year the Bengals hit three needs in the first two rounds thanks to the two first-round picks on Thursday night. The argument could be made that the Bengals needed a safety, a wide receiver, or a running back in the second round instead of the defensive tackle they drafted. But there were no safties on the board good enough to take with a pick that high. There were a couple of wide receivers that could have been rated in that range, and the same with running backs. But Devon Still was too good for the Bengals to pass up. They needed another defensive tackle to add depth to the four-man rotation they like to play inside. They had great success with that type of rotation early last season. The knock on Still is inconsistency which is the knock on a lot of young guys. Bengals defensive line coach Jay Hayes suspects the fact Still had to play every down accounts for some of the issue. Somewhere in the draft the Bengals were going to grab their man to fill out the DT rotation. They jumped on a guy who is ready to play now. Wide Receiver and Safety would appear to be the most pressing needs as the draft trudges on. With cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and offensive guard Kevin Zeitler in the first round, a defensive tackle in the second, the Bengals have hit their needs. Did they hit those needs with capable players? You can never be sure on draft night but this observer is liking what the Bengals are doing.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Bengals Draft Presents Options

    In the good old days the Bengals, as much as any other team, would adhere to drafting the best player available.  But it is becoming much more apparent that teams are drafting for need more often than not.  This seems especially true in the early rounds.  Last year the Bengals needs and the best players available were one in the same.  A.J. Green and Andy Dalton were the perfect one-two punch in the first two rounds of the 2011 NFl draft.  It's doubtful the Bengals will ever find better fills for their needs with their first two picks.  But we will try to help them along, especially since their first two picks this year reside in the first round.  The Bengals get the 17th (Mike brown should offer at least one more thanks to the Oakland Raiders for this) and the 21st overall picks.
    For a team that made the playoffs last season the Bengals seem to have a healthy amount of needs.  The most pressing in my opinion happen to be offensive guard, safety, wide receiver, cornerback, and running back.  The Bengals signed a couple of veteran guards through free agency but a young stud is needed.  The Bengals are very thin at safety but the only one apparently worthy of first round status, Alabama's Mark Barron, is expected to be gone by the time the Bengals pick.  The Bengals have a home-run hitter in Green at wide receiver but now they need a good hands, good route man to work the intermediate zones.  Cornerback is another position where the Bengals signed a couple of veterans but an infusion of young blood would be a wise move.  Running back is not quite as pressing of a need with BenJarvis Green-Ellis on board.  But Green-Ellis has only once broken the 200-carry barrier in a season.  Cedric Benson broke the 200 barrier each of the past four seasons in Cincinnati.  So with all of that with a backdrop, this is what makes the most sense for the Bengals on draft day.
   With the 17th pick the Bengals should draft:
    Offensive guard David DeCastro out of Stanford.  He is reportedly a perfectionist with a bit of a nasty streak.  He could be the perfect piece to help anchor an offensive line for years.
    If DeCastro is gone the Bengals would do well to grab cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick.  Guys who are 6-foot-2 and have the skills to play corner in the NFL are gold mines.  Kirkpatrick could help lessen the blow of the Bengals huge mistake of letting Johnathan Joseph get away before last season.  If Kirkpatrick is gone, do not, I repeat, do not draft cornerback Janoris Jenkins out of North Alabama.  Way too many red flags waving are waving around Jenkins.  He was kicked out of Florida and is seen as a high risk in the character department.  I do believe in fresh starts and second chances, but never, and I mean never, with my first round picks.
    If DeCastro and Kirkpatrick are gone there is a chance wide receiver Michael Floyd will be around.  If he is, he's pulling on a tiger-striped helmet this season.  For years I have preached against drafting wide receivers too high.  Then along came a guy who goes by the initials A.J.  Floyd is seen as a perfect fit for a west-coast type of offense and could be the perfect compliment to the skills Green has brought to Cincinnati.
    If DeCastro, Kirkpatrick, and Floyd aren't around, is it too much to ask for linebacker Luke Kuechly to be around?  Almost assuredly, but if he is around he could be a guy that is way to good to pass up even if the aforementioned players are around.  The for Cincinnati St. Xavier and Boston College star has been described as the "cleanest" prospect in the draft.  By "clean", they mean no character or injury issues and no weaknesses in the game.  Give me the hometown kid is he's on the board.

With the 21st pick the Bengals should draft:
    Well, a lot of that depends on pick 17.  Let's suppose DeCastro wasn't taken at 17, then the Bengals should take guard Cordy Glenn out of Georgia.  He may not be quite the mover and puller that describes DeCastro's game, but the dude can play.  He is mammoth, 6-6, 345 pounds, and moved well enough to play some games at tackle for the Bulldogs.  He grades very well in the passing game and can be a mauler in the run game.  The Bengals would be well-served by taking this guy.
    If they drafted DeCastro at 17 there is a slight chance that corner Stephen Gilmore is on the board.  Doubtful, but possible.  If Gilmore is there and the Bengals need a corner, presto!  If Gilmore is not there and Jenkins is still available, I'm still passing on him.
    Should all of the above be off the board, I'm confident the Bengals can fill that wide receiver need here.  Kendall Wright of Baylor would be the best, and the best fit of the wide receivers that might be left on the board.  He can be a burner, but he is also decribed as fearless over the middle with great hands.  Wright is a guy who finds the holes to get open and can become a reliable outlet for a quarterback in trouble.  He also isn't afraid to block.  Wright would be my choice but Stephen Hill from Georgia Tech and Rueben Randle out of LSU would be good alternatives.  Randle especially seems to be a guy who would fit well across from Green.  Hill seems to possess a lot of the things Green brings to the game but perhaps not what the kind of game the Bengals need opposite A.J. 
    Let us not rule out a trade at this spot.  I'm skeptical of that but the Bengals are in a good position heading into the 2012 draft.  If drafting for need worked so well in 2011, then as Bill Cosby and his buddies once said in that movie released back in 1975, "Let's Do It Again!"

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Here Come The Cardinals

While the opening series is always big in Cincinnati this year I have caught myself looking forward to the second series of the season as much as the opener, maybe more. It's the St. Louis Cardinals coming in. The minute the schedule was released I noticed there were two series against the Cardinals early in the season. It may have caught my eye, but it certainly didn't catch the attention of veteran Scott Rolen. Rolen claimed he had no clue what was happening after the Marlin series. I thought he might be putting me on since he likes to mess with the media a little, but I think he was serious. He and a lot of the players make it a point to not look past anything. That is a great stance for them to take. But I always look forward to the Cardinals coming to town. In the 1970's Cincinnati had what St. Louis has now. I keep waiting for Cincinnati to yank back the title of "best baseball city in America." Maybe the commitment to players like Votto and Bruce is a step in that direction. But the Cardinals never stand pat. Lose and Albert Pujols, bring in a Carlos Beltran. It's an organization that always gives itself a chance to win. I think the Reds are setting themselves up to be that kind of program. There are still plenty of vibrant players at the minor league level who could pan out in the coming years. The Reds not only draft well, they sign well. They are not afraid to invest in young talent. So far it has brought them from the dark ages to a team that has won a division title. Staying on this path will deliver a team that is more than a one-hit wonder. After years and years of frustration it's fun to see the Reds on the right path. It's the same path the Cardinals have been on for decades.

 By the way, I absolutely loved the Masters this year. I know, I get into it every year, but there was something crazy every day. I know golf hasn't quite emerged from the age of "if Tiger isn't in it, I'm not interested." But maybe people who say that should wake up. There is crazy play in these tournaments every week. Keegan Bradley is a young guy who has shown an ability to hit wicked shots. Nothing more needs to be said after what Bubba Watson did Sunday. You want fearless? Bubba's shot out of the woods and hooking around the bend to the green in sudden death took more guts than a bungee jump on an old rubber band. Bubba went for it, and his reward was a Masters title and his first green jacket. It may not be his last the way left-handers are ripping through Augusta these days. Five of the last ten titles have been won by lefties. Mike Weir started the run in 2003, then Phil Mickelson won three, and along comes Bubba. By the way, for more on Bubba and his guts, check out this video Bubba appears in that was released last week. The more people watch this thing on Youtube, the more money will go to charity. By the way, Ben Crane, Hunter Mahan, and Rickie Fowler display a lot of guys for their appearance in the video too. Crane seems like a crazy dude. By the way, Bubba is the one in the bib overalls. Beautiful!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Reds Opening Day A Blast

Not just the game, but the entire day was a blast. It was like something I've never seen. The Banks was actually opn for business and serving Reds fans with an incredible atmosphere for pregame and post game festivities. If you were there, you know what I mean. The street party on Joe Nuxhall Way was like The Taste of Cincinnati meets Opening Day. It was incredible and is something this city has been starving for since the stadium tax was passed in the mid 1990's. So finally a Reds game doesn't mean show up near game time and vacate the premises as soon as the final out is recorded. A game can be an event, night in or night out. And what a game for the Reds. Jay Bruce had an awesome at-bat that led to a sacrifice fly and the Reds first run of the season. Bruce later hit a blast 442 feet off the batter's eye in center field. Good stuff. Newcomer Ryan Ludwick drove home a run with a double, and Chris heisey almost matched Bruce with a home run to center. Hesiey rattled the fence by the Reds bullpen with an RBI pinch double in the 8th inning. And what about that pitching? Johnny Cueto served notice that 2011 is the real Johnny. he three 7 shutout innings. Aroldis Chapman had two strikeouts in one inning of work. Sean Marshall finished off the 9th in his fiorst appearance with the Reds. A tidy 4-0 win. It was a big day all the way around. A crows of 42,956 was the largest to witness a regular season game at Great American Ball Park. The changes at the stadium were a hit with me. The new scoreboard graphics, the new video board in the concourses, and best of all- the flames that shoot out of the smokestacks in center field after a Reds pitcher records a strikeout. The flames are very cool. The Castellini's should be proud. The city should be proud. The Banks, the Findlay Market Parade, and the Reds provided local fans an incredible experience. It's just the beginning, but there are signs the whole season could be a blast.