Justin Smith is a nice fellow, a hard-tryer, a soft-spoken, cog-in-the-machine
type that every defense wishes it had. But he is not a franchise player, not
when he has averaged seven sacks and 44 tackles a season in his six years. He
is, however, the closest thing the Bengals have to a great player on defense.
(Who did you think we were going to anoint here? Domata Peko? Rashad Jeanty?)
It's great to have a 4,000-yard quarterback, but if your defense is
surrendering a league-worst 3,818 passing yards--as Cincinnati did--isn't that
a wash? The Bengals needed to improve their front seven, but instead of
entering the Joey Porter sweepstakes they settled for a linebacking retread,
Edgerton Hartwell, whose last two years were plagued by injury.
If young players
like Hall and second-year middle linebacker Ahmad Brooks don't mature in a
hurry on that defense, all the naval lessons in the world aren't going to make
this the best damn ship in the NFL.
(M) Monday (S)
23 at Seattle
1 NEW ENGLAND