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Bengals’ first round pick Andre Smith breaks foot

Andre Smith clearly wasn’t in football shape when he signed his $42 million deal, because the first round pick fractured his foot in practice on Tuesday just 48 hours after signing his rookie contract.

From Bengals.com:

In a statement released through the Bengals public relations department, Lewis said, “Andre suffered a small fracture in his left foot during a non-contact drill. Our medical staff tells me the injury will not require surgery. It’s too soon to closely predict how long it will be before he can return to practice. But it looks like he’s going to miss a few weeks.”

“A few weeks” could mean anything. Cornerbacks David Jones and Morgan Trent suffered foot fractures during this preseason and their rehab took about five weeks. But Smith’s may not be as long because both Jones and Trent had surgery.

This is yet another bump in the road for a player who was suspended for the 2009 Sugar Bowl, showed up to the NFL combine out of shape and then held out for the entire length of the Bengals’ training camp.

Cincinnati’s offensive line had question marks before Smith’s injury, but the team was hoping that the sixth overall pick would eventually start at right tackle this season and anchor the line. That could still happen at some point, but there’s no doubt that Smith’s rookie season is off to a rough start.

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The top five best, worst and most improved offensive lines in the NFL

There’s a secret that most good fantasy football owners don’t want you to know: Knowing how good (or how bad) an offensive line is could be the difference between you making the playoffs in your league, and winning the whole damn thing.

The bottom line is that the offensive line is the key to whether or not an offense is going to be successful in any given season. They’re the reason why guys like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brews are able to rack up terrific passing yards year in and year out, and why Brandon Jacobs, Michael Turner and Adrian Peterson continue to be solid fantasy backs. So knowing which O-lines are quality and which act like revolving doors to their team’s backfield will give you an edge on draft day.

Below is a ranking of the top five best lines, the top five most improved lines and the top five worst lines in the NFL heading into the ’09 season. Use these rankings as a tool to help you make better decisions on draft day and to also aid you when you’re stuck between a couple of players in later rounds.

Granted, we’re not advocating bumping certain players to the top of your pre-draft rankings just based on these rankings. The Lions offensive line is the worst in football, but if Kevin Smith is there for the taking in the 5th round, by all means jump on him. This article is purely meant to be a helpful aid; obviously you still have to use solid judgment on draft day.

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Bengals sign Roy Williams, release Levi Jones

The Bengals made a pair of moves on Wednesday, signing free agent safety Roy Williams (formally of the Cowboys) and releasing left tackle Levi Jones.

In Jones, Cincinnati had been looking for the opportunity to give up on the former top 10 pick for a couple of years now and after drafting Alabama offensive tackle Andre Smith with the No. 8 overall selection in last month’s draft, they finally had a reason to. Jones is still relatively young at only 29, but he has major durability issues and has largely underachieved throughout his career. He’ll catch on somewhere because he plays such a needed position in the NFL, but it might not be until later this summer after teams have had a chance to evaluate the talent that is already on their roster.

As for Williams, he reunites with his former Dallas defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer in Cincinnati, but it remains to be seen if he can beat out Nedu Ndukwe at the strong safety position. Williams is fantastic in run support, but equally brutal in pass coverage and doesn’t exhibit a ton of range. Still, this was a low-risk signing and maybe Zimmer can get the most out of what is left of Williams’ career.

Was Rey Maualuga a handful at USC?

According to a report by Michael Lombardi of the National Football Post, one of the reasons why linebacker Rey Maualuga fell in last month’s draft (he was selected by the Bengals with the 38th overall pick after most projected him to go in the first round) was because he was a “handful” at USC.

Rey Maualuga, the second-round pick of the Bengals, needs to make sure he walks a very tight behavior line in Cincinnati. Maualuga slipped in the draft for a number of reasons, and he must keep his off-the-field behavior in check and not create problems for the coaching staff. In talking to some NFL people, I heard that Maualuga was not always compliant with the rules on and off the field at USC. He was, as one GM said to me, putting it mildly, “a handful.”

Well, Maualuga wound up in the right place if he’s intent on being disorderly.

When you think about it, Maualuga slipping into the second round isn’t that big of a surprise. First of all, scouts consider him a two-down linebacker in that he can be a force against the run, but a liability in coverage and thus he’ll have to come off the field in obvious passing situations. And if teams knew he caused coaches grief off the field while at USC, then it makes sense that NFL GMs hesitated taking him in the first round. No pro team is going to want to invest first round money on a player who was known to be (to borrow the exact word from the report) a handful while in college, not to mention will have limitations on the field at the next level.

The Bengals’ draft this year has boom or bust written all over it, or at least their first two picks do. Andre Smith was the riskiest pick in the first round given all the baggage he carried with him coming into the draft and now it’s clear that Maualuga was a risk as well, even for the second round. But both players are immensely talented and if they can fly straight and just play football, then Cincy might have gotten two steals. Plus, there’s a difference between being a handful and being destructive. We’re not talking about choir boys here and as long as Maualuga can respect his coaching staff and not get in trouble with the law, then I doubt the Bengals care if he’s a bit of a character.

65 Observations about the 2009 NFL Draft

I’m going to channel my inner Peter King and dole out a crap load of quick-hit thoughts on last weekend’s NFL draft, which by the way, was one of the more unpredictable drafts I have ever witnessed.

Below are 65 observations from the 2009 NFL Draft. Why 65? I don’t know – don’t worry about it. Originally I came up with 62, but I know that some people freak out when things aren’t in round numbers, so I added three more. But the number 65 means nothing, so don’t waste time searching for its meaning.

Obviously these are all my opinions and feel free to debate them. But before you do, I already know that it supposedly takes three seasons to fully grade a draft and that no prospect is a sure thing. Again, I’m projecting here – so lighten up and let’s strike up some good debates.

1. Outside of the fact that he’s now a millionaire and could buy a small country, I kind of feel bad for Matthew Stafford. You know some halfwit fan or media member can’t wait to utter the comment, “For $72 million, he should have made that pass.” I hate the fact that money plays such a huge role in sports because when you get down to it, completing a pass, making a catch or kicking a field goal has nothing to do with how many zeros are on your paycheck.

2. I know I’m not saying anything new here, but the rookie salary structure is a joke. When teams don’t even want a top 5 pick anymore because of the financial burden that comes with it, there’s a huge problem.

3. The kid could turn out to be the next Ryan Leaf on the field, but Lion fans have to at least take comfort in the fact that Matthew Stafford is saying all the right things at this point. He did an interview with the NFL Network on Sunday and he talked about how he wants to be a starter right away, but also wants to learn and be patient in his development. From all accounts, he looks like he has a great head on his shoulders.

4. If Tyson Jackson turns out to be the next Richard Seymour like Chiefs’ GM Scott Pioli believes, then nobody is going to remember (or care) that he was taken with the third overall pick in a weak draft class.

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