Spanning the NFL globe and pounding the Cincinnati Bengals’ pavement with questions, answers, analysis, opinion and perspective for “Chicksterettes”, young and old, male and female, “studs” and “non-studs” kind enough to write us. Hope you like the answers.
Q: Chickster, I love the Bengals, especially A.J. Green. Who’s your choice to line up opposite Green as the team’s No. 2 wide receiver? — Sue in Milton, Ky.
A: The “cat” that lines up as the No. 2 wideout had better be a human named Mohamed Sanu, the rookie third-round draft pick (No. 83 overall) from Rutgers. The Bengals learned a harsh lesson from The Jerome Simpson Experiment. They let a talented player sit and rot for nearly three seasons before he began paying dividends. Now he’s gone … to the godforsaken Minnesota Vikings. You wanted Sanu. Now develop him. Play him. Watch him blossom.
Q: What about wide receivers Armon Binns and Brandon Tate, who are drawing rave reviews from offensive coordinator Jay Gruden? — Gary in Columbus.
A: Gimme a break. They look good now in “underwear ball,” but let’s wait until the pads come on. I fully expect Sanu, Jordan Shipley and Marvin Jones to pass ‘em by. And don’t count out Andrew Hawkins. All the guy does is make plays.
Q: What do you expect from quarterback Andy Dalton this year? — Ted in Kettering.
A: I expect a more confident player, and a much more vocal leader. The dude’s been working out on the weights, too, dramatically improving his upper-body strength. I couldn’t be happier with Dalton.
Q: Do you think Sporting News will list Dalton among the NFL’s top 100 players? — Todd in Cincinnati.
A: He should. But he wasn’t. I couldn’t care less either way. The only thing that matters is … WINNING!
Q: What’s your projected order of finish in the AFC North Division? — Tim in Dayton.
A: Ravens, Bengals, Steelers and Browns. Baltimore is arguably the most complete team — not just in the division, but in the AFC. The Bengals are coming on strong and ready to make a move with their young bloods. Pittsburgh has a new offensive coordinator in Todd Haley, who replaces Bruce Arians, and the transition won’t be easy for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The Browns? Well, they’re the Browns.
Q: Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma has been suspended for the entire 2012 season by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for his role in New Orleans’ pay-to-injure bounty program. Is Vilma getting the shaft? — Paul in West Chester.
A: You better believe he is. Vilma has sued Goodell for defamation, and I hope Vilma wins. A two-to-four game suspension without pay would be plenty enough to get a strong message across. No person should be barred from life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Q: Is Chick your real name or just a nickname? How did you get it? — Frank in Fairfield.
A: My real name is Charles Albert Ludwig Jr. I was called “Chuck” as a kid growing up in the Price Hill section of Cincinnati, and all through college. I took the “U” out of Chuck in 1976 and inserted an “I” out of respect for Charles “Chick” Evans, founder of the Chick Evans Scholarship for Golf Caddies (that I won to Ohio State). For a sportswriter, “Chick” is much sexier than “Chuck.” Also, I named my son Evan Charles — Chick Evans in reverse.
Q: Chickster, can you give me your opening day starters in the secondary? — Joe in Fairborn.
A: Free safety Reggie Nelson, strong safety Taylor Mays, left cornerback Terence Newman and right cornerback Nate Clements. I look for the club’s No. 1 pick, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, to break into the starting lineup my midseason.
Q: Which starter’s job is in jeopardy? — Troy in Hillsboro.
A: Middle linebacker Rey Maualuga is on the hot seat. He’ll stone you at the goal line. But he overruns plays, gets washed out in traffic, struggles to separate from blocks and whiffs in the open field. And we all know about Maualuga’s off-the-field antics. Too many brushes with the law. Once his rookie contract has run its course, he’ll be gone.
Q: What do you want to see from rookie fifth-round free safety George Iloka out of Boise State? — Tom in Miamisburg.
A: The same thing I always want to see from a young, hungry defender: Snot bubbles.
Q: Chickster, here’s an off-the-beaten path question. You use the words “stud” and “studette” an awful lot. What is your definition of studette? — Dan in Dallas, Texas.
A: A “studette” is a woman whose exquisite beauty and excruciating charm are exceeded only by her extreme intelligence. Could you please send one my way? Thanks.
(Follow Chick Ludwig on twitter @ChickLudwig)