With the Bengals reporting to camp today (Sunday), and starting practices Monday morning, I figured we should examine some questions. First, the offense.
#3 Quarterback. Even though Carson Palmer has to hold off a hard charging Ryan Fitzpatrick for the starting quarterback gig, the #3 spot will be the team's interesting quarterback battle between Jeff Rowe and Jordan Palmer. Not that this position is critical (if we're forced to the #3 QB, we're doomed anyway), but you wonder if the Bengals will keep little Palmer over Rowe because of the brothers connection. And it's not like Rowe has proven much since the Bengals would rather hold onto Fitzpatrick rather than trying their hand with Rowe.
- Carson Palmer
- Ryan Fitzpatrick
- Rowe vs. J. Palmer
#4 Running Back. Kenny Watson is listed as Rudi Johnson's backup running back, likely giving Johnson a break while Chris Perry (if healthy) resumes his third-down-back role. The biggest thing to note here is whether DeDe Dorsey can get healthy and beat out James Johnson for the #4 spot.
- Rudi Johnson
- Kenny Watson
- Chris Perry
- Dorsey vs. James Johnson
#6 Wide Receiver. As of now, on Bengals.com, Chatman is listed over Caldwell while Maxwell is listed as Chad Johnson's backup. The veterans are backing up the starters while the rookies are backing up the backups. Holt could jump into the mix also, replacing Maxwell rather than the two rookies or three veterans. Someone on this unit is going to the practice squad... if not Maxwell, then Mario Urrutia (if not both).
- Chad Johnson
- T.J. Houshmandzadeh
- Antonio Chatman
- Marcus Maxwell vs. Glenn Holt
- Andre Caldwell
- Jerome Simpson
Starting Right Tackle. At the annual pre-training camp luncheon, Stacy Andrews was declared the team's starting right tackle. However, Lewis said that if Anderson proves he's healthy and still able, he'll have a chance winning back his claim. Anthony Collins will back up Levi Jones. Scott Kooistra (T/G) and Dane Uperesa figure into the mix. Dan Santucci and Kyle Cook will battle it out for backup center behind Eric Ghiaciuc.
#4 Tight End. Reggie Kelly's role as the team's fullback/tight end hybrid will likely knock Jeremi Johnson out of a job. And to be honest, I'm not sure how the Bengals will declare the starting lineup. Will Ben Utecht start at tight end while Kelly starts in the backfield? Will the Bengals go three-wide with a tight end in single-back formation? Does Nate Lawrie have a shot over Matt Sherry? Brad St. Louis being the team's long snapper isn't likely to be cut unless someone else on the roster picks up the unceremonious job. I wouldn't be surprised if the Bengals kept Kelly, Utecht and St. Louis while waiving Lawrie and placing Sherry on the Practice Squad.
- Reggie Kelly
- Ben Utecht
- Brad St. Louis (LS)
- Matt Sherry vs. Nate Lawrie
#4 Defensive end. If the Bengals take four defensive ends, then there's going to be serious competition here. Let's take out the starters from conversation -- Antwan Odom and Robert Geathers are starting. Behind Odom is Frostee Rucker and behind Geathers is Jonathan Fanene. Let's now take Fanene out of conversation after he signed a three-year deal this of-season. So we're left with a competition between Angelo Craig, Frostee Rucker and Eric Henderson. Another thing to consider is that the team could place Rucker vs. Henderson while placing Craig on the Practice Squad -- or the team keeps five defensive ends, uses Fanene as a hybrid DE/DT -- sealing Michael Myers fate for sure -- and keeping Rucker and Henderson while placing Craig on the Practice Squad. No, I'm not giving Craig much of a shot, but we haven't seen him perform just yet. And that's why they have training camps... he has a shot over the bubble players as anyone.
- Robert Geathers
- Antwan Odom
- Jonathan Fanene
- Rucker vs. Craig vs. Henderson
Defensive Tackle. Likely a unit that's mostly set, the Bengals will start Domata Peko and John Thornton while rookies Jason Shirley and Pat Sims will rotate into the mix. Antwon Burton is another Practice Squad candidate while no one in the world expects the Bengals to hang onto Michael Myers.
Middle Linebacker. Dhani Jones will start at middle linebacker with Corey Mays and Anthony Hoke behind him. I expect all three to make the squad, mostly to solidify special teams.
Starting SAM. Rashad Jeanty and Ahmad Brooks will compete for the strong-side outside linebacker spot (the loser being the backup). Darryl Blackstock figures into the mix as a special teams player and Dan Howell is a potential Practice Squad player.
#2 WILL. With Keith Rivers given the starting gig at WILL, and Brandon Johnson backing him up, Jim Maxwell would work for the backup spot and playing on special teams.
#4 Cornerback. Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall will start the season as the Bengals cornerbacks. Deltha O'Neal will backup both while also figuring as the team's nickel back. David Jones will likely make the squad as the fourth cornerback, but will face competition from Ethan Kilmer and Simeon Castille. Kilmer will be on the roster for special teams.
- Johnathan Joseph
- Leon Hall
- Deltha O'Neal
- David Jones vs. Ethan Kilmer vs. Simeon Castille
Strong Safety. Most people were surprised that Dexter Jackson was declared as the team's starting strong safety over Chinedum Ndukwe. It's not like Ndukwe won't get his snaps either, while playing a goal line type of formation, possibly as an additional linebacker. And it would seem that Jackson will hand off the starting job to Ndukwe at some point this season. John Busing doesn't figure as a factor -- other than special teams.
Free Safety. It's Marvin White's to lose. Kyries Hebert, Corey Lynch, and Herana-Daze Jones will compete behind White. One of these guys will be the odd man out. I see the team keeping three, specifically to solidify special teams while the fourth will be dropped. However, if that fourth player ends up being Lynch, he could be on the team's Practice Squad.
Practice Squad -- this is a candidate list of some practice squad players. I came up with six at this point, but only listed in case they lose their position battles.
- Matt Sherry (TE)
- Mario Urrutia (WR)
- Angelo Craig (DE)
- Antwon Burton (DT)
- Dan Howell (SAM)
- Corey Lynch (FS)