We've been reading plenty of positive reviews with players that are stepping up in roles where starters are either hurt, missing, or simply struggling (to keep their weight down).
August 26: Deadline to get roster down to a maximum of 75 players.
August 30: Deadline to get roster down to a maximum of 53 players.
Brandon Johnson. Keith Rivers' agent isn't near the Bengals camp, or Cincinnati, or anywhere in Kentucky, one beat writer writes. His holdout appears to be stalled, either because of ridiculous demands or waiting on Derrick Harvey to sign with the Jaguars. The man designated as the team's backup WILL, Brandon Johnson, has taken the spot and even impressed the team's starting quarterback. "I'm excited to see him," Palmer said. "He's made some unbelievable plays on defense." Rivers time to make camp and keep the starting job that was given to him for kickoff weekend, is running desperately thin. If his holdout misses any chunk of the pre-season games, then I would expect that Rivers 2008 season may be as a backup until he has the chance to out-perform Brandon.
Daniel Coats. During Oklahoma drills, Daniel Coats "hammered" Dhani Jones. As Jeremi Johnson's participation during camp is reduced to conditioning to lose the weight he gains every off-season, it opened the door for Coats to become the team's starting fullback. Jeremi is still listed as the team's starting fullback on the team's website, but Coats is quickly giving the team confidence that he can take the role. You have to wonder, not only will Coats be the team's starting fullback, but will Jeremi Johnson even survive the first round of cuts?
James Johnson. Every article and reference to Rudi Johnson, isn't just positive, rather it's impressive. His bulk has returned, as well his leg power, yet he's quicker now. Chris Perry is wooing the crowd with his athleticism, drawing reviews that Perry's multi-faceted role has returned fully. Kenny Watson enabled the Bengals to have some success on the ground last season and adds incredibly to the team's depth while DeDe Dorsey turned some impressive rushes last season. Since Dorsey has missed time, and Rudi Johnson taking time off as a benefit of being a veteran (and to keep his legs fresh), James Johnson shows up. With great vision, and hands out of the backfield, Palmer compared the Kansas State free agent to Warrick Dunn. Dorsey will return next week, and will stuff the running back position more, but I'm not sure Dorsey will have another shot at making the squad; not after hearing the impression people are having with James Johnson.
A quick note: When the season ended last year, we had no idea what this team would look like at running back. We thought Rudi Johnson was done, that Chris Perry was too injury-prone, that Kenny Watson wasn't an ideal feature back and DeDe Dorsey being an inexperienced back with limited playing time. Yet, we're better off now than we were this time last year and the only difference is that the Bengals may have struck gold with a college free agent.
Marcus Maxwell. From all reports, no player has risen above the rest to claim that number three wide receiver spot that's being waged between six prospect players. Since Chris Henry was released, the unknown with Chad Johnson's off-season, the year after this one for T.J. Houshmandzadeh, the Bengals needed to develop a new core of receivers beyond 2009. And thus far, they're doing just that. Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell figure to be the team's future, while guys like Mario Urrutia and Glenn Holt fill in as critical components. But then there's Marcus Maxwell, a seventh-round draft pick out of Oregon. Wide receiver picked in the seventh-round from a school inside the state of Oregon? Hummm. Working extremely hard over the off-season, Maxwell has been labeled as the Bengals secret weapon. Maxwell is 6'3", 210 pounds out of a small California town named Hercules. Yea, he's making the squad.
Frostee Rucker. If there's a player that's playing with the attitude of "last chance", then it has to be Rucker (you could define that with Jeremi Johnson too, but I really believe that his chance has already left him). When Antwan Odom suffered an injury during the team's first day of training camp, the position became a fight. Even though Odom's timeline is still indefinite, he'll return in time for kickoff weekend, it's expected. In the meantime, Rucker's door for opportunity widened and he knows that now is his time to step-up.