Strength in numbers; an examination of who the Bengals started the regular season since 2006

When the preseason marches towards a welcomed conclusion, discussion and debate takes place on who the team cuts and keeps. Sometimes the topic goes into salary cap causalities; veterans that are cut, like Willie Anderson and Rudi Johnson last year. Other times, the debate talks about players that surprisingly make the roster. As jsl413 broke down, the Bengals depth is strong in some areas, weak in others. Which means the Bengals could strengthen weaken positions by increasing the depth. It's a numbers game.

You see that notably with linebackers. In 2006, Brian Simmons was nearing retirement; his production was falling. David Pollack, while great with potential, was only then starting to adjust from being a defensive end in college to an outside linebacker in the NFL. Rashad Jeanty was a rookie. Landon Johnson was arguably our best linebacker. If you look back to that season, only one linebacker remains (Jeanty) with the Bengals and as far as I can tell, three are still in the NFL (Jeanty, Johnson and Ahmad Brooks). The position didn't improve in 2007 and grew worse when it was decimated by injury. Dhani Jones, an unlikely stability force who would join the team later in the year, became the most productive middle linebacker during Marvin Lewis' tenure. By 2008, the linebackers were on pace to be the most talented group assembled, taking less into the regular season while numerically increasing their numbers at other spots, like running back, defensive tackles -- two spots with limited production. You'll obviously see that again this year, with Jones, Jeanty, Rivers, Brandon Johnson and Rey Maualuga as the depth leaders.

Running backs is another example. In 2006, and even 2007, Rudi Johnson was considered the team's feature back. No competition. Hands down. After all, he set franchise rushing records in 2004 and 2005. However, along with the offensive line's degradation, he started degrading (some will note his inadvisable weight loss regiment, losing all of his strength in 2006) until he was finally cut in 2008. More importantly, the Bengals decided to take two fullbacks because Jeremi Johnson was simply not the force he used to be and the team liked Coats' enough to make room for him. While the talent level dipped, the team decided to strengthen the depth with numbers.

Take note of this. Am I saying that the depth and position is stronger because there's more players? Obviously not. You either have talent or you don't. A combination of average talent still makes that position average. But it is a luxury that most teams have, which largely depends on play-calling philosophy, as well as projecting your opponents philosophies. If you take on more defensive backs in any given year because your passing defense is poor, it allows you additional packages. But it's also dictated by strength. You will note how once the team had Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph, they believed the position strong enough to only take four cornerbacks in 2008, as opposed to five in 2007 and 2006. Safeties increased because a long-standing issue of giving up big plays was still unanswered. You can bank on at least six safeties this year.

After the jump, you can see which players the Bengals took after cutdown day and how many players the team took at each position.

First thing we should note are the roster cut deadlines:

DATE EVENT
September 1st Roster cutdown to maximum of 75 players
September 5th Roster cutdown to maximum of 53 players

Here's a breakdown on what positions the Bengals after final cutdown heading into the regular season.

Position
2006
2007
2008
Quarterbacks
3
3
3
Running backs (including FB)
4
4 (1)
5 (2)
Wide Receivers
6
6
6
Offensive Linemen
9
8
9
Tight Ends
2
3
2
Total on Offense
24
24
25
 
Defensive Ends
4
5
4
Defensive Tackles
4
3
5
Linebackers
8
7
6
Cornerbacks
5
5
4
Safeties
5
6
6
Total on Defense
26
26
25
 
Specialists
3
3
3
       

After the jump, we chart which players the Bengals kept since 2006.

2006

Position # Players
Quarterbacks 3 Carson Palmer, Anthony Wright, Doug Johnson
RB / FB 4 Rudi Johnson, Kenny Watson, Quincy Wilson, Jeremi Johnson (FB)
WR 6 Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Chris Henry, Tab Perry, Antonio Chatman, Kelley Washington
O-Line 9 Levi Jones, Eric Steinbach, Rich Braham, Bobbie Williams, Willie Anderson, Andrew Whitworth, Eric Ghiaciuc, Stacy Andrews, Scott Kooistra
TE 2 Reggie Kelly, Tony Stewart
     
DE 4 Justin Smith, Bryan Robinson, Robert Geathers, Frostee Rucker
DT 4 Sam Adams, John Thornton, Domata Peko, Shaun Smith
Linebackers 8 Brian Simmons, Landon Johnson, David Pollack, Rashad Jeanty, Marcus Wilkins, Ahmad Brooks, A.J. Nicholson, Caleb Miller
Corners 5 Deltha O'Neal, Tory James, Johnathan Joseph, Keiwan Ratliff, Greg Brooks
Safeties 5 Dexter Jackson, Madieu Williams, Kevin Kaesviharn, Ethan Kilmer, Herana-Daze Jones
     
Specialists 3 Shayne Graham, Kyle Larson, Brad St. Louis
     

2007

Position # Players
Quarterbacks 3 Carson Palmer, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jeff Rowe
RB / FB 4 Rudi Johnson, Kenny Watson, Clinton Dawson, Jeremi Johnson (FB)
WR 6 Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Tab Perry, Glenn Holt, Skyler Green, Antonio Chatman
O-Line 8 Levi Jones, Willie Anderson, Bobbie Williams, Andrew Whitworth, Stacy Andrews, Scott Kooistra, Eric Ghiaciuc, Alex Stepanovich
TE 3 Reggie Kelly, Daniel Coats, Nate Lawrie
     
DE 5 Justin Smith, Robert Geathers, Bryan Robinson, Frostee Rucker, Jonathan Fanene
DT 3 Domata Peko, John Thornton, Michael Myers
Linebackers 7 Ahmad Brooks, Rashad Jeanty, Landon Johnson, Caleb Miller, Lemar Marshall, Andre Frazier, Anthony Schlegel
Corners 5 Deltha O'Neal, Leon Hall, Johnathan Joseph, Keiwan Ratliff, David Jones
Safeties 6 Dexter Jackson, Chinedum Ndukwe, Madieu Williams, Marvin White, Herana-Daze Jones, Ethan Kilmer
     
Specialists 3 Shayne Graham, Kyle Larson, Brad St. Louis
     

2008

Position # Players
Quarterbacks 3 Carson Palmer, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jordan Palmer
RB / FB 5 Chris Perry, Kenny Watson, DeDe Dorsey, Jeremi Johnson (FB), Daniel Coats (FB)
WR 6 Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Glenn Holt, Antonio Chatman, Andre Caldwell, Jerome Simpson
O-Line 9 Stacy Andrews, Levi Jones, Eric Ghiaciuc, Bobbie Williams, Andrew Whitworth, Dan Santucci, Kyle Cook, Scott Kooistra, Anthony Collins
TE 2 Reggie Kelly, Ben Utecht
     
DE 4 Antwan Odom, Robert Geathers, Jonathan Fanene, Frostee Rucker
DT 5 Domata Peko, John Thornton, Jason Shirley, Pat Sims, Michael Myers
Linebackers 6 Keith Rivers, Rashad Jeanty, Dhani Jones, Darryl Blackstock, Brandon Johnson, Corey Mays
Corners 4 Leon Hall, Johnathan Joseph, Simeon Castille, David Jones
Safeties 6 Dexter Jackson, Kyries Hebert, Herana-Daze Jones, Corey Lynch, Chinedum Ndukwe, Marvin White
     
Specialists 3 Shayne Graham, Kyle Larson, Brad St. Louis
     

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