After a week of mandatory practices, the Bengals running storylines continue. We examine some of the more important aspects of how the roster will shape out, mostly thanks to the quality work of the Bengals beat writers; an elite group of authors that form the brotherhood in which others find the long shot of drawing any hope of representing new voices.
Here's what we know.
Chad Ochocinco will be just fine, after recording notable receptions this week, the one word that described his return after another offseason absence this year: Rusty. Not out of shape. Not lost on the playbook. Rusty. That's good. We know in the case of someone like Chad, rusty will be a faded memory by the time training camp rolls around.
Jerome Simpson continued to appear like he belongs on the field for the first time in three years. While his repetitions decreased with Chad's return, it doesn't limit the likelihood that he could be the fifth of sixth receiver to make the squad. However, even that could be uncertain. Once you get to the deepest part in the lineup for a certain position, you start to start asking the question: How well does he contribute to special teams? I'd imagine that his biggest competition during training camp will be Quan Cosby, who could make the squad on special teams forcing the team to use him as a fifth or sixth wide receiver. And Matt Jones, who I think is a long-shot at best.
Jermaine Gresham and Jordan Shipley were praised for their work, adding to the overall excitement that the Bengals offense could make the same leap this year as the team's defense did in 2008 and 2009. Gresham and Shipley, it appears, not only will pick off passes through traffic, but can stretch the field too. If linebackers cover either, then their lack of speed should leave both players open. If safeties are called in to cover, then Chad and Antonio Bryant will be left with single-coverage. Did you just look at your calendar to see how far we are from September? Yea, me too.
Speaking of the defense, Michael Johnson received all sorts of Mike Zimmer love for his overall athletic ability, adapting to new positions in the playbook and the wild card representation he brings. Will he lineup at defensive end, or outside linebacker? Which side on the defense will he line up? Will he blitz? Pass rush off the line? Or will he drop into coverage? Of all the defensive players on this team right now, it appears that Michael Johnson won't just receive more playing time compared to last year, but he have no idea where he'll line up per play. Wild Card.
Mike Nugent went a perfect 12 for 12 while Dave Rayner only missed one all week. While that might be encouraging, neither kicker was faced with the regular season pressure-cooker of making a game-winning or game-tying field goal. Shayne Graham had no problems during minicamps making non-pressure field goals before. Of course you can't recreate those situations during practices. So if both kickers continue their consistent conversion rates, the one determining factor of pressure will probably be a guessing game in the end.
Bengals cornerback and return man Adam Jones isn't just representing another example of how outcasts turn into teammates and contributors, he's likely to take on a critical role as the team's nickel corner and likely the team's primary return man. I really like Quan Cosby; he was one of the league's better punt returners. But with a team stacked with this much talent heading into training camp, Cosby sits behind the eight-ball. For example, it's unlikely Cosby contributes to the offense like Jones will on defense. Therefore, you take the guy that can do both, which frees up a spot for another player at another position. On the other hand, if guys like Matt Jones doesn't make a splash during training camp, then one figures that Cosby makes the squad as the team's sixth wide receiver.
And no, with this team still sitting on the run-first offensive philosophy, I don't believe they'll take seven receivers into the regular season.
+ John Clayton takes a good look at the Bengals this week and he believes that the one deterrent is Cincinnati's tough schedule. Before you fire up the keyboard in response, Clayton really likes this squad and thinks that they did a good job getting better compared to last year's squad. But in my opinion, it's hard to dispute the team's rough schedule.
+ Jerome Simpson is one of several 2008 draft picks that Alex Marvez believes needs to step up.
Because he played at a small college (Coastal Carolina), the Bengals knew Simpson would need extra time to develop. However, the club’s clearly run out of patience, signing free-agent Antonio Bryant and drafting Texas receiver Jordan Shipley in the third round. With just one career catch, Simpson must show something in camp or he’s a likely goner.
+ ESPN's James Walker sits down with Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco.
+ CBS Sports' Any Benoit believes that former first round pick Reggie Williams' career is likely over.
+ Former Bengals center Eric Ghiaciuc was claimed by the Florida Tuskers, a UFL team. As Aaron Wilson writes that it "doesn't mean that Ghiaciuc will necessarily be joining the UFL team, but he wasn't claimed off waivers by any NFL teams since being released this week."
+ Free agent wide receiver Terrell Owens and his cousin are being sued in Alabama.
+ Yahoo Sports! writer Jason Cole ranks the league's offensive lines, ranking Cincinnati 15th.
The Bengals ranked No. 24 in run efficiency last season, but that’s a bit of an illusion. Their stats were brought down by the fact that they ran so often to cover for the lack of a great passing game. That made Cincinnati far more one-dimensional than they should be. If the addition of wide receiver Antonio Bryant(notes) and rookie tight end Jermaine Gresham(notes) help the passing game, the offensive line will show statistical improvement. In addition, if the Bengals can get second-year left tackle Andre Smith(notes) on the field and get him motivated, they have a chance to make significant strides with this unit.
Other rankings of Cole's include Cincinnati quarterbacks at 11th, Bengals running backs fifth and wide receivers at 13th.