This week's Six Pack of Hu-Dey is a simple one. We're back to old habits, examining areas on the roster that interest us, providing not-so-much predictions as we are confident feelers.
BACKUP QUARTERBACK. Will the Bengals keep three quarterbacks, or free up an additional roster spot for the secondary or wide receivers and only take two quarterbacks heading into the regular season? If only two, then will it be Jordan Palmer or J.T. O'Sullivan? All things considered, O'Sullivan appears to be the true backup to Carson Palmer, if for anything, he's the guy that trots in after the first-team unit takes the rest of the night off.
Jordan's most significant time came against Dallas, where he attempted 20 throws. Against Denver, Jordan will held out until the fourth quarter and against the Eagles, there was eight minutes remaining when he took his first snap. It's still possible Cincinnati reverses their roles, giving Jordan the second-team snaps against the Bills and Colts; the latter figuring to be another game he'll get the bulk of his work. But as of now, the impression you get is that the Bengals favor O'Sullivan.
It's probably because they realize the same thing. O'Sullivan. Jordan. Doesn't matter. If Carson goes down for any reason, we're totally screwed.
RUNNING BACK. In 2006 and 2007, the Bengals went into the regular season with three running backs and a fullback. In 2008, they took three running backs and two fullbacks in Jeremi Johnson and Daniel Coats. In 2009, they took four running backs and a fullback. How will Cincinnati setup their running back roster this year? First of all, you have to account that Brian Leonard is expected to be out for much of the opening month -- that's September for some of you. It stands to good reason that the Bengals will take five backs this year. I'm just guessing here, but I think Cedric Benson makes the team. As will Bernard Scott and Leonard.
Here's where things get tricky.
Will the Bengals want a third healthy running back with Cedric Peerman or James Johnson? I would say that's a fair assumption -- a school that I'm more than willing to accept. However, the question at fullback tends to make it a bit murky. How far away is Fui Vakapuna from being a roster lock? Is his shoulder injury going to be his ultimate downfall? Or is the injury expected to last into the regular season, therefore forcing the team to take a second fullback until Vakapuna returns. Joe Tronzo, Dan
Skuta Stuka Skuta or Daniel Coats could be that second fullback. Or has Vakapuna's injury knocked him so far backward that he's all but off the roster, giving those three fullbacks a shot? Tronzo, in my opinion, seems like the strongest of the three. But Coats has experience, and he's rumored to actually catch footballs.
If I were to make a prediction, then this is it: The sun will rise tomorrow and at some point you'll say the word, "awesome." Aside from that, I'm seeing Cincinnati take four pure running backs with Cedric Peerman and James Johnson battling for that fourth spot with a pure fullback being the fifth back. Surprise pick: Joe Tronzo.
WIDE RECEIVERS. Really, again? Must we continue talking about this? The Bengals have more receivers than they know what to do with.
Or do they?
Here comes the conditional statement: If Antonio Bryant is placed on Injured Reserve or released, then else. Cincinnati will have two spots on the roster. Injuries could factor against Maurice Purify, who in my mind wasn't a serious consideration. Quan Cosby's leverage came as a punt returner. Adam Jones and Jordan Shipley each have punt returns longer than Cosby this preseason. However, Cosby is getting the most looks, having seven chances to return the football (three fair caught), whereas Shipley and Jones each have had five (one fair catch each).
However, let's take away each player's longest return, which can artificially pump their averages.
I really like Cosby. I like his work ethic and his effort is always noticeable on the field. And I think he has a decent shot at making the squad. Not only does he have the best kickoff return this preseason, other guys competing against Cosby as receivers aren't bringing anything more to the table that would force Cosby off the team. Matt Jones? Blanked through two games. Dezmon Briscoe? One preseason reception. Plus, I'm pretty convinced that the Bengals are keeping Briscoe on the down-low so they can sneak him on the practice squad by clearing him through waivers.
Finally, consider that the sixth receiver is often listed as inactive on game day. Enter Jerome Simpson; the receiver that's promoted with so much talent, yet so little of a brain. Alright, we kid. Somewhat. Most reports we've heard through the years is that he's still unable to grasp the playbook while improvising routes that leads to incomplete passes or interceptions during the preseason. What better way to keep a player on the roster that's most likely going to be inactive on game day? And what better person than Simpson?
Of course, Bryant could screw all that up. And as Marvin Lewis says, that's a good thing.
LINEBACKER. Cincinnati took six linebackers every year since 2007. In 2006, they kept eight. As of this posting, the Bengals have nine linebackers on roster, not including the recently converted fullback Skuta. If the Bengals take six, they'll have to dump three linebackers. Vincent Rey has received praise since the start of training camp, whereas Abdul Hodge, the sturdy special teams linebacker and Rashad Jeanty, still injured, haven't received as much love.
Still, if Jeanty isn't ready by the regular season, he'll be a roster exemption through the first six weeks.
You figure that Rey Maualuga, Keith Rivers, Dhani Jones, Brandon Johnson and Michael Johnson make the team. That would leave four players fighting for the last spot if they take six; two of which are rookies in Rey (not Maualuga) and Roddrick Muckelroy. In that scenario, I'm going with Rey (not Maualuga).
However, it wouldn't be surprising if the team elected to keep upwards to eight linebackers this year. While holding onto the rookies, the team can keep Abdul Hodge with the two rookies, most likely upgrading special teams and the overall linebacker depth. That being said, Muckelroy is likely to be the first man out, probably a practice squad candidate. How else do you explain that Jordan Palmer has more solo tackles than a rookie middle linebacker, who was the opponent of Chase Coffman during Oklahoma Drills in which the second-year tight end actually received praise for his blocking skills. Freaking yikes!
SECONDARY. We had to lump this into one category because, well, it's loaded. Historically speaking since 2006, the Bengals have taken 10 players in the secondary, save for 2007, where apparently the decision to release Blue Adams or Ethan Kilmer was far too heart-breaking to follow through.
Locks in the secondary include: Leon Hall, Johnathan Joseph, Adam Jones, Roy Williams, Chris Crocker and Chinedum Ndukwe. That's six that we figure are sure-locks. You have to include Brandon Ghee and Morgan Trent as likely-locks giving you eight players in the secondary. Kyries Hebert is a special teams stud and Rico Murray could be the 10th player in the secondary for his secondary contributions.
PLACE KICKERS. We didn't re-sign Shayne Graham. Now we're left with this. Any questions?