Five Position Battles To Watch During The Bengals Preseason Finale

CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 25: Brandon Johnson #59, Dan Skuta #51 and Robert Sands #49 of the Cincinnati Bengals combine to tackle Tyrell Sutton #22 of the Carolina Panthers during an NFL preseason game at Paul Brown Stadium on August 25, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Bengals won 24-13. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
If There's A Battle At Running Back...

We have three running backs (and a fullback) locked into our 2011 roster prediction; Cedric Benson, Bernard Scott, Brian Leonard and Chris Pressley. There's a good chance that the team could take a fourth running back, even though Benson should be released -- after serving a brief stint in jail for a May 2010 assault -- for the regular season opener.

That being said the Bengals really don't have a true backup for Benson, as a workhorse running back. Bernard Scott is the type of running back that changes the pace of the game, adds depth to the passing game when the team wants to utilize his speed out of the backfield -- and we hope that he gets a lot of touches. But pounding the football is not an attribute Scott has shown the durability for. Brian Leonard is a possible candidate but we don't like an option that adds strain to his favorite play: leaping over everyone, screen pass to the left -- along with sneaky runs up the middle on fake punt plays.

Now the team could be fine with only three running backs and they'll utilize the roster spot for another position. However if they add a fourth running back (fifth if we include a fullback), it comes down to Cedric Peerman, Jay Finley and John Griffin -- and Peerman is the heavy favorite.

Bo Scaife Determines Tight End Roster

While waiting on word with Scaife's future with the Bengals -- the tight end is currently seeking the advice of specialists regarding his shoulder -- Chase Coffman and Colin Cochart could be fighting for a job in Cincinnati during Thursday night's preseason finale. Jermaine Gresham returned to practice this week and could start the game for at least a possession, but a majority of the game should be a fight between Cochart and Coffman with the victor joining the 53-man roster.

And there's always the chance that even if he wins, Cochart goes on the practice squad in an effort to keep both tight ends. But we imagine that the third tight end on the roster, from the Bengals point of view, needs an accomplished blocker for goalline situations (and special teams), which heavily favors Cochart.

The point is obviously mute if Scaife goes on season-ending injured reserve, allowing both players to join the 53-man roster.

It's A Numbers Game At Safety

As of this posting we have three safeties locked into our 2011 roster: Chris Crocker, Reggie Nelson, Robert Sands. There's a chance that the Bengals take six safeties this year, overloading the secondary where talent is decent amongst the starters but increasingly unproven on the back-end.

There's just a ton of open interpretation at safety right now. We choose Robert Sands over Jeromy Miles and Gibril Wilson as a lock simply because no one has risen above the other from our perspective; if all things are considered equal, the team will keep the player that they drafted and use the practice squad however they can.

In reality Thursday night will be huge for the safety position. Taylor Mays, who we feel makes the team, will receive significant snaps for the first time in a Bengals uniform. We're not quick to shut down Gibril Wilson just because he played only his first NFL game in over a calendar year. Jeromy Miles, a prime practice squad candidate, factors into the equation. Anything could happen to fill in the back-end of the roster. Do they go with experience (Wilson) or potential (Mays).

...And At Cornerback

Like safety we're going to assume between five and six corners, using numbers to protect a position that's increasingly inexperienced on the back-end. With Leon Hall, Nate Clements, Morgan Trent and Kelly Jennings locked into our roster, it leaves possibly two spots open for competition (and a total of 11 defensive backs).

Whether they take one or two, the battle for this spot boils down to Jonathan Wade, Brandon Ghee, Korey Lindsey and Rico Murray. With our best guess on whom makes the roster first, Murray has a slight edge because the Bengals like his versatility, playing every position in the secondary, plus significant contributions on special teams.

Brandon Ghee is behind the eight-ball; he'll have to put on an explosive performance to remain in the discussion. If it comes down to Jonathan Wade and Korey Lindsey, then the choice is easy based on the philosophy chosen. Do you want potential (Lindsey) or experience (Wade)?

Final Two Spots At Wide Receiver Boils Down To Special Teams

It's becoming increasingly clear that Quan Cosby is going to make the roster this year for his role on special teams; every year we're not sure he makes the team (because we over think things too much) and every year he easily does. Ryan Whalen's hamstring has limited his preseason, enabling Andrew Hawkins to make nice special teams plays that's impressed head coach Marvin Lewis:

“I’ve been really impressed with Andrew. He’s come in and worked extremely hard and kind of caught up to everybody else quickly after being released by the Rams. He’s making the most of this opportunity. When you’ve got guys competing for jobs on football teams, that’s the way you want to go about it. He’s a great lesson for some of these rookie players in their first time in professional football. Obviously he’s been around for a little bit. He’s had a couple of years playing in Canada and so forth, so he’s been through it a little bit. I think he’s making the most of this opportunity, no question.”

Would it be so hard to believe that the final two spots at wide receiver (behind A.J. Green, Jerome Simpson, Jordan Shipley and Andre Caldwell), would be two special teams players in Quan Cosby and Andrew Hawkins?

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