We're finalizing our offensive roster locks on Friday, plugging those final gaps before Saturday's 53-man roster deadline. With only seven offensive linemen currently locked into the 2011 roster, we figure that the team will keep nine, leaving us two spots to fill.
#43: Dennis Roland: You guys know my feelings on this. Roland isn't a favorite of Cincy Jungle; particularly in pass protection schemes where he's often off-balance at the waist just as the defender is rewarded with the advantage. At the same time, this is the guy the Bengals viewed more favorably than Anthony Collins so you know that they like him -- and with our roster locks, that's what matters.
#44: Reggie Stephens: This was a tough one. As the preseason unfolded, I wasn't particularly impressed with the way that Jean-Gilles was often on skates during pass protection schemes against backup defensive tackles. Now as we read the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Stephens would be eligible for the practice squad, provided that his one accrued season (last year) didn't include at least eight games on the active 45-man roster (he wasn't). That being said Stephens, who could backup at guard if necessary, will be the team's primary backup center behind Kyle Cook.
[One Note: This "lock" is more about our unimpressive state watching Jean-Gilles than Stephens, who wasn't terribly impressive either. That being said, Stephens could still join the team the practice squad while Jean-Gilles is kept on the 53-man roster, allowing the team an option to keep the backup center while having Boling, who took snaps at center, be Cook's backup in case the center goes down with an injury and four guards.]
Offensive Tackles (4): Andrew Whitworth, Andre Smith, Anthony Collins, Dennis Roland
Offensive Guards (3): Bobbie Williams, Nate Livings, Clint Boling
Center (2): Kyle Cook, Reggie Stephens
We've also tied down our wide receiver position, though we really did flip a coin. Six wide receivers are generally kept on the 53-man roster past the deadline, leaving us with two spots to fill behind A.J. Green, Jerome Simpson, Andre Caldwell and Jordan Shipley.
Ryan Whalen had his best preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts, leading the Bengals with 33 yards receiving on four receptions (he caught all four passes thrown to him), all of which were converted into first downs.
But then Andrew Hawkins has had about as strong a preseason as you can expect for a guy battling for the sixth spot at wide receiver. Though he only caught one reception in four games for 15 yards receiving, Hawkins was virtually in on every play on special teams (not true, just seemed like it). He also returned a punt 32 yards, which was by far the team's best during the preseason.
#45 Quan Cosby and #46 Ryan Whalen. While we were largely impressed with Hawkins, Whalen offers more as a pure receiver and Quan Cosby, taking half of the team's total punts this preseason, is the team's primary punt returner. Though Hawkins should be a primary candidate for special teams when a roster spot opens down the road; provided he clears waivers and joins the team's practice squad (which we're expecting).
Wide Receiver (6): A.J. Green, Jerome Simpson, Andre Caldwell, Jordan Shipley, Quan Cosby, Ryan Whalen