Mailbag: Four Questions Entering Chicago

Andy Lyons

We take a look at four of our questions heading into the team's regular season opener against the Chicago Bears.

Did the Bengals re-signed Dennis Roland because Andrew Whitworth is hurt?

Indirectly, yes. Roland, entering his sixth season with the Bengals, will add another layer of depth on a team that's a little fragile at tackle right now. Heading into our eighth regular season covering the Bengals, the quotes being attributed to Whitworth and Lewis, along with Whitworth missing two practices, forces us to conclude that he won't play this Sunday against the Chicago Bears.

But it won't be Roland that replaces him. That job goes to Anthony Collins, who in my opinion could be a starter with another team (albeit starving for talent at the position). Based on this team's overall usage of Roland over the years, he'll probably back up Andre Smith at right tackle, who tweaked his knee two weeks ago against the Dallas Cowboys. Tanner Hawkinson, who suffered an injury against the Falcons, likely backs up Collins at left tackle.

When Whitworth returns, Roland's position on the team suddenly becomes very precarious and may lead to the eventual linebacker signing that we're projecting at some point in September.

How much will Margus Hunt play against the Bears?

It's entirely possibly that he won't even be a game-day inactive.

Making the 53-man roster is one thing, but the true roster is the active game-day roster of 46 players, meaning that seven will sit. Cincinnati will pick their best 46 according to their projected game-plan and the opponent; and that may not include a fifth defensive end. However, the Bengals may add Hunt to special teams, especially against field goals and point after kick attempts.

But I wouldn't be shocked if he's inactive in week one.

Will Carlos Dunlap and Dre Kirkpatrick finally return after undergoing concussion protocols?

The belief is yes, they'll be ready to go. Dunlap returned to full-contact practice last week after missing most of the team's training camp and the entire preseason.

Dunlap and Kirkpatrick fully participated during practice on Wednesday and Thursday. The key is Friday's practice. If a player is out on Friday after fully participating earlier in the week, then something happened during practice. Otherwise, we're expecting both to be ready.

Now the question is, will Dunlap start? Despite being listed as the first-team defensive end last season, it was Robert Geathers that was credited with the start. How important is that? It's not. Dunlap was at his best when the team kept him fresh for obvious passing downs and significant fourth quarter work.

Kirkpatrick, on the other hand, has work ahead of him after his showing against the Dallas Cowboys. Even if he's on the team's 46-man active roster, I'm not sure how much he'll play as the fourth-string cornerback. Leon Hall and Terence Newman will manage the opposing receivers and when the Bears go with three, Adam Jones will join the game when the defense calls nickel. He'll get some snaps, largely because Brandon Ghee isn't expected to play. But I wouldn't count on Kirkpatrick much. Not right now.

What are you looking forward to the most this weekend against the Bears?

Besides the regular season kicking off, I want to see how the weapons on this offense interacts. And I'm not just talking about rookies Tyler Eifert and Giovani Bernard. Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu are a year older and figure to be significant contributors.

The entire starting offensive line is returning -- even with Collins expected to start, he's been with the team since 2008.

Ultimately the sum of those pieces will create the whole picture. And thus begins the quest to get everyone off of Andy Dalton's back... or add more people depending on how the season goes.

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