Sometimes it's easy to tell who is going to make the final cut on an NFL team and who isn't. This isn't going to be one of those years. I don't remember the last time that there was this much talent just fighting for a spot on the team. Not for a spot in the starting lineup... no, just for a spot on the team.
With the last two drafts bringing in players like Rey Maualuga, Michael Johnson, Jermaine Gresham, Jordan Shipley, Carlos Dunlap and Bernard Scott (man, I wish I could say Andre Smith right now), and free agency acquisitions such as Terrell Owens, Cedric Benson, Adam Jones and Tank Johnson, the Bengals are loaded with more talent than they have been in a long, long time. Whether the Bengals lost their opening preseason "game" or not, anybody who knows football, knows that the Cincinnati Bengals have the potential to be a force to be reckoned with on both sides of the ball.
So, you just read that last paragraph. Are you pumped? I don't really see how you couldn't be even if you're a massive pessimist (and if you're a massive pessimist and a Bengals fan... well, I don't know how you've survived this long). All of the talent makes a fans job easier. It's easier to root for a team that wins instead of loses. You get to walk back to the tailgating lot in your jersey with your head high and your chest out a little, almost like you were personally responsible for what happened on the field, after a big win. It's a good feeling. There is only one job that is made hard by this much talent. That job belongs to anybody who has a say in who makes the final cut and who doesn't, especially the last few cuts.
The depth chart for the offense and defense are set-ish this season. We know who's going to be throwing the ball, who's going to be running the ball and who's going to be catching the majority of the passes. Maybe the fifth and sixth receiver is a mystery right now but how often does the sixth receiver play? Same goes for defense. We know who's going to be lined up against the wide receivers and who's going to be rushing the passers. Dhani Jones isn't going to be cut to make way for Roddrick Muckelroy. It's just not going to happen. So, is there a way to predict who may be on the bubble and who may give the "cutters" a panic attack when it's time to make a final decision. Yes there is. Special teams.
What did come through is that the deepest Bengals roster in Marvin Lewis’ eight seasons was on display. The speed and versatility showed up and the last four or so cuts are going to be the hardest around here in years. The guy who holds a big key to it all is special teams coach Darrin Simmons and while he wasn’t satisfied he did see a lot of good things emerge.
Simmons is going to have a huge say in who wears stripes in the regular season and who doesn't. So many players are relying on their ability to return punts or kick offs as well as tackling returners or long snapping just to make the team this season. Guys like Quan Cosby and Andre Caldwell may be relying on their ability to return kicks or punts in order to push them over the edge this season. There are a few guys like that on the roster right now which means there are a few guys who are going to be absolutely killing themselves in order to show Simmons and the other coaches that there is something special about them that sets them apart from everybody else.
I say it's a good problem to have. I'd rather have too much talent than a lack of talent any day. I do feel a little bad for the decision makers though. It's going to be a tough few weeks.