Prior to Cincinnati's game against the Tennessee Titans, we listed a handful of position battles that we wanted to monitor through the Bengals eventual 27-19 win on Saturday. Let's update that file.
Starting (first-team) Fullback: John Conner vs. Orson Charles
Not much was learned Saturday, at least until we really dig into the game tape. Both played ten snaps and neither touched the football during their limited time in the game; Conner has been dealing with a foot injury since last week against the Falcons. Charles joined Jermaine Gresham, Alex Smith, and Tyler Eifert when Giovani Bernard powered into the endzone to give the Bengals a 7-3 lead in the the first quarter. Cincinnati used a three-tight formation several times and was extremely effective on the ground.
Final Defensive Back
We've basically determined that there's two spots remaining on the 53-man roster projection, after we lock-in Leon Hall, Terence Newman, Reggie Nelson, Adam Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick, George Iloka, Shawn Williams, and Brandon Ghee. The remaining two spots would be a fight between Taylor Mays, Chris Lewis-Harris, Tony Dye, and even Onterio McCalebb.
Mays finished with four tackles (all in the second half), while Tony Dye (one pass deflection), Chris Lewis-Harris, and McCalebb combined for one stop.
Final Linebacker Spot: J.K. Schaffer vs. Jayson DiManche
We have to clarify that there's a lot of variables involved here. Rey Maualuga, James Harrison, Vontaze Burfict, and Emmanuel Lamur are favorable locks, leaving two players for a projected six-man linebacker roster. Our initial instinct is to solidify the roster with fourth-round selection Sean Porter and special teamer Vinnie Rey. However, both were out against the Titans on Saturday.
If they keep seven players and place none of the above on IR, one more can make the roster. Or if they keep six and one of the injured is placed on IR, then one more can make the roster.
See what I mean by variables?
DiManche finished the game with five tackles, including one on special teams. J.K. Schaffer only had two after leading the team with six against the Atlanta Falcons.
Backup Quarterback: Josh Johnson vs. John Skelton
We made the argument on this in another post. Right now, I'd argue that Johnson remains the favorite as the team's eventual backup quarterback.
Final Running Back Roster: Rex Burkhead vs. Daniel Herron
Don't look now but Daniel Herron is making a run. Literally.
Against the Titans on Saturday, Herron generated 81 yards rushing including a fourth-quarter 40-yard touchdown sprint that gave Cincinnati a 24-12 lead, essentially sealing the win. Burkhead certainly hasn't been a disappointment either, posting a 22-yard run with over eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter behind the beautiful blocks of Dennis Roland and Bryce Davis.
Herron currently leads the team with 111 yards rushing in the preseason with a 6.5 yard/rush average. Burkhead has 83 yards rushing and a 5.5 yard/rush average -- Burkhead also has a seven-yard reception on his resume.
Multiple Wide Receiver Spots
Perhaps many (myself included) over-rated Dane Sanzenbacher's performance against the Falcons, considering the playing time was late against scrubs. That's not a negative reflection upon anyone. A bubble player only has those opportunities late in games. Now, normally such a performance would warrant an increase in playing time but his actually decreased against the Titans with only 12 offensive snaps. One could argue a decrease in possessions, but if the coaching staff really wanted to see what he could do against better competition, he'd play sooner.
Regardless, the Atlanta performance wasn't one that we could ignore. Sanzenbacher followed up with only one reception for 12 yards and added a 16-yard punt return in the fourth against the Titans.
Cobi Hamilton and Brandon Tate had two of the best games at wide receiver among those that we haven't locked into the 53-man roster (A.J. Green, Mohamed Sanu, Marvin Jones, and Andrew Hawkins). If Hawkins is placed on IR with the designation to return, there will be three spots on the 53-man roster for a handful of players. Tate, currently leading the team in receiving during the preseason, is one of them.