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Round Table: Dane Sanzenbacher and the team's return game

The crew at Cincy Jungle sit around the table to talk about some of the things that happened during Cincinnati's 34-10 win over the Falcons. We talk about the future of the team's return game.

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

After some rest and relaxation following Cincinnati's 34-10 win over the Atlanta Falcons, the Cincy Jungle crew gathered around the table, with our french cappuccinos, to discuss various subjects based on Thursday's game.

Based on last night's game, Dane Sanzenbacher will make the 53-man roster.

Nick Seuberling: I can't deny what he did last night. Played well against some two's and three's.
Mickey Mentzer: Brandon Tate did make a good catch in traffic, but we all know he has made this team in the past because of his kick return ability. In a small sample, we have seen Sanzenbacher prove that he has the ability to return punts (71 yards for a touchdown) and make catches (36-yard touchdown reception in the seem). I believe that the decision falls between those two for the final spot.
Josh Kirkendall: The only counter, Mickey, I have about the return is that Brandon Tate was the only kickoff returner. And I don't see Tate and Sanzenbacher being on this roster in Chicago.
Mickey: Tate was, but that role could also be filled by Bernard Scott / Giovanni Bernard.
Nick: It's still going to be tough for Dane to make this team. Lot of guys injured right now.

Andrew Miller: It is a small sample. And, for whatever reason, the Bengals seem to love Brandon Tate. I don't know that this one game equates to Sanzenbacher replacing Tate. But will the coaches be taking Sanzenbacher's performance seriously? I have to believe they will.
Josh: At the very least, increasing his overall participation earlier on special teams for a greater sample size.

Mickey: Most of us Ohio State fans know how sure-handed he is. I have a ton of confidence in him for the return game, and also would love to see him in the slot at times.

Nick: But does he make the top-six receivers on this team? I'm not sure that he does.
Josh: We have Green, Hawkins, Sanu, and Jones as locks. That's two spots. Are we assuming that Cobi Hamilton is a lock too? It's a crowded position and Ryan Whalen is a good receiver that can't be lost in this.
Mickey: I like Sanzenbacher over Whalen.
Nick: He outplayed Whalen and Hamilton last night and his special teams versatility certainly helps. We know Marvin looks for that. That's why Whalen made the team a year ago because of his special teams play in the preseason. I think we can all agree the jury is still out though, lets see how he does the next two weeks.

Mickey: Bubble guys only make the team if they can play on special teams, and I think Sanzenbacher showed last night that he can. His second punt return looked good too had he not stepped out of bounds.

Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

Josh: I will give Tate some benefit of the doubt. He had a couple of nice grabs last night, especially the one near the sidelines where he worked to keep both feet in. And his returns, though not that impressive, seemed far more decisive than before. He caught the football and made decisions.
Mickey: Nine-yard decisions. I think we know what to expect from Tate, I want to see some new blood.
Andrew: Let's not forget that Tate has seen less time on the practice field. Coaches may give him the benefit of the doubt over the next few weeks but, if I'm Brandon Tate, I'm not exactly thrilled about my job security at the moment.
Josh: As Lewis says, that's a good thing. Makes him work harder to secure his job.

Nick: I wouldn't be surprised if both Tate and Sanzenbacher don't make this team quite frankly.
Josh: You thinking Whalen and Hamilton, Nick?
Nick: I'm thinking that maybe the Bengals go after a veteran who don't make rosters elsewhere. Similar to how they signed Tate in the first place.
Andrew: That wasn't really their mantra last season, but it wouldn't surprise me all the same.
Josh: I'm not sure about that. At least right now. I believe their wide receiver roster for Chicago is on this team. But they'd be fools not to check free agency after final cuts.

Andrew: I don't want to get ahead of myself here, but it would be interesting to not only see if Sanzenbacher proves doubters wrong in the preseason and carries a chip on his shoulder into Chicago in Week One.

Josh: If you guys were running the team, would Tate even be considered and how much of that reason is simply dislike. This guy holds a franchise record career punt/return average.
Nick: Tate's decisions are baffling sometimes and since when have the Bengals ever taken fan dislike into consideration? If I were running the team, he would have been cut years ago. I was surprised he made the team a year ago, and even more surprised that they signed him this offseason.
Josh: The truth is that they don't even need a full time punt returner. Just someone to split returns with Adam Jones, and carry the mantel of kickoff returner.
Mickey: I sum it up like this: Last season I was pumped when Adam Jones was receiving the punt and disappointed when Tate was back there. Tate may be a decent return man, good for average returns, but doesn't have the breakaway threat.
Andrew: You have to take into consideration what Darrin Simmons believes in; it's why you hired him to run special teams. Maybe Simmons subscribes to a go-to returner. To split the duties may not be his style. I really don't know.
Nick: With Dre Kirkpatrick healthy though, you can maybe afford to put Adam Jones in at punt return a little more often.


Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

Josh: All I know is that I hope that they don't use Giovani Bernard as a kickoff returner. I don't know about you guys, but there are times that I was thinking, "I hope he wasn't hurt."
Nick: Glad I wasn't the only one.
Mickey: A kick return for a touchdown is a game changer. Look at what Denver did to Cincinnati last season.
Josh: And Bernard Scott in '09.
Mickey: Didn't you like when Scott was back there?
Josh: I think a running back is ideal as a kickoff returner, yes.
Nick: The NFL has done so much to eliminate kickoff returns now with them kicking off at the 35 that having a stud kick returner isn't necessary on your roster. Its almost a wasted roster spot. Look at Josh Cribbs in Cleveland. His value dropped immensely with the new rules.

Andrew: I'll agree with you on kickoffs for the most part. I suppose removing Tate is eliminating the risk he's brought with some poor decisions at times. The question remains if anyone else can actually produce consistently beyond the decision making.

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