The point of these articles is not only to predict who the coaches and front office will decide are the 53 on the roster. It's also for us to decide what we personally think is the best set of 53 players, regardless of what the coaches/FO think.
So far, I have covered the FB/TE, halfback, WR, QB, and OL positional groups. Now it is time for the defensive line; we will likely carry 9.
Carlos Dunlap, Wallace Gilberry, Margus Hunt, and Will Clarke are locks at DE. Dunlap will start at RDE and Gilberry will start at LDE. Geno Atkins (3-technique DT) and Domata Peko (nose tackle) are locks, while Brandon Thompson is a lock as Peko's solid backup at NT. Peko has declined somewhat, but is still our top option at NT.
That leaves two spots.
Robert Geathers is the longest-tenured Bengal. He doesn't rush the passer too well, and is an average run-defender. He provides a good locker-room presence and can be a mentor for Hunt and Clarke. Geathers is versatile. He plays LDE, RDE, as well as DT in nickel pass-rushing situations (a role that he has been ineffective in, but that the coaches still use him in anyway):
3rd and long situation in 11on11: nickel line was Hunt at LDE, Gilberry and Geathers at DT, Dunlap at RDE. Lamur and Burfict 2 nickel LBs— Brennen Warner (@JustBeWarned) July 26, 2014
The team loves Robert Geathers. First, the front office and coaches were willing to recently hand him a 3-year, $9.5 million contract that many scoffed at. Second, his teammates gave him last season's Ed Block Courage Award after his recovery from a season-ending injury:
DE Robert Geathers is #Bengals recipient of 2013 Ed Block Courage Award, honoring those who demonstrate values of sportsmanship & courage.— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) January 13, 2014
Geoff Hobson, who loves Geathers, offered this nugget:
Veteran end Robert Geathers' technique is as sound as music, and veteran ends Dontay Moch and Christo Bilukidi are going have an impact on preseason games even though there seems to be no place for them on the roster....
Geathers isn't a lock, but he's not squarely on the bubble, either. He's on the right side, and is likely in from the eyes of the coaches and front office.
I don't want to sell Geathers too short; he did have one good play in the first preseason game, albeit it was largely created by Peko (I've noticed that Geathers' few sacks over recent years have mostly been like this):
Robert Geathers gets the strip sack, but credit Peko for blowing the line back into Smith's face.— Paul Dehner Jr. (@pauldehnerjr) August 8, 2014
Devon Still was a 2nd-round pick by the Bengals in 2012. In college, he was a consensus All-American and the 2011 Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year. He was strong, disruptive, agile, athletic, you name it. He had some injury concerns, though, as well as question marks regarding performance against the best competition, e.g. a game against Wisconsin in which he got manhandled by some dude named Kevin Zeitler. Still has the physical traits, standing at 6'5", 310 pounds with a 4.95 40 time.
He is primarily a 3-technique DT, and has been listed as the backup to Geno Atkins in camp. Because of Geno being out, Still has received a handful of first-team reps. Still can also back up at NT.
Still got very limited playing time in 2012, as the backup to Atkins. Still had a sack against the Redskins, and forced a fumble against the Steelers. He was reasonably productive given the little playing time.
In 2013, he was supposed to have a bigger role, especially after Atkins' injury, but he dislocated his elbow and also had a herniated disc, causing him to miss time. When he did play, he was clearly mediocre and not as good as 2012. We haven't seen anything significant from him in training camp, whether good or bad. Perhaps he's shaking off rust due to injuries. In 2013 preseason, Mike Zimmer called him into his office to question Still's effort.
Like Geathers, I can't call Still a guaranteed lock, but he's not squarely on the bubble, either. If only due to his draft status, he is more likely in than not.
Christo Bilukidi was signed off the street last November. He was a 6th-round pick by the Raiders in 2012 out of Georgia State.
In college he was a DT/DE hybrid, but so far with the Bengals he's mostly been a NT, behind Thompson and Peko. Hobson calls him a DE, though, so I'm not entirely sure. He has impressive physical traits, standing at 6'5", 320 pounds with a 4.9 40 time. Some other sites list him as 290 pounds, which is closer to DE size. Regardless, he's primarily a NT with us who can back up at 3-tech.
He got some decent playing time at the end of last season with Atkins and Still out. Personally, I thought he looked pretty good.
Bilukidi has had a good training camp so far, with multiple excellent plays captured by Brennen Warner on Vine. He's gotten reps with the first-string, getting time at 3-tech when Geno and Still were out.
But none of that is important compared to his personal life. He's an international man of mystery. He was born in Angola, has lived in France and Brazil, and eventually settled in Ottawa, Ontario. He also spends time in Cabo, Baja California. He's probably been to Europe plenty, given he is a huge fan of UEFA. He speaks fluent French and is conversant in other languages besides English.
He wakes up every morning to Bulletproof Coffee:
Wake up every morning to #bulletproofcoffee #UpgradeYourself @BPAmbassadors @bulletproofexec pic.twitter.com/1Qx4W5HDrf— Christos (@montechristo96) February 28, 2014
I mean, drinking "Bulletproof" Coffee and being an international man of mystery? Bengal by day, spy by night. That picture looks like it could have been taken at a CIA safehouse.
Bilukidi did well in the first preseason game, with a sack as well as a tackle for loss. Would the Bengals be willing to disregard draft status and potentially keep Bilukidi over Still if Bilukidi continues to prove himself?
Dontay Moch was acquired off waivers from the Cardinals in March. Of course, Moch was a third-round pick by the Bengals in 2011. We passed over Justin Houston at the same DE/OLB position to get Moch. We also passed over DeMarco Murray, Jordan Cameron, Julius Thomas, and Richard Sherman.
Physical traits have never been the problem for Moch. He's 6'2", 257 pounds with a 4.44 40 time.
He won't offer much as a run-stopper, so he has to prove himself as a pass-rusher. Moch would be at either LDE or RDE with Dunlap/Gilberry kicking inside next to Atkins. He would be useful in any scheme with an OLB edge rusher, such as James Harrison's old nickel 3-3-5 edge rusher role. Moch primarily plays RDE, but can pass-rush from LDE.
Like Brandon Tate, Moch is a preseason beast. Moch has 7.5 sacks in preseason with the Bengals in 2012 and 2013, as well as the first game of 2014. That's 7.5 sacks in limited playing time over 9 games.
Hobson says that Moch has been "held back by injuries and migraines." Moch has played one game in his Bengals career. As messjunk noted, Moch has a higher number of preseason sacks than career snaps.
Two Saturdays ago, I watched Moch pass-rushing from LDE and he beat Svitek badly. That's not saying too much, since Svitek isn't very good, but Moch was too quick and physical for him on an inside move, almost immediately blowing through Svitek. Moch rushing from the edge/outside is his main asset, so it's nice to see he can win on an inside move too.
Moch did well in the first preseason game, with an impressive sack and forced fumble. He is only 26, and the physical upside is there. Of all the DL on the bubble, Moch is clearly the one who can contribute on special teams, too. He's finally healthy. Is he worth keeping over Geathers and his intangibles?
We at Cincy Jungle are not so confident about that actually happening:
Robert Geathers Looking Good; 'No Place on the Roster' for Dontay Moch' http://t.co/OZjMUnuGvN— Cincy Jungle (@CincyJungle) July 28, 2014
Sam Montgomery has been a highly touted prospect for a while. In high school, he was ESPN's #2 DL prospect. In college, he was first-team SEC, second-team All-America, and projected by many to be a first-round pick.
He had an okay combine; he stands at 6'3", 270 pounds with a 4.81 40 time. What scared some teams away, though, was his own comments about his lack of effort. He dropped to the third round, where the Texans scooped him up.
A few months later, Montgomery and two others were released from the Texans for smoking marijuana. The Raiders then signed him, but immediately cut him. We picked him up in April. There hasn't been much heard from him except for that brouhaha about nearly being tased after speeding.
In preseason, he's been used both as a DE and nickel DT. He did poorly. On the replay of Dre Kirkpatrick's pick-6, you can see that Montgomery literally stumbles backward when trying to go up against the Kansas City OL. Also, this:
On Chase Daniel's big third-down scramble and pick-up, Sam Montgomery was completely blown up by his blocker. Pushed way out of play.— Coley Harvey (@ColeyHarvey) August 8, 2014
His chances to make the roster aren't good, but at least I'd say he's still faintly on the bubble. Hobson, who is the master of putting a positive spin on things, says Montgomery "shows big potential upside."
On another note, he loves Sonic the Hedgehog:
If you do not grind you do not shine #SonicFacts— Sonic Sam Montgomery (@Sonic99_SC) July 23, 2014
I see Larry Black, David King, and LaKendrick Ross as practice-squad-at-best material. These guys are well below the bubble and don't have a serious shot at the roster, because the DL group above is just difficult to break in to. A DL (most likely a DT) will be kept on the practice squad for depth purposes, possibly Larry Black, who is listed as the top 3-tech DT besides Still and Atkins, and who also played NT for us last training camp before suffering that brutal injury shown on Hard Knocks. However, Black played poorly in preseason, so who knows.
It's clear that this last two spots likely belong to Still and Geathers in the eyes of the coaches and front office, Still for draft status and potential, and Geathers for intangibles (like Green-Ellis). Personally, though, I hope they aren't afraid to hand those spot(s) to Bilukidi and/or Moch if one or both of them proves themselves in preseason. Still and Geathers are the supposedly safe choices. On the other hand, Bilukidi and Moch are the boom-or-bust choices.
I might want Bilukidi because he has had a good training camp, plus Peko is declining and Thompson and especially Still still (that was fun) need to show more. Moch offers a lot of potential; you can't forget about him, plus he contributes on special teams. If those two can prove themselves, it could be a big boom. But if these two can't prove themselves, I'm cool with Still and Geathers, instead of risking a big bust.
Again, the poll below is about who you personally think should make it, not necessarily what you predict the coaches/FO will choose.