All in all, how was Cincinnati's weekend?
There weren't many surprises regarding the 53-man roster. The quarterback, running back and tight end rosters played out as we had expected. Major players on the offensive line were locked into their predicted roles, with one bottom-tier question... would Cincinnati keep eight or nine offensive linemen? Confident that their ninth, Dan France, would slide onto the team's practice squad, they kept eight. Another question, who will be disposed of when first-round rookie Cedric Ogbuehi is activated from the PUP list, will be answered later.
The wide receiver position dragged out like the final 30 minutes of Peter Jackson's Return of the King. Yet, by Saturday morning with Denarius Moore gone and the increasing belief that Greg Little made enough of an impression as the team's sixth receiver, this narrative turned into a whisper with Jake Kumerow's practice squad probability becoming a certainty. In our minds, this could have played out in any direction; Little's participation and production on special teams seemed to be the deciding factor.
Defensively, fan favorites Chris Carter and DeShawn Williams are staying in Cincinnati; the latter on the 53-man roster while the former, Williams, defied everyone else's prognostication that he wouldn't clear waivers. He did. Now he's back in Cincinnati to continue developing while Pat Sims and Brandon Thompson enter the final year of their respective deals. There's a narrative there that will get louder as time unfolds, we're sure. If another team has their obsessive eyes fixed on Williams, they can sign him off of Cincinnati's practice squad. However, due to the collective bargaining agreement, Williams has a choice. He can negotiate a deal with this new team or take that contract to Cincinnati and have them match and promote him to the 53-man roster. If they don't, he can leave. Either way, the choice is his.
Linebackers Marquis Flowers and Jayson DiManche cleared waivers and will spend the rest of the season on Injured Reserve. Flowers suffered his injury during the final preseason game, which of course is the most pointless game of the entire preseason, in vain. Cincinnati largely escaped major injuries this year but many other teams did not.
Regardless, the team's linebacker roster is fragile. Rey Maualuga leads a group that includes A.J. Hawk and Vincent Rey. P.J. Dawson, who had a productive preseason, will settle as a backup and Emmanuel Lamur, dealing with an injury, will play nickel situations -- if he's healthy. You have to believe Cincinnati is comfortable about his status for this week in Oakland to only keep six linebackers. We have a feeling this story will find much immediate resolution.
One suggestion is that Shawn Williams could play a Taylor Mays role. While the logic is sound (safeties have been crowding the box since Chris Crocker's day), the practicality isn't. While Mays was introduced to linebacker after an injury put Cincinnati into a "no other option" scenario, Williams isn't better than the linebackers on the field and will serve as a backup on a roster thin of safeties. Head coach Marvin Lewis preached "upside" in regards to Derron Smith over Shiloh Keo. At face value, Keo should have won. Smith may have a larger payout but we're curious to see how that plays out; hopefully injury doesn't work itself into this narrative, but how else are we going to see how good Smith is?
Despite alarming concern about some players being claimed, and thus failing to reach the practice squad, no one was claimed from the cuts the Bengals made Saturday. Nor did the Bengals claim anyone for themselves, content with their roster (at least as of this moment). Despite a flashy preseason, defensive tackle DeShawn Williams wasn't claimed. There were teams likely pestering him about joining their respective practice squads, but Williams wanted to return to Cincinnati, and signed with the Bengals on Sunday afternoon.
It was a weekend matched only by Cincinnati's dull offseason; boring, predictable and mostly expected. There were no more dropped jaws; predictability even made some people impatient, demanding change for the sake of change (not unlike the approach of our federal government).
This is the price for stability and long-term planning around a foundation. This is the meaning of a window Leon Hall regards as closing. Of the 53 players on Cincinnati's active roster, 42 players were on the team in some capacity last year -- of the 11 new faces, Pat Sims and Michael Johnson returned from brief stints away and eight of the new players are draft picks. Cincinnati is faced with a challenging free agency class next season, 20 players are scheduled to hit the market -- 12 of whom are starters. Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher became the beacon of that realization, when Cincinnati drafted both with the possibility of replacing veterans Andre Smith and Andrew Whitworth, both of whom have been Bengals since 2009 and 2006 respectively.
OK, that's a discussion for another time.
For now, on to Oakland.
The regular season starts now.