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Bengals Mailbag: Receiver options, late linebackers and “Johnny Cincinnati”?

What do the next couple of weeks hold for the Cincinnati Bengals and their roster?

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We’re oh-so-close to one of the biggest events on the NFL’s annual calendar and the Cincinnati Bengals have us guessing what they’ll do with their 11 picks over the weekend. They still have some glaring roster holes, but the hope is that they will remedy the remaining issues with rookies and a couple of late free agency additions.

There’s the safe and conventional route to take in this year’s draft, and one the Bengals have employed often of late, where they already build around some of their core players. Then, there is the “splashy” route where other seemingly-stacked positions get more help as a form breeding competition.

Regardless, we’re expecting to see new faces being added to the offensive line, the secondary and linebacker group this weekend. However, could the team surprise us at other positions?

We received interested questions recently—both on our latest episode of The Orange and Black Insider, as well as via Twitter (@CincyJungle and @CJAnthonyCUI).

I get it: a physical linebacker from ASU and the comparisons are easy to come by. But, let’s get one thing straight: very few players are identical to Vontaze Burfict—both in the positive and negative aspects to what he brings to an NFL team.

As for DJ Calhoun, I had to go back and look at both stats and tape. I watch quite a bit of Pac-12 football, but he got lost in the attention shuffle behind a couple of other promising Sun Devils in safety Dane Cruikshank and linebacker Christian Sam.

Like it was with Burfict, Calhoun’s pre-draft workouts aren’t ones to write home about. He wasn’t an NFL Combine invitee and ran in the 4.8s in the 40-yard dash at his pro day back on March 14.

But, also like Burfict, Calhoun knows how to lay the lumber on the opposition. As a senior in 2017, Calhoun had 99 total tackles, 12 for loss and 6.5 sacks. In 2015-2016, he combined to have 11 sacks in two seasons, noting his general ability to get into the backfield.

The most interesting part about Calhoun? He’s openly talked about a possible transition to fullback at the next level. In fact, in his post-pro day interview, Calhoun said that “2-3 teams have asked about it”.

Given the Bengals’ nature to get...uh...”creative” with some of their lower-drafted/undrafted players at times, this might be a niche for Calhoun, should he latch on in Cincinnati. It’s particularly interesting that Calhoun is open to a transition, as he’s looking for any possinle way to make and help out an NFL team.

Cincinnati has H-Back Ryan Hewitt in the fold and he’s talented, but the team has still had trouble running the football in recent years. Part of that is underutilization of Hewitt, part of it is deficiencies on the offensive line, but some think using a traditional pounding fullback could be the key to pounding the rock.

At 6’0” and 235 pounds, Calhoun has adequate size for either position. For now, he appears to be an undrafted free agent acquisition, who could use that massive chip on his shoulder (a la Burfict) to become a contributor on a roster.

Side note: I can’t wait to see Burfict’s style of play in Week 6 of this season against the Steelers, just two weeks after his suspension is over.


On last week’s episode of The Orange and Black Insider, a couple of questions we received revolved around two very different wide receivers: Alabama’s Calvin Ridley and current Bengals veteran, Brandon LaFell.

As fans continue to dissect ways in which the Bengals can improve their team, a number of options are on the table. But, after spending both a top-10 and a fourth round pick last year on wide receiver, should that position even be discussed?

Some have asked about the possibility of Alabama’s Calvin Ridley as a receiver option to create a multi-headed force for the Bengals’ offense. Geoff Hobson of recently mocked Ridley to the team at No. 21 overall and most fans were up in arms at the call.

The qualms with Ridley joining the Bengals largely resides in the team’s heavy investments at the position last year. Hopes are high for John Ross and Josh Malone in 2018, so bringing in another first round pick could potentially hinder the development of those two.

Additionally, a number of positions seem to have more glaring holes than receiver at the moment. The only reasoning that makes any kind of sense for Ridley joining the club in the first round is if many offensive linemen are off of the board and/or the team moves back with an accumulation of another high pick to bolster those other needs.

However, I may be on an island here, but I think the Bengals use a higher pick than most believe on a receiver this weekend—perhaps even as high as night two.

This team will still use form of their usual “best player available strategy”, but after round 1. So, unless Ridley falls to the No. 46 spot and he’s by far the best on the Bengals’ board, he could end up in stripes. And, if that’s the case, a reversal of Hobson’s Ridley/Will Hernandez picks will be much easier to swallow.

Along the same lines of a possible high-profile receiver addition, comes the question of who will be shown the door. Brandon LaFell is the usual suspect in fans’ eyes, in terms of a possible cap casualty, but I’m pretty sure he’s safe for 2018, regardless of who they pick this weekend.

Because of a recent $1 million bonus paid out to him and his “veteran leadership”, the team will rely on LaFell this year—especially with Ross and Malone needing to play catch-up this offseason. There are others whose jobs might be in jeopardy with a rookie receiver addition, though.

After a promising end to his rookie campaign back in 2016, Cody Core might be falling behind Malone in the coaches’ favor. Alex Erickson also had an exciting rookie season in 2016, primarily as a return man, but failed to capture the same lightning-in-a-bottle last year.

So, if the Bengals are looking to replace a receiver on the roster, it’s likely one with return ability and/or another “height/weight/speed guy” like Core. There are some of these types of players in this year’s draft, but waiting until round 3 or later would be the best way to go this weekend.

Perhaps the better question about receiver isn’t about LaFell’s future, but that of Ross. If he’s going to be a No. 3 or No. 4 receiver in 2018, will the team allow his electricity to shine on kick returns to give him multiple opportunities with the football, as was on display at the University of Washington?


Imagine the “Manziel money sign” in The Queen City. That’s a question were were asked about on last week’s OBI program.

As we sit here in late April of 2018, there seems to be two sides to Johnny Manziel. The cocky, arrogant, fizzle-out of an NFL quarterback who has an extremely troubling history of treatment of women, and the guy who’s now on a path to redemption—both personally and professionally.

Manziel participated in the NFL Spring League to some positive results and he’s saying the right things to endear himself to NFL teams. It just may work for someone.

But, still...he’s Johnny Manziel.

While it’s admirable that the kid is attempting to redeem his life and image, there is still the lingering threat of relapses. And, I hate to say it, but is the culture in Cincinnati prepared to take on such a risky and potentially-toxic player in their locker room?

Sure, Adam Jones, Tank Johnson and others were able to put their troubled pasts behind them while with the Bengals, but Jones still had some scrapes with the law in his eight Queen City seasons. And, there’s also the massive P.R. work the club will need to engage in with a Manziel signing.

The 2018 draft class is a deep one at quarterback. There are a small handful of players who could potentially take Andy Dalton’s starting job and a myriad of others who could be capable backups, as AJ McCarron was for four seasons.

For now, I’ll take Matt Barkley as the team’s backup over Manziel any day of the week. Though he hasn’t had the NFL career that his time at USC promised, he has decent NFL experience and there is zero threat of the guy getting into any kind of trouble in the same vein Manziel has experienced.

If you’re unable to join us live here at Cincy Jungle or YouTube every episode, all Orange and Black Insider content is available here on CJ, as well as on our SoundCloud and YouTube channels, and on iTunes! You can tweet us @BengalsOBI or get in touch with us via email at Thanks for listening!