With lots going on in Cincinnati here are 8 things I think about the Bengals following roster cuts.
1. The cornerback room still needs work
William Jackson III and Dre Kirkpatrick are your starters at cornerback with Darqueze Dennard manning the slot, but the depth behind them leaves a lot to be desired. The Bengals are rostering rookies Darius Phillips and Davontae Harris (though Harris is likely headed to Injured/Reserve on Monday). And beyond them it’s Tony McRae. He has shown a lot of promise, but is it enough to be the No. 4 cornerback on the team? Marvin Lewis said the Bengals would explore cornerbacks on the waiver wire and in free agency, but the team came away empty handed on Sunday. There could still be a move made there.
2. Sometime, the Bengals will need to invest in a real backup quarterback who threatens Andy Dalton’s security as the starting quarterback.
If Andy Dalton gets hurt, the Bengals are in trouble and that’s been the case for the entire offseason. The Bengals drafted rookie Logan Woodside in the seventh round of the draft and added Matt Barkley in free agency. Neither were threats to Dalton. The Bengals don’t invest in backup quarterbacks and eventually they need to bring someone in to actually compete for the starting job.
3. The Bengals are relying on a shaky-at-best group of offensive linemen.
A few intriguing offensive linemen were cut on Saturday, but so far the Bengals haven’t brought any in via the practice squad or roster. It seems the Bengals are rolling with Bobby Hart at right tackle and either Alex Redmond or Trey Hopkins at right guard. That doesn’t give me a whole lot of confidence in the right side of the line. Hopefully the Bengals continue to explore options to improve the offensive line and Frank Pollack remains busy coaching up the guys already in Cincinnati. Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher are on the final year of their rookie deals and are hardly serviceable backups, despite being first and second round draft picks.
4. The coaches believe strongly in the defensive line depth.
Going with just eight defensive lineman, one of whom is a backup nose tackle, was a big statement from the Bengals. Cutting Michael Johnson was another big statement. The Bengals’ young pass rushers have proven to be effective players, but what if there’s an injury? Are the Bengals really rolling into the regular season with just Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, Jordan Willis, Carl Lawson, Sam Hubbard, Andrew Billings, Ryan Glasgow and Josh Tupou along the defensive line? Keep your eyes open for more moves here. It’s possible Johnson returns on a restructured contract.
UPDATE: Johnson has re-signed with the Bengals on a one-year deal. A roster move will need to be made tomorrow to coincide with the move. It’ll be interesting to see if he starts in Week 1.
5. A change in coaching mentality seems to be clear with more young guys than ever making the cut.
The Bengals have the NFL’s youngest roster and many Week 1 starters will be among the youngest players on the team. That includes Billy Price, Jessie Bates, Joe Mixon and John Ross. The Bengals are going against their typical ways (from the Marvin Lewis era) and are actually playing — and starting — young guys on both offense and defense. Jessie Bates will be the Bengals’ first rookie to start on defense in a Week 1 game since Rey Maualuga did it in 2009. Times are changing!
6. It’s nice the Bengals found a way for all but one of their 11 draft picks from this year to stay in Cincinnati, at least for now.
Last year, we watched four rookie draft picks fail to make the 53-man roster. This year, all but one of the Bengals’ drafted rookies made the roster in some capacity. Rod Taylor was already on Injured Reserve and Davontae Harris made the cut, though he’s likely to be moved to IR on Monday. Defensive tackle Andrew Brown didn’t make the 53-man roster, but was quickly signed to the practice squad. Quarterback Logan Woodside, one of the team’s three seventh round picks, was the only drafted rookie to fail to make the roster in any capacity. Instead, the Bengals signed former second round pick Christian Hackenberg to the practice squad. Woodside failing to make the cut isn’t big news or a huge loss for Cincinnati. It’s impressive they kept 10 of their 11 draft picks either on the roster, practice squad or IR.
7. The Bengals are continuing an NFL trend of not using a fullback.
Ryan Hewitt’s release from the Bengals is something I expected all offseason. His snap counts had diminished since he signed a contract extension with the team in 2016. The Bengals proved they didn’t have a role for a fullback in the offense and they hardly played Hewitt in the preseason this year, further proving that point. Now, there’s no h-back on the roster and the Bengals will move forward without someone to fill that role. With Hewitt out, the team is rolling with four tight ends as Mason Schreck somewhat surprisingly made the roster. He’ll need to work on his ball security if he wants to see the field after fumbling twice in the preseason. Luckily for him, both of those fumbles went out of bounds.
8. There’s no reason to freak out about the practice squad
Fans were outraged on Twitter when news hit about Hackenberg making the practice squad. Let me put it this way, if the Bengals have to rely on a practice squad quarterback, they’re likely in a very bad spot. Hackenberg will develop on the practice squad and if he gets better, that’s great news. If he doesn’t, the Bengals will move on from him. If there’s any point in the season in which a practice squad quarterback needs to be relied on, the Bengals are already in deep trouble and the practice squad quarterback is not saving them.