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Bengals mailbag: Dennard’s contract status, o-line questions and Burfict’s return

We’ve received a number of interesting questions from our listeners and readers this week, as the Cincinnati Bengals are finalizing their roster for the 2018 season.

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We’re on the precipice of real NFL football in 2018!

The Bengals face two very important games to start their season against the Colts and Ravens, respectively, as prognostications of their failures/successes vary.

Because of the Bengals’ release of their 53-man roster and other factors, fans have a number of questions. Here are some of the ones we’ve received recently.


The most logical answer to this question has to be at his position group, right? In case you’ve been living under a rock, Vontaze Burfict is on a roster exemption, as he serves a four-game suspension.

Fortunately, Burfict will only be missing one AFC North matchup in the form of the spotlight shined via Thursday Night Football and the Baltimore Ravens. Still, after the team uncharacteristically struggled to defend the run last year, the team’s near-sweep of the preseason showed similar warts.

The correlation? Burfict’s absence in the defense.

When you look at the team’s 53-man roster and how the linebacker position group has played out, the unfortunate name that jumps out is Hardy Nickerson, Jr. After being an undrafted free agent, Nickerson played in 14 games last year and is now poised to be a valued member of the team to start 2018.

Still, Burfict was familiarly suspended for the first three games of 2018, which also paved the way for Nickerson to be on last year’s active roster. And, even after he came back to the Bengals, Cincinnati kept Nickerson around for various roles.

So, maybe the automatic prediction of his axing is premature. As you’ll note when looking at the final roster (and something we’ll continue to address in a minute), the receiver group is quite crowded.

Cody Core has been battling an injury this summer, but the team likes both his special teams contributions and height/weight/speed profile as a receiver. Alex Erickson seemed to have been on the bubble this spring, but another sound preseason locked in his spot—for now.

These could be another area to cut the fat, so to speak, but there is another wild card.

In a mysterious sequence of events, the Bengals cut and then subsequently signed defensive end, Michael Johnson. There appears to be a great level of trust between Johnson and the Bengals, so we’re inclined to believe his roster will continue to be safe, but $6.2 million for a rotational player on the line, at best, seems a bit wasteful, no?

I just want to throw in a personal disclaimer to this question. Being a former coach, letting go of players from your roster is one of the hardest things about the profession. I’ve never done it at the level where said players make insane amounts of money, but rather for the love of the respective sport. In coarse terms, it sucks.

However, I think Nickerson is probably the most obvious choice to get cut upon Burfict’s arrival, though this team has surprised us before.


As mentioned above, we’re unsure about Core’s status going forward. Josh Malone, Auden Tate and John Ross showed significant growth this preseason, hence their status on the roster and positional depth chart.

I can only assume that when the Bengals’ brain trust gets together to formulate their final roster, there are a handful of guys they place in the “bubble” category. Core was likely among that small amount of names that the team kicked around as a possible departure.

Shortly after the 53-man roster was released, Marvin Lewis expressed the desire to potentially add a player in the secondary. There are some intriguing names on the open market, but KeiVarae Russell is definitely a guy who would be one of the first off of the bench.

After the released Russell, folks were rightfully worried about his landing elsewhere. Still, he’s currently on the Bengals’ practice squad and could be called up at any point.

And, hey, even though they let Adam Jones walk this offseason, the team still employs three first round picks at the position right now.

As for the offensive line, I’m very surprised the Bengals didn’t add more help there. As you look at the open market, some intriguing names have appeared. And, of course, we’re mostly talking about potential additions on the right side of the line.

But, the team appears to be happy at where they are with the most questionable position group of the offseason. Former high picks, Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher are backups, while Bobby Hart and Alex Redmond are the starters at right tackle and guard, respectively.

Cue the white-knuckle grips on your chair.

This has been a lingering question of the Bengals and their offensive line since January. Yes, they made two significant moves in trading for Cordy Glenn and drafting Billy Price, which should pay immediate dividends. Still, there are major questions.

“Jelling” is a term that isn’t overlooked when it comes to an offensive line. Essentially, the Bengals have four new starters on the line and the tabbed players haven’t had a lot of time to play together. So, I guess we’ll have to see about the forthcoming results.

As it stands, the Bengals appear to feel pretty solidly about their group, Frank Pollack’s development of the group and how they can play together as time passes. I’m personally skeptical for a number of reasons.

Low draft designations aside, the team still has had massive troubles in running the football again this preseason. Yes, Glenn, Price and Clint Boling have shown stoutness in pass protection, but the Bengals still ranked No. 22 in rushing offense this preseason—and that’s largely taking the successes of Tra Carson and Brian Hill into account.

Regardless, given the lack of waiver wire claims, the Bengals appear to be prepared to roll with who they have at the group. No team has true all-stars at every single position, but it’s mostly about at what level they are able to play at with each other.

That’s not to say that a move won’t come if struggles surface, but, for now, Glenn, Boling, Price, Redmond and Hart comprise Cincinnati’s starting line.


On a recent episode of The Orange and Black Insider, we received a bunch of interesting questions from our listeners. The topics ranged from the following:

  • What lies ahead for Darqueze Dennard now that Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap received huge extensions?
  • Why isn’t Christian Westerman getting a true shot at the starting right guard gig? Both tape review and Pro Football Focus scores show that he has been one of the team’s better offensive linemen.
  • How will the Bengals fare this season, given their sound preseason performance?

Thanks for all of the questions, both via Twitter and The Orange and Black Insider!

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, Stitcher, through the Google Play app and YouTube channels, as well as on iTunes! You can tweet us @BengalsOBI or get in touch with us via email at Thanks for listening and go subscribe to our channels!