This is the first 53-man roster of Zac Taylor’s head coaching career. This is the first time someone other than Marvin Lewis has helped get the Bengals to the final roster. Then again an NFL roster is never final. Even Taylor knows that.
It is natural that a team’s initial 53-man roster will cause some alarm in certain areas. Maybe the team doesn’t have enough depth at a certain area as some may like. One position like that this season for Cincinnati is at offensive line. Taylor hints moves could be made to address that though, but he is confident with what they have.
“There could be some movement here in the next two days. We feel comfortable with the direction we’re heading there,” Taylor told Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. “We keep seeing the progress that Trayvon’s making, and we’ll see what his timeline is here in the next couple days. Certainly that doesn’t mean it has to be set in stone the way that we’ve got it for this next Sunday. We’ll keep making progress this weekend and make some decisions next week.”
To translate this coach speak a little bit, it seems that Taylor and the Bengals plan on attempting to add some depth there as some viable options were waived and released on cut down day, but you can’t come out and say moves will be made there when it is mostly dependent on how the waiver claims shake out.
You have to imagine the offensive line isn’t the only area that the Bengals will be adding players at. Cincinnati only has four linebackers currently on the roster. You could make the argument that depending on who is needed for special teams that a team could easily get by with five. Taylor does talk about it isn’t as easy as just dropping a talented player at a position where you have an abundance of talent for a player where they’re thin.
“It’s a case by case basis on who the player is and who the player is replacing,” Taylor said. “We certainly feel like if it’s an even swap or just a slight tick upgrade, then you have to look at the position and how much does it matter, along with the reps we’ve invested in that player. I think that certainly plays into the scenario.”
At some point in the NFL, you can make the argument that you can have too many players at a certain position. Many fans look at the 11 defensive linemen, but it all depends on how that position is used. Cincinnati should be rotating players pretty frequently along the defensive line throughout the season.
You also have to consider the fact that Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap are both over 30, and there is some real young talent behind them on this depth chart. Is it worth losing those young players to add a linebacker you aren’t crazy about just to meet a quota?
We still have to see who the Bengals add to the practice squad. They will be able to call up players from there in the event of an injury as well, so they don’t need to start panicking too much just quite yet.
As far as specific moves go, the decision to keep A.J. Green on the active roster instead of placing him on injured reserve seems like a calculated risk.
“We feel like we’re going to get him back in the first eight weeks. We’re just going to continue to carry him on the roster,” Taylor said. “We don’t get daily updates on him because everything’s progressing along as we hoped. Once we get into the season, I think we really start getting into, OK, what’s the projection for him when he’s coming back? But right now, everything’s been on schedule and we intend on him coming back the first half of the season.”
It is a little concerning that Taylor doesn’t have more of an idea of a ballpark return time for Green, but in all reality injuries can be complicated. It is better to wait and be sure than give false hope.
Still, Green being counted on the roster does put stress on other spots that look thin. You combine the fact the Bengals have seven wide receivers, three quarterbacks ad 11 defensive linemen, and you have a pretty good idea why areas with lesser talent towards the end like the offensive line and linebackers are thinner.
Is having Green available before Week 8 worth a valuable roster spot? Absolutely. He is still one of the best receivers in the league, and this is just a different offense when opposing defenses don’t have to worry about doubling him.
While it was hard to keep Green on the active roster. It seems like Taylor had a hard time choosing between Cody Core and Josh Malone for the seventh wide receiver.
“Not easy. Cody’s done some great things for us, so it’s just the decision we made. We came to it and Josh just had a good training camp. Cody had done some good things. Wasn’t an easy decision. But I felt like Josh earned an opportunity there,” Taylor said. “He’s got good speed. He’s done a nice job. He’s made some plays for us this preseason. But one thing he does is have is he’s got good size, he’s got good speed. Like I said, he’s shown up a couple times this preseason making some plays.”
Those are interesting points Taylor brings up on why Cincinnati opted for Malone. The team may be using a committee approach using the strengths of each player to try and attack defenses while Green is out. Otherwise keeping Malone based on his offensive skills seems strange considering he won’t see much of the field unless he does that. That is compared to Core who has made his name via special teams. Filling Core’s spot on special teams may be something interesting to watch early in the season.
Overall, cutting a roster down before the regular season is never easy. It seems like Cincinnati is ready to make even more moves, so Bengals’ fans shouldn’t get too comfortable.