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Observations from Bengals’ first depth chart

The Bengals made some interesting calls with their first depth chart. We break it all down.

NFL: Preseason-New York Giants at Cincinnati Bengals
Jordan Willis
David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

I will be the first to admit it — as far as where Zac Taylor is concerned, my glass has stayed half full. Optimism has been a way of life for me.

And then I saw his depth chart for the Seattle game on Sunday, and my optimism was definitely put to the test. Needless to say, the jury is still out.

First things first: Pharoh Cooper, he of the 4.65 time in the 40, only slightly faster than Auden Tate, is the backup to John Ross III. Everyone assumed that Cooper, who was selected to the 2018 Pro Bowl as a return specialist, was here to take some of the load off of Alex Erickson, who was expected to see more time as a receiver. Yet, Cooper’s name does not even appear on the list of punt and/or kick returners.

Cooper is taking the spot on the roster that had been held down by Josh Malone, whose 4.40 time in the 40 made him a legitimate deep threat. Even Cody Core, who ran a 4.47, looks like a speed merchant behind who we have left.

Ross, of course, set the NFL Combine record with a blazing 4.22. After that? Damion Willis ran a 4.51, Erickson’s best time was 4.54, Boyd comes in at 4.58 and Tate could only manage a time of 4.68.

C.J. Uzomah gets the start at tight end. Given the injury history of Tyler Eifert, I guess that probably makes some sense. This may be a 1A and 1B situation as the season begins.

The line is manned by left tackle Cordy Glenn, left guard Michael Jordan, center Trey Hopkins, right guard John Miller and right tackle Bobby Hart. The venerable Andre Smith is the backup tackle, John Jerry is the backup guard and Billy Price is the backup center. If Glenn cannot play this week, Smith figures to be starting as the first (and only) tackle off the bench.

The biggest head-scratcher on defense is Jordan Evans being listed as the starting weakside linebacker over Germaine Pratt, who is listed as the backup at all three linebacker spots. Evans didn’t do much to maintain his status as a starter when the Bengals deploy three linebackers, but he and Pratt will essentially be backups for most of the game.

Andrew Billings is listed as the starting nose tackle, with Josh Tupou as the backup. Andrew Brown, who had a much better preseason showing than Tupou and proved to be a force on the inside, is listed as the No. 3 man at right defensive end.

And figure this one out. Tony McRae, who consistently got beat in coverage during the preseason, when he was going up against the other team’s second and third string receivers, is slotted as the No. 2 man at left cornerback while Darius Phillips, who impressed during the preseason, is the No 3 man at right cornerback. McRae played mostly in the slot and at right cornerback during the preseason, while Philips played on the left side.

In his defense, McRae did lead the team in tackles in the preseason with 17, to only eight for Phillips. But Phillips had one of just two interceptions for the Bengals, recorded three passes defensed and recovered a fumble. McRae was credited with one pass defended.

The rest of the lineup includes Carlos Dunlap at left defensive end, Geno Atkins at defensive tackle, Sam Hubbard at right defensive end, Nick Vigil at strong-side linebacker and Preston Brown at middle linebacker, Dre Kirkpatrick at left cornerback and William Jackson III at right cornerback, with Shawn Williams at strong safety and Jessie Bates III at free safety.

Kerry Wynn is the backup at left defensive end, followed by Jordan Willis, and Renell Wren is the No. 3 guy at nose tackle. Ryan Glasgow is the backup nose tackle and Carl Lawson is listed as the No. 2 man at right defensive end behind Sam Hubbard. Look for each man to get ample playing time throughout the season, with Lawson’s usage continuing to increase as his health warrants.

B.W. Webb is listed as the backup at right cornerback, but he will actually be the starting slot cornerback, unless until the return of Darqueze Dennard. Backup safeties include Clayton Fejedelem and Brandon Wilson.

If you’re interested, here is what the Seahawks’ first depth chart looks like:= for Sunday:

Interestingly, Jadeveon Clowney is already listed as a starter after being traded from the Texans this weekend. This could signal Seattle plans to give him a heavy amount of snaps, despite getting just one week to learn the defense and acclimate himself into it.