We don't envy the Cincinnati Bengals' coaching staff. Anyone who has coaches sports at any level and has had to cut players from the team will likely tell you it's the worst part of the job. Still, it's a necessary evil and brain trust at Paul Brown Stadium has some tough decisions coming this weekend.
On this week's Inside the Jungle Bengals podcast, the roundtable comprised of Nick Seuberling, Anthony Cosenza and Scott Bantel gave their creations of the team's final roster for 2015. We had a lot of agreements on the offensive side of the ball, but would it be the same for the defense? Read a portion of the transcript and listen to the audio for the other side of the ball.
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Here's some of our discussion about the Bengals' defensive side of the 53-man roster from this week:
NS: On to the defensive side of the football, let's go the defensive end route, Scott. (Michael) Johnson injured, we hope he's back for Week 1, we obviously know Carlos Dunlap is going to be around. Outside of those two, what are we looking at?
SB: I've got five. I'm not 100 percent sure on the fifth one though. I think Michael Johnson, Dunlap, (Wallace) Gilberry and (Will) Clarke are four locks. The fifth one is (Margus) Hunt, which I think he's a lock to make the roster from the start. But, if a guy like (Vontaze) Burfict comes back, assuming he's PUP'ed, depending on how he's played, he might be the odd man out when Burfict comes back. But, I'll stick with five to start the season.
AC: Hard to disagree with that. I mean, those five are the top five and truest defensive ends on the depth chart, in terms of big names. The one caveat is, do you go bigger at linebacker because of what you've seen out of Chris Carter as an edge rusher? this preseason? And, what do you do at defensive tackle? I'm going to say, five as well--the same five Scott mentioned.
NS: Okay. I'm going four. I'm going Dunlap, Johnson, Gilberry and Clarke. I don't think Hunt makes it--I think the experiment is over. The project has not worked--I think the evidence is pretty clear. You don't know what you're going to get out of the third year from Margus Hunt. I'm just not sold. What do you guys think?
AC: I'm on the fence about it because I'm really tempted to take Hunt off because of the flexibiilty of a guy like Marcus Hardison. He's listed as a defensive tackle, but was a 3-4 rush end in college. He can provide pass rush in the middle and can be kicked in or outside as well. Do you go deeper at defensive tackle and go four at end? I just think, even though Hunt has disappointed, they need as many true pass rushers and defensive ends as possible, based on what happened last year. I think they really want to go deep at the defensive line because they've re-built it this offseason, but I'm not totally sold on five. But, for now, I have Hunt making it.
SB: Yeah, and I actually have Hunt making it at the start of the season, but as others come back, I don't have him in there long-term. I have him getting cut when others return.
NS: Alright, so you're going with five and I'm going with four to start the year. Let's move on to tackle. We know about Atkins. There are some question marks--a lot of Bengals fans would like to see Domata Peko cut. I don't see it happening, I think he makes this roster for the same reason Brandon Tate makes this roster--the Bengals are loyal to "their guys". So, AC, let us know what you think at defensive tackle.
AC: Uh--I'm running out of space here, Nick! I'm tempted to go five here as well. Like I said, I'm not totally sold on Hunt making the team so it could be nine total defensive linemen, not ten. But, I think you go (Geno) Atkins, (Pat) Sims, (Marcus) Hardison, Peko, and (Brandon) Thompson. They're preaching rotation up front, so I think they could go five there.
NS: What about you, Scott?
SB: This is a tough one. I have five as well. I have them going with ten defensive linemen to start. Obviously Atkins is a lock, Thompson. Hardison I'm counting as a defensive tackle--that's a lock. If you go the way they play, I feel like Peko should be cut. This coaching staff is extremely loyal to veterans, they like these "pro's pro" kind of guys and that's Peko, so I think he makes the team. If you went simply on performance, I'd go with Sims and (DeShawn) Williams and I think they try to get Williams to the Practice Squad.
AC: I agree, Williams has been impressive.
NS: But, has he been good against ones and twos? Film is one thing, but can these guys play against the best in the NFL? That's the question.
SB: Maybe they cut bait with Hunt and keep Hardison as the tackle/end and keep Williams.
NS: So right now, I've got five defensive tackles, the problem is I'm running out of room...As far as defensive tackle goes, I'm going Atkins, Peko, Thompson, Hardison and Sims as my five.
Listen to the rest of our defensive projections here: