With five players now named to the Inactive Reserve list, four of whom are in the secondary, yet another perspective way to analyze potential final roster spots is to simply attempt to deduce who and what the Bengals value for depth in regards to their practice squad. With the paring down of the Bengals roster is happening now, a quick review of practice squad protocol and policies could help understand some possible candidates. NFL practice squads are limited to eight players, but could have nine if one is considered “international”. Players usually received the League minimum salary of $5,200 per week unless the club looks to sweeten the deal.
Interestingly enough, a player can only remain on the practice squad for two years baring a three-week non-continuous activation period during either complete season before the team must sign him as an active member or release him entirely. Lastly though drawing a paycheck from the team, players on a practice squad are still considered free agents who can sign with another team at any point. Understanding these points, the following eight are highly likely to be named.
QB Zac Robinson – The Oklahoma State all-time leading passer is highly likely to spend his second season on the Bengals practice squad. The Bengals are only looking to keep two quarterbacks on the active roster in order to maximize roster spots for other positions. While not the glamour job that most quarterbacks dream of, Robinson was acquired and released by three different teams (New England, Seattle, Detroit) between being selected in the 7th Round of the 2010 Draft and the start of the 2011 season. Robinson learned the playbook book on the practice squad last year and drawing a paycheck of any kind has certainly got to be better than the alternative.
DE Micah Johnson – Johnson has shown a lot of potential in training camp and has made some great tackles in these past three preseason games filling in for Carlos Dunlap and Robert Geathers. However, while there is just too much talent at the position in front of him, it is a bit concerning about injuries to said starting defensive ends this early in the season, which may manifest into something greater as the season wears on. In this case Johnson being called up is very conceivable, but making him the fifth defensive end might be gluttonous. Nonetheless, keeping Johnson around PBS to marinate for another season is good considering Geathers is entering into his 9th season. Next year would be the time to make a call on Johnson as he spent all last year on the practice squad with Zac Robinson.
DT Nick Hayden – After coming to the Bengals late last season, Hayden looks like he’s really picking up the defense this year, flying around, making tackles and being a general presence on the preseason field of play. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of talent ahead of him in the depth chart. To further complicate matters, the jury is still out as to the fate of Pat Sims. The Bengals will likely keep four tackles, but there is the outside chance of five, and Sims is likely the favorite. However, if Sims gets the boot, Hayden definitely has the potential to make the final cut, in which case this slot may be available.
CB TJ Heath – This could easily have been Taveon Rogers, but regardless a cornerback will be the practice roster. Despite likely keeping six others on the active roster, age and injuries mark every single veteran corner. Keeping depth is critical; unfortunately, available overall talent is in shorter supply.