By tomorrow the Bengals will need to have whittled their roster down to 75 players in accordance with league rules. They began that process today by cutting five players: Isaiah Lewis, Larry Black, Quinn Sharp, R.J. Stanford, and, most notably, Ryan Whalen.
Lewis was an early off-season favorite. Signed as an UDFA following this year’s draft, Lewis was considered by many to be a score for the Bengals. He was slated to go earlier in the draft heading into his senior season at Michigan State, but after having arthroscopic knee surgery, Lewis’ draft stock fell. He entered camp with a splash earning the praise of Bengals.com, Geoff Hobson. But Lewis quickly flamed out within a very deep secondary and was unable to earn much playing time during the Bengals first three preseason games (13 snaps total). Despite the very small sample size on Lewis, he remains a strong candidate to make the practice squad as a physical “in the box” safety who needs to perfect his pass protection; a talent that works well within the AFC North. I suspect the Bengals may have kept Lewis quiet during the preseason so no other team would pick him up. Unfortunately for Lewis, the team is simply to stacked in the secondary to require his services. I’ll be looking forward to Lewis in training camp next year.
Defensive tackle Larry Black was an unfortunate story during last year’s training camp. The team has possessed a strong group of linemen in past years, but Black was having a strong camp and making noise. Black went down with a dislocated ankle in early August of 2013 and was placed on Injured Reserve. He was unable to make a similar impression this year as his job became more difficult when the Bengals added several more players to the position group. The Bengals will likely only keep four defensive tackles on the final roster. Geno Atkins, Domata Peko, and Brandon Thompson are locks. That leaves Devon Still and Christo Bilukidi to fight it out for the final spot as LaKendrick Ross will presumably be released during the final round of cuts. If either, or both, Ross and the other released defensive tackle make it through waivers, then they’ll likely be signed to the practice squad. And because Black is essentially third in line for a practice squad spot, his time with the Bengals seems to be over.
Quinn Sharp has been fighting for the kicker spot for two years now. He was a highly decorated college kicker while at Oklahoma State, even having made the All-American list as both a kicker and a punter. When he was released by the Bengals last year, he signed a deal to kick with the Toronto Argonauts. Sharp kicked well during this preseason, but as Mike Nugent hasn’t done anything to lose his job, the Bengals have chosen to stay loyal. Nugent has been an average kicker at best during the past two regular seasons, so if he’s still around, maybe Sharp will have a better chance next year.
R.J. Stanford, one of two notable cuts today, came to the Bengals this off-season as a career special teamer. His experience on special teams was supposed to be his ticket onto this team, possibly as a gunner following the departure of Andrew Hawkins to the Cleveland Browns. Stanford was convincingly overmatched during yesterday’s game versus the Cardinals. Rookie John Brown consistently created problems for Stanford and may have ended Stanford’s time with the Bengals when he beat him for a 30 yard TD in the third quarter. Stanford does not have practice squad eligibility, so his time with the Bengals is over. He could be picked up by another team if they find themselves struggling in the secondary and on special teams.
The most notable cut of the day was wide receiver Ryan Whalen. He was selected by the Bengals in the sixth of the 2011 draft. He’s been a stalwart in the receivers room and contributed well to special teams during his three years with the team. He’s sure-handed and a hard worker; I imagine he’s a good “locker room” guy also. It seems he simply lacked the talent to make any further impression on the Bengals even in light of Marvin Jones’ injury and the concussion James Wright sustained last night. Personally I’ll be rooting for Whalen to make another team. He’s a solid all-around player and, if given the opportunity to contribute as a receiver, he may surprise a team out there.
Stay tuned for the Bengals next six cuts within the next 24 hours.