January 19, 2013; Carson , CA, USA; American linebacker Jordan Campbell (54) of New Mexico Highlands celebrates after making a tackle against National during the first half of the NFLPA Collegiate bowl at the Home Depot Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Meanwhile, five notable rookies are hungry behind them: Bengals 4th round selection Sean Porter; USC transplant and New Mexico-Highlands standout Jordan Campbell; the high-profiled Jayson DiManche; red-shirt rookie Brandon Joiner; and hometown hero JK Schaffer. Any other year in recent Cincinnati memory, any or even all of these guys may have made the final roster. Each of these players offers a legitimate argument. Porter could add depth as a back-up right out the tunnel. Campbell shows amazing play diagnosing the point of attack, but Manny Lawson had better skills in coverage last year, which isn’t saying much. He could become a very fearsome component once matured, but this year, he’d probably only contribute on special teams. DiManche may have been the prize of a small bidding war with Jacksonville, and Joiner may be worth the wait after his short jail stint for crimes committed as a youngster, but both are unknown commodities at this point. Schaffer may not be a true rookie as he was signed to the practice squad last year for the final eight games, but his performance thus far this off season makes him worthy of note as well.
Lastly, there is the dark horse, Aaron Maybin. In 2011, Maybin lead the New York Jets in quarterback hits, sacks and forced fumbles, but completely disintegrated in 2012. To be fair though, so did the rest of the New York Jets, which may quietly make the Maybin acquisition one of the largest steals this off season. If it busts though, there is no loss; as noted, there are plenty of other names to fill the roster.
In the end, the Bengals very well could opt to keep seven linebackers, but many other developmental players will be vying within their own positions for those final slots. However the linebacker situation pans out two things are likely. First, at least one, but probably two linebackers will be named to the practice squad for development and depth, but the chances of one being signed to another team before the end of the 2013 season will be very high. Second, its’ very feasible that Coach Zimmer won’t spend as much time in the nickel as last year and will be back to his old blitzing ways sooner rather than later.