Bengals: Preseason Week 2 Roster Prediction
December 23, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jonathan Dwyer (27) is tackled by Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Domata Peko (94) and outside linebacker Vontaze Burfict (center) and free safety Reggie Nelson (20) during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. The Cincinnati Bengals won 13-10. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Defensive Line (9): Carlos Dunlap, Domata Peko, Geno Atkins, Margus Hunt, Wallace Gilberry, Will Clarke, Brandon Thompson, Devon Still, Robert Geathers
The only questionable players in this group continue to be Devon Still and Robert Geathers. Devon Still has done little to date during his NFL career after being drafted in the second round of the 2012 draft. But Still is entering only his third year and the options behind him at defensive tackle aren’t ready to supplant him, so his spot is nearly safe due to his potential. As for Geathers, I originally predicted the team would move on from him due to the talented youth around him and his contractual terms. But the Bengals still have plenty of cap space to extend both A.J. Green and Vontaze Burfict following Dalton’s extension and Geathers was really impressive during the team’s first preseason action. He looked youthful and energized and likewise produced in such a way after causing a fumble while sacking Tyler Bray. He is yet another player who can play all over the line and clearly has “gas in the tank.” It’s possible the team could go heavy along the line and keep Dontay Moch, who continued his great preseason production with a sack of his own. If the Bengals want another edge-rushing presence who can also do so while standing up, Moch could provide that, but he’d most certainly have to use his ultra-athleticism to produce on special teams and there’s little evidence to his ability there. The battle for Moch is getting more difficult by the day, so his retention seems unlikely come September.
Linebackers (6): Vontaze Burfict, Emmanuel Lamur, Vincent Rey, Rey Maualuga, Jayson DiManche, Marquis Flowers
The first five here are roster locks though I still advocate for the team to at least consider the possibility of moving on from Maualuga. This isn’t necessarily because I think he can’t be a productive player, but rather it’s an observation of this particular football team. The Bengals don’t use a lot of linebackers in the first place because they often use the nickel set. The linebacker room is getting increasingly crowded and cutting some of these young players would seem to be a mistake. And finally because Vincent Rey has earned more snaps in Maualuga’s stead. Because Maualuga offers only run-stopping ability, it limits the time he can see the field as he also has never played special teams. There are simply to many other promising players to keep such a limited player who would also enjoy more success on a different team that would utilize him more, but alas, the Bengals are loyal and there are worse qualities for a team to have.
After spending last season on the I.R., second-year linebacker Sean Porter was unable to play in Thursday’s game due to another injury. Porter has missed a few practices and, despite his versatility and pass-rushing ability, his injuries may be moving him off the roster. Concurrently, Marquis Flowers has been impressive and is making his presence known. He’s fast, physical, and has an edge that likens that of Vontaze Burfict. The Bengals have slowly adopted this attitude from Burfict and it has paid dividends thus far. Flowers could add to that approach while contributing his speed to make this defense faster. He’s a converted safety much like Emmanuel Lamur, so he could be very helpful in a nickel set. Look for him to hold off Porter if he continues in this fashion.
Defensive Backs (11): Leon Hall, Terence Newman, Adam Jones, Darqueze Dennard, Dre Kirkpatrick, Reggie Nelson, George Iloka, Shawn Williams, Danieal Manning, Taylor Mays, RJ Stanford
The first nine here seem to be roster locks, but sticking with the theme, special teams considerations will play a huge role here. I originally thought we’d see the team rely on young special teamers from last year to take over and cary the unit, but the struggle was evident in the first game. There’s a lot of football to play, so I don’t want to over exaggerate the point, but the team will need to consider this. Both Taylor Mays and RJ Stanford have significant special teams experience and both provide a measure of defensive ability; Mays played an especially important role last year as a nickel backer once both Emmanuel Lamur and Sean Porter went down with injuries. Again, special teams concerns will dictate much of the decision-making in the selection of the team’s secondary.