Bengals: 53-Man Roster Prediction following Jets Game
December 23, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; The Pittsburgh Steelers offense lines up against the Cincinnati Bengals defense 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, Margus Hunt, Wallace Gilberry, Robert Geathers, Will Clark, Geno Atkins, Domata Peko, Brandon Thompson, Devon Still
At the start of camp Robert Geathers was in a battle for the assumed final defensive end spot along with Dontay Moch and Sam Montgomery. That battle has seemingly disappeared after Montgomery has been unnoticeable and Moch sat out Saturday’s action. Geathers was quiet versus the Jets on the stat sheet, but his play thus far has been solid. He brings a veteran, reliable presence to this line and can help the talented but raw rookie, Will Clark, who is struggling so far to be effective while on the field; the Bengals acknowledged his “project” status upon drafting him, so it comes as little surprise. Nonetheless, Geathers’ presence could certainly help Clark while Geathers also contributes to the defensive effort as he has for so long.
The other “at risk” player here is Devon Still. Since being drafted in 2011, Still has struggled to find his niche along the line. He’s only in his third year, so he still has time to develop, but the Bengals may be seeking other options. Little known tackle Christo Bilukidi is having a strong camp and played more snaps than Still did against the Jets (after Still had more in game one). Bilukidi contributed two tackles against the Jets after producing a sack against the Chiefs. Still has produced only one tackle in two games. At this point Still is probably the front runner for the final spot, but Bilukidi is making a strong impression and is “nipping” at Still’s heals.
(Here’s a nice article by Cincinnati.com’s Paul Dehner regarding Bilukidi)
Linebacker (6): Vontaze Burfict, Emmanuel Lamur, Vincent Rey, Rey Maualuga, Jayson DiManche, Marquis Flowers
The battle here comes down to DiManche, Flowers, and Sean Porter. But as Porter hasn’t been able to get onto the field this preseason due to injury, he’s likely heading to the practice squad. Porter is talented and versatile, but I doubt he’d be picked up by another team considering his brief career has been marred by injuries after missing all of last year due to a shoulder injury. Both DiManche and Flowers received substantial snaps during the Jets game and it looks as if the team is going to get them as much work as possible during the preseason as the Bengals’ linebacker rotation is firmly established between Burfict, Lamur, Rey, and Maualuga. The final question within this group will come if hybrid linebacker-safety Taylor Mays makes the roster and can involve himself in the nickel-backer rotation during the regular season as he did last year.
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 final battle here looks to come down to RJ Stanford and Chris Lewis-Harris. Players like Onterio McCalebb, Victor Hampton, and Lavelle Westbrooks will be playing for a spot on the practice squad as they’ve failed to establish themselves within this deep and capable group. Taylor Mays seems to be a lock now as these fringe players along with safety Isaiah Lewis haven’t received substantial snaps and Mays’ ability on special teams will be important.
Both Stanford and Lewis-Harris enjoyed extra opportunities as Dre Kirkpatrick sat out the Jets game. Lewis-Harris seems to be the superior defensive back by a slight edge while both players can contribute on special teams. Lewis-Harris was suspended for the start of the regular season earlier this off-season after violating the league’s substance abuse policy; he’ll miss the first two games. This has to give Stanford a slight edge along with a lengthy special teams experience. Lewis-Harris will be able to remain on the roster going into the season, but he won’t count against the 53-man roster limit, much in the way that DeQuin Evans did last year after being suspended. Unless Stanford plays himself out of the role, once Lewis-Harris’ two-game suspension is up, I’d expect the team to chose to remain with Stanford and Lewis-Harris to be picked up by another team.