Should The Bengals Keep Chris Lewis-Harris?
Aug 24, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris (37) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
After being suspended for two games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, Chris Lewis-Harris’ suspension ended following this week’s game versus the Atlanta Falcons. By tomorrow, the team must choose what to do with the cornerback heading forward in 2014.
Lewis-Harris is a third year cornerback from UT-Chattanooga. He’s been a “fringe” roster player to date, who has played in eight total games through his first two years. During his half year of total action, Lewis-Harris has played admirably when filling in for several different cornerbacks who have been hurt over the last two years. Given Lewis-Harris often faced reserve players, over the course of this preseason, he earned the best “overall” and “coverage” scores of any Bengal’ cornerback per Profootball Focus (1.8 for both, respectively).
But Lewis-Harris now faces a situation where the Bengals possess a fully-healthy secondary and possess additional depth in the secondary after drafting Darqueze Dennard in this year’s draft. The Bengals have also suffered a copious amount of injuries over the past couple of weeks and, because of this, may have to utilize their final roster spot elsewhere; the team suffered an injury along its offensive line when Kevin Zeitler went down, to its tight ends corps losing both Tyler Eifert and Alex Smith over the past two weeks, and may be short at wide receiver if A.J. Green sits out against the Titans. But because the team does have an open roster spot currently (the roster is currently at 52), Lewis-Harris may have options with this team either way.
If the Bengals choose to release Lewis-Harris, he could be picked up by another team; many teams would be willing to pick up any potential talent in the secondary. If he was to make it through waivers, Lewis-Harris could be signed to the practice squad, if the Bengals brought up another player to the 53-man roster for this week’s game; a player such as Trevor Robinson at guard or one of the teams’ two tight ends on the practice squad, Ryan Otten and Kevin Greene, to fill in for both Eifert and Smith, who’s bicep diagnosis “doesn’t sound bright” per Geoff Hobson. But the Bengals do already have depth along the line and could use Ryan Hewitt at tight end, so they don’t necessarily need to bring anyone up.
Lewis-Harris has been a quality player for this team when called upon. He is a solid special teams player and knows the Bengals defensive system at this point. Teams can’t seem to ever have enough depth in the secondary and because the Bengals have suffered injuries in the past, keeping their veterans fresh should be a priority; thus far, 36-year-old Terence Newman has played 100% of the defense’s snaps. It’ll help this defense be more effective later in the season when the team is making its “playoff push” while also allowing the youth to gain some quality snaps, which will also benefit the defense as a whole. The Bengals most often employ the nickel set also, which means they often utilize three cornerbacks. For this reason alone, carrying an extra defensive back may be necessary. Keeping Lewis-Harris should be the team’s choice today.