Bengals Who Could Be Training Camp Casualties

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Dec 22, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals outside linebacker Vincent Rey (57) against the Denver Broncos at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Vincent Rey (and much of the Linebacker Room)

Don’t let the picture fool you, many linebackers could be subject to increased scrutiny this offseason.  Vincent Rey is certainly one of these players along with Marquis Flowers and Jayson DiManche.

Several factors could influence this potential decision, most importantly Vontaze Burfict‘s status going forward.  Although the surgeon who performed his microfracture surgery has given Burfict’s knee a positive prognosis, recoveries from such a procedure are hardly assured.  It begs the question, could Burfict start 2015 on the I.R./D.T.R. (injured reserved with designation to return) list, which would sideline him for the first half of 2015.  If this happens, the Bengals will need to keep an extra linebacker for at least half the season.

If Burfict returns as the team expects, then other questions will be asked.  With nine selections this year, the Bengals could invest in another linebacker.  Although the Bengals won’t likely utilize their early selections on the position–they typically don’t, but should this year–they won’t need to early in order to put these linebackers at risk.  None of the aforementioned players are starters if Burfict is healthy; Burfict, Rey Maualuga, and either A.J. Hawk or Emmanuel Lamur likely occupies those spots.  This means that even a mid to late round selection could impact the reserve linebackers.

Sep 7, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict (55) warms up prior to the game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Vincent Rey commands by far the most money with a $2.6 million cap hit this year, so the monetary discussion can be reasonably applied to him.  But Rey has many factors in his favor also.  He produces well in recent seasons, and especially when the “injury bug” plagued the unit.  More than this, and especially with Cedric Peerman remaining off the roster, his impact on special teams is vital.  He’s a special teams captain and, though his impact has diminish recently due to his defensive role expanding, he’ll be vital in this way as long as Peerman remains off the roster.

Last year’s sixth round selection Marquis Flowers was considered to be a “steal” by many having been selected so late.  He plays with a fiery demeanor, which offers the defense a presence that is often needed.  Flowers was impressive during last year’s preseason, and though his time on the field was limited during his rookie season, he played in every game, produced on special teams, and nearly converted one interception that remains memorable despite it counting only as a pass deflection.

Flowers’ spot on the roster could be at risk if the Bengals invest in more linebackers this year.  As a sixth round selection, the team has little resources invested in him and could try to place him on the practice squad; after last year’s alteration of the squad’s rules, Flowers would be eligible.  This would likely be a poor decision though if the Bengals hope to keep Flowers, as another team would likely sign him, especially after such a promising rookie season. The same could be said for Jayson DiManche, who in this writer’s opinion, offers great upside himself.

DiManche was signed in 2013 as an undrafted free agent.  He was a highly productive pass rusher during his collegiate days and, upon being signed by the Bengals, began training as a strong side linebacker.  By all accounts, he has progressed well and has been highly productive on special teams; during his rookie season, he finished amongst the league’s leaders in special teams tackles.

With regards to 2015, as a reserve linebacker, DiManche would offer the special teams unit his usual prowess, yet so does Rey and Flowers.  DiManche does have one skill that the others don’t, which could be highly beneficial for the Bengals.  After struggling to effectively pressure quarterbacks in 2014, could the team be looking to blitz more often?  Could they be looking for a rusher from the linebacker position?  If so, the Bengals need look no further than their own roster and Jayson DiManche. If any, the one skill DiManche brought with him to the Bengals in 2013 was his ability to act as a speed rusher off the edge.  The Bengals have yet to employ him in such a role, but would likely be wise to do so this season.

With the team likely investing in at least one linebacker in this year’s draft, the team will be faced with a tough decision at the position.  They have some promising youth who have developed well early in their career, which has to make the team smile.  Yet, this youth may not be as skilled as a veteran such as Vincent Rey.  If they invest in another linebacker in the middle rounds (or higher), the Bengals would have to decide between youth or a veteran savvy.  With six linebackers returning from last season (Burfict, Maualuga, Lamur, Rey, DiManche, and Flowers) and one signed this offseason (Hawk), there simply isn’t room for another linebacker on the 53-man roster.

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