There are a lot of questions still left unanswered for Cincinnati, but things are looking up. Lewis agreed to a contract extension and there were some nice surprises in the team's mock game. Look for the game against the Jets to at least partially answer more burning questions.
This week, we'll talk the unpredictable future of Dontay Moch, Brandon Thompson's role on the team in 2012 and the state of the franchise around Lewis. First up:
@chris_roling Not for your article on Wednesday, but what are your thoughts on Moch's potential this season--post-suspension of course?— Jon Siddoway (@JSiddoway) August 8, 2012
Great question Jon, I was starting to believe I was the only person interested in Moch's future. First of all, he is going to have to impress this preseason to avoid being cut in the first place. Health issues are obviously something the team is going to be watching very closely.
I think he makes the final roster, Mike Zimmer and Lewis need a pass rusher like him on the roster. His speed and ability to get to the quarterback is an element the defense has been missing for some time. He is still a project player, but anything is possible with Zimmer at the helm of the defense.
When he returns from suspension, I see Zimmer using him in specific situations to rush the passer from multiple positions. He is certainly no every-down player, and the Bengals don't need him to be, but I could see him being a significant rotational player in 2012.
@chris_roling Coach Lewis seems more upbeat/positive in his interviews so far this season...Finally "his" team? Other Reasons?Your take?— Court Street Grill (@OhioJukeJoint) August 8, 2012
I think you hit the nail on the head. This is "his" team. Of course, a shiny new contract doesn't hurt, either.
But I think for the first time since Carson Palmer joined the franchise, you are seeing a team that represents the philosophy Lewis wants. He has a young roster he has carefully molded over the years that is buying into what he is selling.
There are no stressful me-first players or excessive run-ins with the law, and he has more say in the day-to-day operations of the franchise, which has in turn allowed him to help mold the Bengals into a modern franchise.
Lewis has surrounded himself with coordinators that he enjoys working with, and has been allowed to bring in the players he wants. The team he has built is slowly on the rise, and its only focus is on the football field.
I think all of the above has given him a new energy. This time a new contract was needed, there were no demands to ensure his return (at least that we know of), which tells me he is content with what is in place, the future and the state of the franchise.
@chris_roling How has Brandon Thompson looked thus far? Think he plays significant snaps this year?— fret (@frettyj) August 9, 2012
Brandon Thompson looked pretty good to me in the mock game. He is great at plugging holes and stuffing the run, and that's all he is really being asked to do.
In my mind, Thompson's arrival could spell the end of Pat Sims in Cincinnati. If he performs well enough this preseason, he will be the primary backup to Domata Peko, so I would imagine he would see about as many snaps as Sims did a year ago.
We'll know a lot more about Thompson after the first couple of preseason games, but I think he will be an important part of the rotation next year.
@chris_roling who makes the 53 man at WR? And PS?— Adam Scolatti (@AdamScolatti) August 9, 2012
Hey Adam, my six for the receivers making the final roster still has not changed very much—A.J. Green, Mohamed Sanu, Marvin Jones, Jordan Shipley. Andrew Hawkins and Armon Binns.
The two big omissions are Brandon Tate (which I'll get into with the next question) and Ryan Whalen. The former has more experience in the new offense, but I think once Shipley gets up to speed, he'll beat out Whalen for the spot with relative ease.
For me, Sanu and Jones have always been locks, Sanu being an ideal possession receiver and Jones being a big-play receiver. Hawkins is invaluable because of his gadget-play ability and excellent special-teams play. Binns is a large deep-threat that could give defenses issues.
As far as practice squad goes, I think Justin Hilton is the leading candidate. He is a solid prospect who will have time to develop and possibly contribute down the stretch if injuries occur.
@chris_roling why exactly do you think Tate could be cut despite being named a starter?— Lex Brolezal (@pianonerd3394) August 9, 2012
I'm simply not sold on Tate. In two years with Tom Brady throwing him passes, he only mustered 432 yards and three scores. Statistics are not everything, but he departed from New England and could not catch a pass all of last year, and we are now suddenly supposed to believe he has blossomed into a starter?
As others have said, I think Tate being named a starter is more of a trial run than anything. So far Armon Binns has looked much better. It's early, but there are too many receivers on the roster as of now.
Tate also happens to be a mediocre return man and in my mind who makes horrendous decisions. There are other receivers more deserving of his roster spot who can contribute both to the offense and special teams in a bigger way—most notably Andrew Hawkins and Marvin Jones.
Unless Tate blows all of us away, I'd be willing to bet a lot that he does not enter the season as a starter, if he makes the roster at all. It's not that outlandish for he and Binns, two players who already know the offense, to be named starters right now over young guys who are learning on the go.
Want to participate and have your question featured in the mailbag next week? Hit the button below to follow me on Twitter and send me your questions every Wednesday!