It’s that time of year, Bengals Fans: Time to speculate who is in, who is out, and who is barely hanging on. Without further delay, here are my picks for the Bengals opening day roster.
QB (Currently on Roster: Carson Palmer, J.T. O’Sullivan, Jordan Palmer, Billy Farris
1. Carson Palmer- The franchise and really a no brainer.
2. J.T. O’Sullivan- JT was brought in to play a similar role that Ryan Fitzpatrick. Not a guy you want starting long term, but a serviceable backup
3. Jordan Palmer- If little brother is happy, then Carson is happy. Jordan seems more than content to hold a clipboard and collect a pay check
HB/TB (Cedric Benson, James Johnson, Brian Leonard, Bernard Scott, Kenny Watson, DeDe Dorsey, Marlon Lucky)
1. Cedric Benson- By his play over the last eight games, he’s earned it. If you stretch his production out over 16 games, he would have had almost 1,000 yards. For a guy off the street playing behind a patchwork line, it was a tremendous effort
2. James Johnson- Bit of a shocker here, but Johnson impressed coaches dating back to last year’s training camp, and he showed some flashes down the stretch. Look for him to see a few more snaps
3. Brian Leonard- the Bengals new third down back arriving via a trade with the Rams for DT Orien Harris. Will see some snaps on the goal line and on 3rd down.
FB (Jeremi Johnson, Fui Vakapuna, Chris Pressley, JD Runnels)
1. Fui Vakapuna- Fui reminds the Bengals a lot of Naufahu Tahi, whom they signed to an offer sheet that the Vikings matched (As an aside, Tahi and Vakapuna are cousins). Look for Fui to make the roster and to be brought along Gradually
WR (Chad Ocho Cinco, Laveranues Coles, Chris Henry, Andre Caldwell, Jerome Simpson, Maurice Purify, Freddie Brown, Antonio Chatman, Quan Cosby, Mario Urrutia, David Richmond, Greg Orton)
1. Chad Ocho Cinco- Stop the speculation, the Ocho is going nowhere. Not even Drew Rosenhaus is as hard headed as Mike Brown.
2. Laveranues Coles- Coles is TJ Houshmandzadeh with better career stats, a better attitude, and a cheaper contract and oh, he’s two years younger.
3. Chris Henry- This guy could be the next coming of Randy Moss. He could also be the next Rae Carruth. In speaking t Henry, it seems like he finally “Gets it”. Let’s hope that’s true
4. Jerome Simpson- You will not cut a second round pick after one year. The chatter is that Simpson is vastly improved. If so, he gives another option to an already deep WR Corps
5. Andre Caldwell- Last year’s third rounder is said to be a poor man’s TJ. Let’s hope Caldwell is more of a team player and less of a "me first" type of guy.
6. Quan Cosby- Rumor has it the Undrafted free agent can return punts. If he’s even marginally better that other options, look for him to land the job.
TE (Chase Coffman, Reggie Kelly, Ben Utecht, Matt Sherry, Darius Hill, Daniel Coats)
1. Reggie Kelly- A tenacious blocker in the run game, Kelly was brought back at the bequest of Carson Palmer back in 2006. He’s getting a little older, but don’t look for him to go anywhere in 2009
2. Chase Coffman- Chase is a rookie out of Missouri that should give Bob Bratowski another option in what could be a lethal Bengals Passing game.
3. Ben Utecht- Ben was supposed to come in and make a difference in the Bengals passing game, but was limited due to injuries and quarterback play. He’ll need to make a difference this year to hold on to his job for 2009
T (Anthony Collins, Andre Smith, Dennis Roland, Scott Kooistra)
1. Anthony Collins- last year’s 4th round pick was a pleasant surprise, starting six games down the stretch and playing quite well. Look for Collins to start at RT
2. Andre Smith- despite ongoing agent issues, Smith is a LT in the mold of Levi Jones, except that he is less injury prone and a better run blocker
3. Scott Kooistra- Kooistra is a 7 year vet that has spent his entire career in Cincinnati. A situational starter, Kooistra can move inside to play G as well
4. Dennis Roland- at 6’9, 325 pounds, Roland is an imposing figure. A former undrafted free agent, Roland is a nice situational blocker that can provide the occasional start.
G (Andrew Whitworth, Bobbie Williams, Nate Livings, Evan Mathias, Colin Dow, Digger Bujnoch)
1. Andrew Whitworth- at 6’7, 330, Whitworth is a mauler in the classic sense. He is the heart and soul of the Bengals O-Line, and a team leader as well. Look for Whit to push for his 1st Pro Bowl in 2009. Can also slide out to T.
2. Bobbie Williams- The veteran presence on the O-Line, Williams is heading into his 10thyear, but still has some tread on the tires. Look for him to start at RG
3. Nate Livings- Another guard out of LSU, Livings came on strong last season, starting the last 6 games and filling in nicely for Whitworth. Looks to be the eventual replacement for Bobbie Williams
4. Digger Bujnoch- a bit of a wild card here, but Digger is a Cincinnati product whose father Glen was a member of the 1981 Super Bowl team. Digger played T in college and has also seen several snaps at C for the Bengals. One of the last guys that will make the cut.
C (Kyle Cook, Jonathan Lugis, Dan Santucci, Andrew Crummey)
1. Kyle Cook- the (gulp) incumbent going into 2009. Cook was slated to make is first start on October 5th against Dallas last year, but dislocated his toe and went on injured reserve. A stop-gap, nothing more
2. Jonathan Lugis- The future at C for the Bengals. Lugis is smart, athletic and talented. Look for the 2007 Rimington award winner to push for the starting job from day one.
K (Shayne Graham)
1. Shayne Graham- The team’s franchise player, Graham will be the Bengals kicker in 2009, barring injury
P (Kevin Huber)
1. Kevin Huber- the Bengals were elated that Huber was available in round 5, and Huber goes into TC as the only punter on the Bengals roster.
LS (Brad St. Louis, James Smith)
1. James Smith- Another surprise here, Smith will be the third rookie LS to come to camp to take Brad St Louis’s job. Look for Smith to be the one to do it
DE (Antwan Odom, Robert Geathers, Frostee Rucker, Jonathan Fanene, Chris Harrington, Michael Johnson, Clinton McDonald)
1. Antwan Odom- the Bengals biggest FA coup in 2008 turned out to be a bust in 2008. Several injuries derailed Odom, who showed flashes of playmaking ability. Rumor has it that Odom is packed another 35 pounds of muscle on his 6’5 frame, which he’ll need in the AFC North
2. Robert Geathers- Since his 10.5 sack season in 2006, Geathers has been beset by injuries to himself and the LB core that have forced him to move around. The window is closing quickly for Geathers, who must perform in 2009 to hold Michael Johnson off
3. Michael Johnson- At points a consensus top 10 pick in the 2009 draft, Johnson fell into the Bengals lap in the third round. One of the most physically gifted players to come to Cincinnati in years; it’ll be up to Marvin Lewis to light a fire under Johnson.
4. Jonathan Fanene- Fanene had worked his way into the starting lineup after injuries forced Odom and Geathers out. He responded with a pair of 10 tackle games. Fanene can also move inside on passing downs.
DT (Domata Peko, Pat Sims, Tank Johnson, Jason Shirley, Pernell Phillips)
1. Domata Peko- An unquestioned leader of the defense, Peko has been all the Bengals have hoped for and more since drafting him. Will start at DT
2. Pat Sims- A pleasant surprise out of last year’s third round, Sims goes in as the starter in the other DT slot. Look for Sims to become an every down DT
3. Tank Johnson- This was the move that brought attention to the Bengals for all the wrong reasons. Tank failed as a 3-4 NT/DE in Dallas, so it will be interesting to see how he does in Cincy’s 4-3
4. Jason Shirley- Shirley was a developmental prospect taken in the 5th round of last year’s draft. It remains to be seen if the 6’5, 338 pound Shirley, who has 4.9 speed, can crack the lineup
LB (Dhani Jones, Keith Rivers, Brandon Johnson, Darryl Blackstock, Jim Maxwell, Rey Maualuga, Abdul Hodge, Dan Stuka)
1. Dhani Jones- Dhani was another waiver wire gem for the Bengals. All he has done since his arrival is lead the team in tackles, play all three LB spots, and host his own show on the Discovery Channel.
2. Keith Rivers- Last year’s first round pick, Rivers was showing flashes of greatness until what many have said was a chap shot by Steelers WR Hines Ward Broke his jaw and ended his season.
3. Rey Maualuga- By far the steal of the 2009 Draft, Maualuga is a two-time All American and Bednarik award winner who brings instant hitting power and swagger to a defense that sorely needs it.
4. Brandon Johnson- Johnson filled in nicely for the injured rivers, Inking 85 tackles, 1.5 sacks and 2 picks in just 9 starts. Johnson is a key to the depth of the Bengals defense.
5. Darryl Blackstock- Despite missing 4 games to suspension last year, Blackstock proved himself to be the ultimate team player and jack of all trades when he moved to DE after a rash of injuries. Strong special teams play ensures him a roster spot.
6. Rashad Jeanty- Jeanty is another one of the CFL starts the Bengals seem to covet. In taking to Jeanty's agent David Canter, Jeanty is not happy with the fact that he was not given a long term contract. Look for this to be Jeanty's last season in Cincinnati.
CB (Leon Hall, Jonathan Joseph, Morgan Trent, David Jones, Geoffrey Pope, Rico Murray, Simeon Castille)
1. Leon Hall- Hall’s coverage skills in Mike Zimmer’s defense improved drastically in a season which saw him with the duty of covering each opponent’s top receiver. Look for his ball skills to improve in 2009
2. Jonathan Joseph- Since entering the league, Joseph is top in passes defended. With Hall on the opposite side, teams are not going to have any choice but to throw at Joseph, and he can make them pay
3. Morgan Trent- Trent is a 6th round pick out of Michigan. With an apparent lack of depth behind Hall and Joseph, look for Trent to earn playing time right away
4. Simeon Castille- The former Alabama CB started last season on the 53 man roster, and should start there again in 2009 as a key special teams player
5. Rico Murray- a mid major CB out of Kent State, Murray looks to pull a Simeon Castille and make the 53 man roster for opening day. This could change if the Bengals sign a veteran corner such as Rod Hood
FS/SS (Chris Crocker, Chinedum Ndukwe, Roy Williams, Marvin White, Corey Lynch, Tom Nelson, Kyries Herbert)
1. Chris Crocker- after being signed off the street, Crocker was the leader of the Bengals defensive backfield. He seems to be a great fit for Zimmer’s defensive scheme, and should make a big impact in 2009
2. Chinedum Ndukwe- Ndukwe has become famous for his big hits and timely, game changing plays. Look for him to share time with Crocker and Williams
3. Roy Williams. The former 1st round pick was cut by Dallas because they did not think he could cut it. Williams joins the Bengals with a chip on his shoulder, and a lot to prove.
4. Corey Lynch- Lynch reminds many Bengals fans of Kevin Kaesviharn. He’s not the most physically gifted player, put he plays smart and at full throttle. Look for him to contribute heavily, especially on special teams
5. Marvin White- White is known as a fierce hitter that does not shy away from contact. A knee injury will likely start his season on the PUP, but he should come back and contribute