Breaking Down All the New Faces on the 2014 Cincinnati Bengals
To a lot of Cincinnati Bengals fans, there may not appear to be many new faces on the team. They were mostly inactive during the free-agent period and added no huge impact signings.
However, when you run down the list of new faces, there are actually a stunning amount, most of whom could feasibly make the roster and have a shot at making an impact. The most intriguing of these new faces is probably the undrafted free agents.
Make no mistake, Darqueze Dennard and Jeremy Hill make for plenty to get excited about, but don't overlook the guys who were deemed not good enough for a draft selection. James Wilder Jr. was a playmaker on the national champion Florida State Seminoles. Or you could take a look at safety Isaiah Lewis, who was a teammate alongside Dennard at Michigan State.
That only scratches the surface—what can we expect from some of the newbies in Cincinnati this season?
Jasper Collins, WR
Collins recorded 37 career touchdowns while at small school Mount Union College and runs a pretty good 4.49-second, 40-yard dash. In all likelihood, the Bengals claimed him off waivers to see if they could find a diamond in the rough. The back side of the receivers corps isn't exactly strong, so Collins may have an opportunity to make a little noise.
However, I don't see that happening. Collins, if he stays with the organization, is likely to see practice squad duties.
Will Svitek, OT
In Cincinnati, that would be his only purpose should he make the 53-man roster. The Bengals' only real depth at the offensive tackle position before signing Svitek would be Marshall Newhouse, another new face on the team. They have also transitioned second-year man Tanner Hawkinson to tackle.
Svitek doesn't carry a high impact like Andrew Whitworth does, but he could be useful if Andre Smith gets injured—he made a few appearances at right tackle with various setups during training camp.
He's going to have a lot of faces to beat out, but his veteran presence should be welcome on the line. If he doesn't make the 53-man, he'll be one of the last cuts the Bengals make.
Chandler Burden, OT
Second-year tackle Chandler Burden is a hometown product, hailing from Hamilton, Ohio and playing at the University of Kentucky. If he is going to make the 53-man roster, it'd strictly be to have an emergency third-string tackle.
For now, it is looking like Marshall Newhouse and Tanner Hawkinson will be the primary backups to Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith, but Burden could find himself on the roster if he does well during the preseason.
Burden has been with the practice squad for both Kansas City and Miami, so he has virtually no NFL experience. However, he's received a little coaching, so that could go well for the former Wildcat.
With all of the new faces at tackle, it's tough to say who will make the cut, but I can't imagine Burden is going to be on the main roster come Week 1.
Marshall Newhouse, OT
A former fifth-round pick in 2010, Marshall Newhouse saw time as a member of the Green Bay Packers. He was the team's starting left tackle during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons before his release in 2013. After such a presence on what were two solid Packer teams, could he have a big role in Cincinnati's offense?
The team experimented a lot during training camp as they attempted to figure out who the best starting five on the offensive line were. Newhouse saw some time at both left tackle and right tackle.
In the end, Newhouse is likely to be one of the backup tackles for Hue Jackson's offense, playing a role similar to that of Anthony Collins last season. That's not to compare the two, but just pointing out what Newhouse's scenario is likely to be this season.
Recall that Whitworth moved over to left guard last season while Clint Boling was injured, leaving Collins to start at left tackle. As Boling continues to struggle with injuries, this could be the scenario Week 1, though it doesn't seem likely at the moment.
Sam Montgomery, DE
After two stellar seasons at Louisiana State University, defensive end Sam Montgomery came into the NFL with a lot of hope—unfortunately, that hope and potential hasn't been realized thus far. He was released from the Houston Texans in October after violating team rules.
Montgomery is very quick on his feet, and that helped him rack up 17 sacks during his last two seasons at LSU. Unfortunately, speculation was that his production "stagnated" at school, and then questions arose about how effective he was going to be in the NFL.
While Montgomery probably does possess a lot of talent that would be good to see, he's going to be hard-pressed for opportunities to show it. The Bengals are incredibly deep on the defensive line, particularly as it comes to the ends. Carlos Dunlap will start, and we will probably see Margus Hunt and Wallace Gilberry play on the other end.
After that, Montgomery will be battling rookie Will Clarke, veteran Robert Geathers and the returning Dontay Moch for playing time and exposure.
Given how highly thought of he once was, Paul Guenther may take Montgomery to add depth to the ends and see what he can do in some situations. If he impresses, he could move up the ladder.
Kevin Brock, TE
With the departure of Alex Smith (and despite his recent re-signing), the Bengals brought in Kevin Brock to compete with Ryan Hewitt for the No. 3 tight end position. Brock has seen brief periods of action with the Bills and Chiefs.
It was reported earlier this month that Jermaine Gresham had hernia surgery during the offseason, which could play into how much time Brock gets this preseason. He was in action in parts of 2011 and 2013, totaling only five catches in that time.
Brock probably won't get too many opportunities with Smith now back in Cincinnati and with the team having signed Hewitt as an undrafted free agent. On top of all that, I find it hard to believe Gresham will miss extended time with that injury.
In any case, the best case scenario for Brock is that Gresham misses substantial time, he beats out Hewitt and Smith and manages to land a brief spot as the No. 2 tight end. It'd be interesting to see what he could do with more exposure.
The far more likely scenario is that he turns out the No. 3 tight end as he was expected to be upon his signing.
Matt Scott, QB
At this point for Matt Scott, he seems to be more of an emergency insurance policy than anything else. He spent the 2013-14 season on the Jacksonville Jaguars' practice squad.
Not to bash a quarterback who's yet to have an NFL chance, but that he couldn't break the active roster on the disaster that is the Jaguars is telling. At most, the Bengals simply brought him in to give A.J. McCarron some competition to be the No. 3 quarterback.
If Scott isn't cut, he will be the practice squad quarterback. He may or may not outshine McCarron, but leaving McCarron off the 53-man roster is not an option the Bengals have if they want to have fans this season.
Jason Campbell, QB
For what seems to be the first time in Andy Dalton's young career, he seems to have a viable veteran presence to help coach him up. Jason Campbell can finally serve as that guy.
For the space of four and a half seasons from 2007 until 2011, Campbell seemed to be a bonafide starter in the NFL. Just when he appeared to have the Oakland Raiders poised for a playoff run in 2011, he was injured, and he's never really recovered his career.
Campbell did start nine games for the Browns in 2013, throwing for just over 2,000 yards and 11 touchdowns.
While he is not now a Pro Bowl quarterback and never will be, he's a great guy to have for Andy Dalton to look to. The most viable backup Dalton has had thus far was Bruce Gradkowski—a veteran, yes, but has nowhere near the credentials that Campbell has.
Hopefully Dalton can learn a thing or two about air-mailing passes from Campbell, or at least about his tendency to throw pick-6's with ease. A lot of people seem to think A.J. McCarron should be Dalton's backup, but the veteran will fill that role, as he should.
Danieal Manning, S
Danieal Manning's best years are more than likely behind him, but the Bengals likely brought him in to play the same role that Nate Clements played in Cincinnati in years past.
It seems, for the time being, that George Iloka will start at strong safety, as he did a pretty good job last season. There's plenty of competition behind him, but Manning will be the guy to put the most pressure on him.
He may not be the guy he was in 2009, when he recorded over 90 tackles and forced five turnovers for the Chicago Bears, but he can teach the young Iloka the ways of being a safety. Make no mistake, he will also get his fair share of time on the field.
Manning has always been a very physical safety as well, so he's good at making open field tackles, just like teammate Reggie Nelson. They can make a viable tandem as well when they're on the field at the same time.
Ryan Hewitt, FB/TE
Cincinnati signed Hewitt as an UDFA from Stanford and instantly have started trying to use him as a tight end. Hewitt saw a lot of action out of the fullback position in college, even being a legitimate target for Andrew Luck in 2011. That season, he caught 34 passes for 282 yards and five scores.
His numbers decreased in the following seasons due to Luck's departure, but Hewitt has plenty of experience blocking and could be an H-back in addition to a No.3 tight end.
Hewitt is facing an uphill battle as he will be competing with veterans Kevin Brock and Alex Smith to get on the roster. With his versatility and additional experience in the backfield, he may get a shot.
Colin Lockett, WR
With an already crowded receiving corps, former San Diego State Aztec Colin Lockett will have to outshine guys like Ryan Whalen, Cobi Hamilton and Brandon Tate to have even a small chance to make the 53-man roster.
None of those names are huge stars, but they're names that have been in Cincinnati longer and therefore have already been developed more into what Cincinnati is looking for. Take nothing away from Lockett, though—he totaled 16 touchdowns in three years at SDSU and ran a pretty good 4.46 40-yard dash at his pro day.
There's a lot to love about Lockett, but he may have been better served to wind up with a team that was in dire need of receivers, like the New York Jets. Kenbrell Thompkins capitalized on such an opportunity last season in New England.
For now, expect Lockett to land on the practice squad at best, and he may move up with the departures of Tate and/or Whalen in the future.
Nikita Whitlock, FB
Nikita Whitlock is actually the man you see jumping to block a pass in the photo, as he played mostly defense at Wake Forest. The Bengals have moved him to the offensive side of the ball to be a fullback.
It's unlikely that he and Orson Charles are in a "competition" for the starting job, but don't discount Whitlock. He is 5'10" and 250 pounds, making him a much better option on the offensive side of the ball—being a defensive lineman at that size in the NFL probably would not have gone over well for him.
Whitlock is very fast and has a knack for finding the football on the field. He could stand to be stronger, and for that reason, the practice squad will likely be his landing spot this season.
Alex Neutz, WR
Like fellow UDFA Colin Lockett, Alex Neutz faces an uphill battle to find a spot on the Bengals' roster. It doesn't help that he played at a small school like Buffalo.
Neutz, to his credit, caught 23 touchdowns over the span of the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons, and he has the power to be a physical receiver. The issue is that he's not that fast, which is an attribute desired of an NFL receiver.
Despite solid college numbers, I don't expect Neutz to be a Bengal by the end of 2014. He may start the season on the practice squad, but with the number of receivers already, there doesn't seem to be a reason to hold him captive.
Trey Hopkins, G
Don't overlook Trey Hopkins, as he played for the University of Texas, one of the NCAA "higher-ups," if you will. The Bengals are certainly giving him some opportunities, as Jason Marcum reported on CincyJungle.com that Hopkins received some work with the first-team offense alongside Andrew Whitworth.
A First-Team All Big-12 athlete in 2012, Hopkins started at both right tackle and left guard during his time with the Longhorns. He seems to be benefiting from injuries to Mike Pollack and Clint Boling for the moment.
In years past, guys like Jeromy Miles have made the 53-man roster as an UDFA, so keep your eye on Hopkins going forward. Boling is looking more and more like a liability on the offensive line, so it's very possible that Hopkins could start Week 1. For now, though, I definitely wouldn't be shocked to see him make the roster.
Dan France, G
Since Dan France is jockeying for a position as a guard, he can have a legitimate shot at a roster spot if he does well throughout training camp. It appears the offensive line is in the air at the moment.
With Clint Boling, the team's starting left guard, injured again, it seems the field for the entire line has been thrown through a loop. Make no mistake, Kevin Zeitler, Andre Smith and Andrew Whitworth will start, it's just a matter of where.
For France, he needs to hope Whit starts at left tackle, not at left guard as he did in 2013 while Boling was hurt. His ideal situation would be for Whit and Smith to start at tackle and for the left guard position to be an open competition. It seems Russell Bodine is the likely starter at center, so that leaves France, an injured Mike Pollack, the aforementioned Trey Hopkins and possibly Tanner Hawkinson, though he has transitioned to tackle in recent months.
Despite a hint of optimism for France, I don't see him winding up on the roster by Week 1.
Curtis Feigt, OT
With the movement of Tanner Hawkinson from guard to tackle, the future of Curtis Feigt on the 53-man roster looks dim. At 6'7" and 315 pounds, Feigt has the size to be a solid tackle.
The problem is that he is vulnerable to being beat by quicker line defenders, such as J.J. Watt or Ziggy Ansah. Feigt played college ball at West Virginia, so he had some solid experience in the Big 12.
Feigt's best-case scenario is that he makes the squad as a third-string tackle, backing up likely starters Andre Smith and Andrew Whitworth, as well as the backups that may wind up being Tanner Hawkinson and Marshall Newhouse.
James Davidson, DE
It will be tough for James Davidson from UTEP to make the roster with such a crowded defensive line already. Where he may catch someone's eye is that he played both DE and OLB in school.
Davidson's time in El Paso was highlighted with a senior season that saw him make 52 tackles and four sacks, two of which came at the expense of Johnny Manziel. Where Davidson lacks in power he makes up for with speed, able to pop out of his stance and work his way around the edge past the tackles.
Unfortunately for him, both the defensive line and linebackers are incredibly talented. Barring an outstanding training camp, I anticipate Davidson will make the practice squad at best.
Victor Hampton, CB
Coley Harvey of ESPN.com reported on June 11 that the team had added UDFA Victor Hampton from South Carolina. Hampton at one point could have been a Day 3 selection in the draft this past May, but his troubled history led to him going undrafted.
It didn't help matters that he showed up to the combine and ran a dismal 4.69-second 40. For a man covering quick receivers, more speed is needed.
Still, it looks like Hampton may be determined to turn his career around and make something of himself. While at South Carolina, he collected five interceptions and led the team in 2013 with 43 solo tackles. That came against the almighty SEC.
Further, James Starks with WLTX in Columbia, S.C. spoke with Hampton following his signing, and the rookie claimed, "I've had to learn from the mistakes I've made."
As this is an UDFA, the Bengals are in a low-risk, high-reward situation. This worked out with Vontaze Burfict in 2012, and Hampton definitely has the athleticism and physicality to take a spot on the 53-man roster. It will be interesting to see how he performs at training camp in July.
Isaiah Lewis, S
Isaiah Lewis is going to be an interesting situation as the Bengals continue to progress the rest of the way toward the preseason. Lewis was signed as an UDFA by the Bengals soon after the draft ended, and he was a teammate of first-round pick Darqueze Dennard at Michigan State.
Lewis was originally projected to be taken Day 2 of the draft at the beginning of the college football season, but his 2013-14 season was hindered by knee troubles. That should make teams worry, but the Bengals have taken the flier on him.
It was even reported on Cincy Jungle by Jason Marcum that both Lewis and Dennard "looked terrific" at the start of OTA's. That connection with Dennard could play into Lewis' favor.
To have Lewis on the roster would mean Taylor Mays or Shawn Williams would likely be on the outside of the rotation, so it certainly isn't a likely scenario. However, if Lewis can get a spot on the practice squad, I would feel comfortable anticipating him on the 53-man roster before the end of the season.
James Wilder Jr., RB
Given how crowded the running back position is already, James Wilder Jr. is in for quite an uphill battle for a simple roster spot, let alone playing time. However, Wilder carries a lot of credentials that many UDFA's do not have.
Wilder played for the reigning national champion Florida State Seminoles in college, and while he was never their featured running back, he managed average seven yards per carry and score eight times during the 2013-14 season.
Wilder, while built for the NFL, will need to develop into a better runner and keep himself out of trouble. He has multiple arrests in his past, but the opposing argument to that is Vontaze Burfict. He slipped through the entire draft in 2012 because of character issues, but he's working out pretty well.
If Wilder gets more opportunities to prove his development and power, he could find his way onto the main roster. The only problem is he's going to have to, at the very least, beat out Rex Burkhead and maybe even BenJarvus Green-Ellis for the spot.
Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard are guaranteed spots, and I'm confident saying Cedric Peerman is as well, and to take more than four at the position would be irresponsible.
Lavelle Westbrooks, CB
Fresh out of small school Georgia Southern, it is likely going to be difficult for Lavelle Westbrooks to adjust to the NFL game. The speed required of a defensive back in the pros might just be out of his league.
Nonetheless, Westbrooks is certainly going to have time to prove himself. The cornerback position is in a bit of disarray at the moment, so you have to believe that anyone and everyone is fair game to see some time on the field this season.
Westbrooks was a second-team All-Southern Conference athlete, so he certainly can turn some heads. For now, with so many known faces on the team at cornerback (i.e. Jones, Newman, Hall) and so many younger guys (i.e. Dennard, Kirkpatrick), it'd be a shock if he made the team.
He's more likely to hang out with the practice squad and develop.
James Wright, WR
Having played in the SEC, there's no reason to doubt the potential for James Wright to succeed in the NFL. He runs a pretty solid 4.46 40-yard dash, which will make him a viable special teams option.
Like Brandon Tate, I can't fathom that Wright will get a whole lot of looks at a receiver, unless simply put on the field to give the starters a breather for a couple of plays. With good speed and a slim frame, Wright can slip through the hands of defenders with relative ease once he gets the ball rolling.
Despite his upsides, the roster is too overloaded with talent to allow Wright to take a position on the 53-man. If he is impressive in camp and really proves some worth, it's not too far-fetched to see him make the team as a special-teamer.
For now, assume Wright could spend the season on the practice squad.
Marquis Flowers, LB
With the Bengals having cut linebacker Bruce Taylor, it opens up the strong-side linebacker competition a little bit more for a long shot such as Marquis Flowers.
Flowers, who played at Arizona, recorded a decent 94 tackles with a sack and an interception with the Wildcats last season. He was one of the quicker linebackers in the draft, having put up a 4.51-second 40-yard dash.
Unfortunately, he's more lean and therefore usually couldn't compete against bigger offensive linemen—the result? He doesn't make for a good blitzer, which is something that the Bengals could really use in someone not named Vontaze Burfict.
Flowers is in a rough competition with guys like Dontay Moch, Brandon Joiner and Sean Porter just to make the roster. Jayson DiManche, Vincent Rey, Rey Maualuga and Vontaze Burfict will all be seeing the majority of the time across the defense but, of course, will require backups.
Flowers, with an impressive training camp, should be the guy to make the roster. His speed makes him an interesting choice at the very least and is an experiment worth testing.
A.J. McCarron, QB
This guy might just be the most interesting man in Cincinnati in 2014. Andy Dalton is already coming into the season under a lot of scrutiny, and having been Cincinnati born-and-raised, fans will be calling for A.J. at the first sign of trouble.
What I find humorous about that is that McCarron is likely not even going to be Dalton's backup—that is a job meant for veteran Jason Campbell.
Still, the Alabama standout had an incredible 2012-13 season, slinging 30 touchdowns and only three picks. He went down a bit in 2013, but fell a kick-six short of the National Championship Game against Florida State.
McCarron has a lot to learn about the NFL game, hence the reason he fell all the way to the fifth round. He will be the third-string quarterback on the Week 1 roster.
Russell Bodine, OL
The good thing about Russell Bodine is how much he can be used on the offensive line. He very well could compete for the starting job with Trevor Robinson, and he can be used at both guard positions.
Considering his talent, Bodine is better than a fourth-round selection, but that's where the Bengals were able to get him. The team isn't exactly in dire need of help on the offensive line, but they definitely could benefit from the depth they've gotten this offseason.
Bodine has been impressive thus far in training camp, even gaining high praise from offensive coordinator Hue Jackson.
The thing to remember about Bodine, too, is that the Bengals traded up to get him, something I do not recall them doing very often. He's in the Bengals plans, and maybe even for this season.
Will Clarke, DE
Will Clarke is going to be in for a huge competition with veteran Wallace Gilberry and second-year Estonian Margus Hunt. It seems a foregone conclusion that Carlos Dunlap will start, but the other side of the line appears to be up for grabs.
It's very likely that the defensive ends will rotate in and out in the end. Even so, the Bengals are carrying a lot of quality players at the position, so the newcomer Clarke will have to impress to see some substantial time, at least right away.
At West Virginia last season, Clarke recorded six sacks but isn't likely to duplicate that number in the NFL so quick. Clarke will need to use his size more than he did in college, and that will require a little coaching. He's on a good team for it.
He is going to make the roster, but he is likely to see minimal time behind his teammates. However, if Hunt struggles, Clarke could see more time right away.
Jeremy Hill, RB
While Giovani Bernard is going to be the Bengals' starting running back, there's no doubt that second-round selection Jeremy Hill will get plenty of time to showcase his abilities.
During his senior year at LSU, Hill racked up 1,401 yards and 16 touchdowns, all while averaging an incredible 6.9 yards per carry. These numbers certainly won't be ignored by Hue Jackson, who said on June 22 that Andy Dalton's pass attempts would drop.
This means more focus on the running game, which Bernard can't carry solely on his back. Hill is a more physical power back than Bernard, similar to BenJarvus Green-Ellis who appears to be on the outside looking in at the moment. According to CBS Sports' current depth chart, Hill is slated to have a spot right behind Bernard.
There were even some instances during OTA's where both Bernard and Hill were in the backfield at the same time, so it will be interesting to see how those formations come about in the regular season. With such a two-headed attack, the Bengals running game should have considerably more success than it has since the departures of Corey Dillon and Rudi Johnson.
Darqueze Dennard, CB
Being a proverbial draft "steal," expectations for Darqueze Dennard are already sky high. He's joining a group of relatively run-down cornerbacks in hopes of reviving the Bengals' secondary.
It is highly likely that he will start with Leon Hall, but there are plenty of contenders behind him. Terence Newman and Adam Jones are still on the team, and while they've done a respectable job over the past couple of seasons, their best seasons are clearly behind them.
Don't forget that Dre Kirkpatrick is there as well, but some speculation that the team could move him to safety after he was burned by reserve wideout Brandon Tate in OTA's.
Regardless, Dennard was wildly impressive during OTA's, garnering a lot of praise from the Cincinnati defensive staff. He was an important piece of the NCAA's best defense last season, and with his instincts and athleticism, this secondary should look much better than the injury-riddled mess it's been for a couple of years now.
Dennard is bringing youth to the Bengals and has the abilities to be as good as Joe Haden—he also stands to learn a lot from veteran Leon Hall. He's made a good first impression, so this already impressive defense may have added the best cornerback in the draft.