Bengals taking cuts down to the deadline
AUG 30, 2013 6:35p ET
The Bengals wrapped up a 3-1 preseason with a 27-10 win Thursday night at Paul Brown Stadium against the Indianapolis Colts. The first units played sparingly, giving way to those who were looking for those final opportunities to impress the coaches. The majority of the roster spots were already locked down but there are always a few still up for grabs.
The Bengals plan on announcing their final cuts and transactions Saturday afternoon prior to the NFL’s 6 p.m. deadline for teams to reduce their rosters to 53 players. They will have to make 21 moves after the NFL announced on Friday that defensive end DeQuin Evans has been suspended without pay for the first eight games of the season for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing drugs.
Evans, a first-year player from Kentucky who has spent time on the Cincinnati practice squad each of the last two seasons, served a four-game suspension in 2011. Second-time offenders under the NFL’s policy on PEDs must serve a suspension of at least eight games.
Evans was already going to be in a numbers crunch at his position group and was likely destined to be waived and, unless claimed by another team, headed back to the practice squad for a third season.
There are questions to be answered with the final cuts. Will Josh Johnson or John Skelton be the backup quarterback behind Andy Dalton? What do you do with fullback John Conner and H-back Orson Charles? What about the backup running backs, a competition between veteran Cedric Peerman, second-year Daniel Herron and rookie Rex Burkhead? How does the shape of the linebacker group change with the shoulder injury to Emmanuel Lamur? How quickly can wide receiver Andrew Hawkins return from an ankle sprain that has kept him out all preseason? What does that mean for Ryan Whalen, Dane Sanzenbacher and Cobi Hamilton?
“I’ve been in this situation for the last five, six years,” said Johnson. “When you’re the backup you never know what the situation is going to be for yourself. You just take this last game, it’s your opportunity, and put out what you’ve got. You respect the decision that’s being made. As long as you feel like you’ve played your hardest that’s all you can control.”
Johnson finished the preseason completing 55.1 percent of his passes, with three touchdowns and one interception. He also rushed for 143 yards on 12 carries, an aspect of his game that can’t be overlooked. He came into the competition already with a working knowledge of Jay Gruden’s offense, an advantage over Skelton. Skelton saw less playing time but completed 60 percent of his attempts with one touchdown.
Skelton’s advantage is his previous experience, having started 17 games for Arizona in the past three seasons.
“I’m a pretty-even keeled guy, I don’t get too high or too low,” said Skelton. “I’ve never been in a situation where I have been cut but I’ve been in the situation where there is the possibility. We’ll see what happens, but at the end of the day I’m happy with what I did here and hopefully it continues.”
Lamur injured his right shoulder in the first quarter Thursday. There have been various reports that Lamur will be placed on injured reserve. Depending on the severity of the injury, he could be a candidate to be designated as the team’s player to return from IR.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard are fixed at the top of the running back list but Peerman, Herron and Burkhead are going to make it tough on the coaches. Peerman is an established leader on special teams. Herron, the Ohio State product, led the Bengals with 167 yards rushing, including a 40-yard touchdown and averaged 5.4 yards per carry. Burkhead averaged 4.6 yards on 28 carries.
Who the lead blocker will be is another tough decision. John Conner is the prototypical fullback, while Charles is attempting to make a transition to a hybrid fullback/tight end role. It wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility if both players stayed. That could cost veteran tight end Alex Smith a roster spot. Smith has had a good camp and preseason but his role is more as a blocker than receiver.
“This is something I’ve been through, this is my fourth year, so I know how the business is,” said Conner. “I think it’s been fair. We’re two different kinds of players, me and Orson, but he’s done a great job coming over from tight end. It’s going to go by what this offense needs and what we’ll need at the moment. I hope I did everything I could to impress and everything I could to make this team.”
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