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What to Watch for: Roster Spots on the Line Tonight

September 1st, 2011 at 9:21 AM
By Chuck Chapman

When the Cincinnati Bengals take on the Indianapolis Colts tonight, most Bengal players will be merely taking some final practice snaps in preparation for next week's season opener in Cleveland. For several, however, their performance in tonight's game could determine their futures as players in the NFL. While the Bengals are fairly settled as to who will start, there are several positions on the depth chart still up in the air. 

On offense, the only question at quarterback is whether the Bengals will keep three players. Jordan Palmer was let go earlier this week. With Andy Dalton and Bruce Gradkowski on solid ground, Dan LeFevour is the third quarterback. He has not performed well in camp or in games. He got no snaps last week against Carolina. If LeFevour doesn't play again tonight, the writing is on the wall. LeFevour has not shown himself to be a potential starting candidate, so keeping him around for development doesn't appear to be in the cards. If injuries were to sideline Dalton or Gradkowski, the Bengals could most likely find as good or better players on the waiver wire. My guess is LeFevour's days of carrying a clipboard in Cincinnati are coming to a close.

At running back, Fui Vakapuna is most likely gone after tonight. Jay Gruden's offense is not heavy on the fullback, so Brian Leonard and Chris Pressley will suffice. At tailback, Jay Finley has impressed as an undrafted free agent, but has been nicked up. Veteran Cedric Peerman is likely to keep his job over Finley and John Griffin.

The tight end battle is probably the most interesting on the team. Gruden's offense does use a lot of two and even three tight end sets. Colin Cochart has performed exceptionally well and could be in a showdown with former second round pick Chase Coffman for the third tight end slot. That all hinges on the health of Bo Scaife, however. If it's determined that Scaife can't go this season due to injury, both make the club. 

At wide receiver, the Bengals are young, but deep. Ryan Whalen has impressed during camp and should win a spot assuming the Bengals keep six at that position. That means Calvin Russell and Andrew Hawkins are likely cut.

On the offensive line, rookie Clint Boling has been taking snaps at center. That likely means the end of Reggie Stephens' stay in Cincinnati. Stephens has been injured throughout training camp. 

On defense, the battle is in the secondary where the Bengals have made the most roster changes by far, bringing in several players. Most recently, the Bengals traded for Seattle's Kelly Jennings to play cornerback. His arrival most likely signals the departure of Brandon Ghee, Morgan Trent, and Jonathan Wade. Rico Murray is a special teams staple so his spot is secure. At safety, Gibril Wilson would seem to be the odd man out. After drafting Robert Sands and acquiring Taylor Mays, Wilson, who is just returning from knee surgery, doesn't appear to have had enough of an opportunity to win a spot among the four the Bengals will keep.

At linebacker, injuries will play a part as to who makes the final roster. Dontay Moch, Rodderick Muckelroy, and Keith Rivers are all injured. Muckelroy is sure to go on injured reserve and Rivers will begin the season on the PUP list. If the Bengals decide to IR Dontay Moch, then a spot is opened for DeQuin Evans from Kentucky who has impressed his coaches so far. If Evans is cut, look for the Bengals to try to strike a deal to keep him on the practice squad.

On special teams, the principles are set, but it's here where final roster spots may be won or lost. So while Andy Dalton and the starters put on their baseball caps, and look forward to next week, some players will be fighting to have a next week.

Tags: Andy Dalton, Bo Scaife, Cincinnati, Cincinnati Bengals, Football, Jay Gruden, NFL

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