It is almost universally agreed upon that the fourth game of the preseason is redundant and a waste of time. Anyone who has anything to do with the sport would much rather proceed with live fire that counts rather than undergo yet another training round of blanks.
Coaches, of course, wouldn’t consider the preseason to be blanks because players get hurt and rosters are thereby adjusted. But most fans are over these exhibitions and have, in spirit at least, moved on to Week 1 of the actual season.
For about five players on the roster, maybe less, this game actually does matter.
The well-documented running back battle labors on to its final stage, where by the end, someone will be let go. Even though I think there is a place for four running backs on this team, depth concerns at other positions like offensive line and corner back require that the Bengals only carry three, leaving a pretty talented backup tail back available for another team.
If that is the direction the team is forced to make, I would expect DeDe Dorsey to be the odd man out, due to Bernard Scott’s potential and Brian Leonard’s ability to play fullback. Dorsey is a stick of dynamite and slips through tacklers’ hands like a bar of soap, but Scott may be able to do those things and more as he grows with the game. If Dorsey is put on waivers, it seems likely he would be signed by another team; he’s just too explosive to remain unemployed.
Another player who may prove difficult to shove off without is sixth receiver and return man, Quan Cosby. Last week, as Cosby trotted back to return the game’s first punt, I grumbled to those around me about how much attention he’s been given as a punt returner. Give someone else a chance, I complained. And then Cosby promptly ran it back untouched for the score and for the bizillionth time in my life, I was immediately humbled.
If Cosby does make the cut, Antonio Chatman may not. Chatman’s biggest asset for the team is his ability to return punts. If a younger, cheaper player like Cosby is just as capable at the job, good business sense says that Chatman is unnecessary and should be released. Perhaps if Chatman hadn’t experienced all the injurious setbacks he’s suffered as a Bengal, and showed the ability to return punts for scores, his presence might be more worthwhile. But as it is now, I see him standing out in the cold, knocking on the door.
Another guy returning punts with some success has been Tom Nelson. As a white defensive back, it’s required that he be described as scrappy and hard-nosed (quasi-racist sports descriptions can be discussed in another blog), but, according to what the world has seen through HBO’s camera lenses, the man is fast as well. He has impressed on defense and special teams, but nearly all of his action has come against fellow second-stringers. Nonetheless, the coaches seem to like him and the Bengals aren’t exactly stock-piled with cornerbacks right now, so the kid may have earned himself a locker, or, perhaps more likely, a practice squad assignment.
One effect of Nelson making the team is that it would likely spell out bad news for fellow defensive back, Corey Lynch. A touch too slow to play corner and last in a talented group at safety, Lynch needs a great fourth game to stick around on this team.
Other potential casualties include Chris Pressley, Maurice Purify, Jim Maxwell and for a long-shot, due to constant injury concerns, Frostee Rucker.
As for the poor saps who forked out $55 on the low end to see a grueling formality performed by second-rate talent, and in turn, line the pockets of a villainous miser whose last concern is your entertainment, I hope it’s all worth it to you. But, to be fair, we have waited six months for NFL football of any variation so I suppose we all might as well make the best of it.
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