Secondary Plans Breed Competition

If the chips had fallen differently in the three-day draft extravaganza, this would probably have been avoided.  But they didn’t and the team is better for it.  With the additions of cornerback Adam Jones and safety Gibril Wilson this week, the Bengals have added depth to its thinnest positions and ensured that there will be battles for roster spots at every position on the defensive side of the football.

Though both moves have come under scrutiny for different reasons, both add to the competitiveness of training camp and will force everyone to play for their spots. Much like adding a Matt Jones to a receiving corps offers a low-investment, but decent potential on the field as a player or competition for our current players, these moves add depth and competition – two things a roster can never have enough of. 

Cincinnati’s hopes on draft day included finding another safety (hence attempts to trade up for Taylor Mays) and to fill the slot corner position because Morgan Trent may be playing some free safety in 2010. Brandon Ghee, this year’s third round selection, is a project. That means for 2010, it looked as though neither need was filled. Because they didn’t make any moves, they were able to land yet another athletic freak on the front seven in Florida end Carlos Dunlap and look elsewhere for DB help. Knowing the window of opportunity would not be open forever, the team acted swiftly after the draft and brought in two guys to provide depth. 

Two things to note for all those who are ripping the team for the moves:

1.)    These players are NOT here to start. They add depth and competition for a small price.

2.)     Injuries always happen. Cincinnati’s safety corps were depleted down the stretch last year with Roy Williams out and Chris Crocker hampered. 

Let’s throw Adam Jones, Wilson and our new wide receivers into the mix and look at some of the exciting training camp battles: 

Cornerback

Safe:  Leon Hall, Jonathan Joseph, Brandon Ghee

Battling:  Morgan Trent, Adam Jones, David Jones, Keiwan Ratliff, Antonio Smith

Early prediction:  Hall, Joseph, A. Jones, Ghee, Trent

Joseph is up for an extension this year and Hall will be a year behind. It will be difficult to keep them both long-term. Adam Jones has all the talent in the world and, if he can regain that form, he could give the team some leverage in negotiations with either or both corner.  Jones and Ghee battle for the nickel spot while Trent moves around the secondary and continues to play special teams. 

Safety

Safe:  Chris Crocker, Roy Williams, Chinedum Ndukwe

Battling:  Gibril Wilson, Tom Nelson, Kyries Hebert, Bryan Evans, Jeromy Miles, Rico Murray, DeAngelo Willingham

Early Prediction:  Crocker, Williams, Ndukwe, Wilson, Hebert 

Crocker and Williams will again start with Ndukwe and Wilson backing up at free and strong safety respectively. Wilson, yet another safety whose coverage abilities are seriously questioned, can play in the box and in short zones, making him a candidate to back up Roy. The biggest safety battle will be for the last spot (if the Bengals decide to keep five) between Nelson and Hebert. Whoever looks to be a better special teamer will stick around. 

Wide Receiver

Safe:  Chad Ochocinco, Antonio Bryant, Jordan Shipley

Battling:  Dez Briscoe, Andre Caldwell, Quan Cosby, Matt Jones, Freddie Brown, Chris Davis, Maurice Purify, Jerome Simpson

Early Prediction:  Ochocinco, Bryant, Shipley, Jones, Cosby, Briscoe 

At the wide receiver spot, I want guys who are ready to play now. Ochocinco, Bryant and Shipley are a solid three-wide set and Jones adds the size of a tight end and speed of a burner to the four-wide sets.  Of the guys past the top four, Briscoe has the best potential to develop into a future starter and that must be kept in mind with the ages of the No. 1 and No. 2 receivers. Caldwell does not beat out Cosby in this scenario because of Cosby’s value on special teams.  He could, however, stick if he beats Jones for the fourth receiver spot. 

The Bengals have put themselves into a spot where every position except quarterback will have at least a token competition (see punter) in training camp. There’s even a competition at long snapper!  That kind of atmosphere brings out the best and players and is the way to build a championship-quality football team. It’s been nearly three decades since the team put together back-to-back winning seasons, but at no point in the team’s history has there been such depth and fierce competition heading into camp. 

HBO’s Hard Knocks is going to be missing a heck of a show in the Queen City this July and August.


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2 Responses to “Secondary Plans Breed Competition”

  1. Chris says:

    Love to hear your thoughts on defensive line as well. Someone half way decent is going to get cut, perhaps Geathers? You’ve got Peko, Tank and Sims as locks. Dunlap and Atkins aren’t getting cut. Odom, Geathers, MJ, Faneane, and Rucker. I’d say that Geathers and Rucker are on the hot seat….Faneane just started to ‘get it’ and he seems like the only other option baring injuries.

  2. Chris,

    Looking at the D-Line, I could see this as a year they go heavy and keep nine linemen and only eight linebackers. If Michael Johnson shows any capability of playing linebacker, our LBs could be Rivers-Jones-Maualuga starting with Muckelroy and B. Johnson as reserves and Skuta as a special teams ace and MJ as an part-time SLB.

    That would give us five ends (Odom, Geathers, Fanene, M. Johnson and Dunlap) and four tackles (DT: Peko, T. Johnson, Sims and Atkins). Johnson can play some end while Fanene, Odom, or Dunlap can play some tackle, giving them a ton of versatility in the front 7. Geathers sticks, in my opinion, because only he, Odom and Fanene have shown they can play on all three downs at DE. This will give Dunlap and MJ a year more to be groomed.

    More will be coming from both Eric and myself as we look at each position and make predictions as camps approach.

    Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment!

    –CD

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