CINCINNATI -- Now that BenJarvus Green-Ellis is off the Cincinnati Bengals' roster, what's next?
Those are some of the questions I've fielded in the last several hours, and they are questions that I'm sure will persist long after the regular season begins for the Bengals at Baltimore next Sunday. As we get into this week's mailbag, we try to dig a little deeper into an answer to at least one of those questions.
Also, as you can see, there are a couple questions about the Bengals' 53-man roster, which will be finalized by 4 p.m. Saturday.
Let's get to the mailbag:
@ColeyHarvey are Jeremy hill and gio Bernard going to split carries? Hill proved that he can handle playing an entire game— NotoriousGIB (@Notorious_GIB_1) August 29, 2014
@ColeyHarvey. An easy and quick answer to your question, Notorious: yes. Hill and Bernard will split carries this season. Exactly how will that split be determined? Well, that's a mystery for now. Of course, the Bengals coaches have an idea of what the breakdown will be, but they won't be telling you or I anytime soon. Head coach Marvin Lewis even said as much Thursday night when he interrupted a reporter's question to emphasize that he wasn't going to put a number on how many carries any of his backs might average a game. Having said that, if I were to guess, I'd imagine that there will be some semblance of a 65-35 split on touches between Hill and Bernard. The speedy second-year standout Bernard would get the majority of those, particularly because the Bengals are making an emphasis on getting him involved in space this season. Hill will get his opportunities, too, though, and you're right. He showed Thursday that he could play significant minutes. The playing-time breakdown will be primarily determined by the defense the Bengals are playing, and at which moments in the game it'll be best to utilize Hill's power over Bernard's elusiveness, and vice versa.
@ColeyHarvey does Marvin J's injury affect which other WRs make 53? Eg: Cobi makes it because he's similarly tall, speedy & stretches field— Caleb Profitt (@calebprofitt) August 29, 2014
@ColeyHarvey. In a weird and convoluted way, Caleb, it could. Do I believe Marvin Jones' foot injury will affect the 53-man breakdown, though? No. Here's why. While the Bengals are cutting to 53 players right now, they also are trying to choose the 46 players who will be a consistent part of the active game-day roster. If they thought Cobi Hamilton would be a regular 46-man roster contributor, then yes, they'd bring him in to help while Jones is gone. But when it comes to the other seven remaining spots, the Bengals hope to give those to players who will be around on the fringe of the depth chart all season. Hamilton's raw tools make him perfect for that, but his inconsistency in the preseason doesn't. At least not to me. I still think he gets cut in favor of rookie James Wright, whose special teams penalties this preseason might have been worse than advertised. Two of the three were borderline and might not have been called in the regular season. Also, since Jones should return by Game 5, his injury won't be enough for a fringe 53-man player to take his spot, even if there is a size and style-of-play resemblance.
@ColeyHarvey Tate very unimpressive in preseason. Why not keep either both Hamilton & the rookie or pick up Ford or someone similar?— Harold Moskowitz (@chgolaw) August 29, 2014
@ColeyHarvey. I wouldn't say "very unimpressive." Could Brandon Tate have been better? Sure. Was he probably passed in some respects on special teams by Dane Sanzenbacher? Yes, I believe so. Should the Bengals keep Hamilton and Wright instead of Tate? I'm not so sure. The main reason why, again, is because Hamilton just hasn't been consistent. He had a nice 50-yard touchdown catch Thursday, but he also had a drop in that game. In one other preseason game, he caught two only passes after being targeted 13 times. I'd rather go with the solid vet who can play special teams over the young, inconsistent player who isn't quite as versatile. Maybe your other scenario takes place. Perhaps the Bengals do decide to cut Tate and/or Hamilton. If that happens, Jacoby Ford could be a possibility. From what I can tell, though, it seems doubtful the Bengals add a free-agent receiver this season. We'll soon find whether all these potential 53-man roster moves pan out.
@ColeyHarvey. As you can see, I kind of hinted at that in my answer above. Assuming both make the team, I'm not sure the Bengals end up replacing Tate with Sanzenbacher. What I will say, however, is this: Sanzenbacher earned himself a bigger role this preseason. He was strong as a returner all throughout the preseason. His 77-yard punt return for a touchdown helped set the tempo for a second half that the Bengals completely dominated Thursday night. If given the chance against starting punt-coverage units, it will be interesting to see if Sanzenbacher can replicate the returns he has had. If he does, I believe we can crown him the better returner of the two you mentioned.