CINCINNATI -- The quarterback meeting room inside Paul Brown Stadium is currently crowded.
That's not necessarily a bad thing in the middle of June, but come mid-August, it will be.
At that time, one -- or maybe even two -- of the Cincinnati Bengals' four signal-callers will be cut. Why? Because the numbers of a 53-man roster just don't equate to having so many people occupying the same position; one where starter Andy Dalton hasn't missed a game since his career began five years ago.
So, who will be the one or two quarterbacks not on the roster later this fall? We take a guess as we kick off this week's Bengals mailbag:
@ColeyHarvey: Thanks for the question, Who Dey. For starters, I've got to say that I think you're probably right about the likelihood the Bengals don't end up keeping three quarterbacks. It's been their practice in recent years to keep only two on the 53-man roster, while having one or two others either on the practice squad or under some injury-list designation. Last year you'll recall they kept Dalton and Jason Campbell on the main roster, while AJ McCarron spent nearly all of the year rehabbing on the physically unable to perform list. Once McCarron came off the PUP list, he was added to the 53-man roster but was inactive for the four games he was eligible for.
It's possible three quarterbacks perform well enough in training camp this year that they decide to keep that many, but considering the talent and battles at other positions, two seems the ideal number for now. If the Bengals keep only two, obviously Dalton would be one of them. McCarron most likely would be the other. If they go with three, though, it appears for now that Terrelle Pryor would be the third. He's currently taking No. 3 quarterback reps in organized team activities and has more overall game experience than Josh Johnson, the quarterback who was Dalton's chief backup in 2013. So far in OTAs, Dalton and McCarron have distanced themselves from the others, making strong, timely throws and heady decisions. But again, there's plenty of time for Pryor and Johnson to prove they belong in the mix.
@ColeyHarvey moving Rex to wr gonna slow the profession of Alford down?— Billy Terry (@BillOfRights2) June 5, 2015
@ColeyHarvey: In case you're unsure about what Billy's asking, take a look at Rex Burkhead an option for Bengals a slot receiver and running back this story from earlier this week. As expected, backup running back Rex Burkhead has been taking reps during OTAs at receiver, primarily in the slot. This can't be understated, though: Burkhead still is very much a running back. Both he and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson reiterated that when asked about his expanded practice role. Burkhead is getting opportunities as a receiver in an effort to simply get him on the field. He hasn't played as much the last two seasons as coaches have wanted, namely because of the logjam at running back ahead of him. They've long known he could catch. When he slipped in at slot receiver in an emergency capacity during the playoff loss at Indianapolis in January, his three catches for 34 yards eased any lingering doubts about his abilities as an occasional receiver.
Let's highlight that word "occasional." Because Burkhead won't be used as a receiver often, rookie Mario Alford has no reason to worry about his progression being stymied. Sure, Burkhead might take a couple of Alford's slot snaps, but it won't be enough to stunt Alford's growth. The seventh-round pick will get his share of chances in the Bengals' offense at all receiver positions during the remainder of offseason and preseason practices. The Bengals are quite keen on bringing Burkhead along as a versatile weapon, but they are equally dedicated to making Alford an integral part of the system.
@ColeyHarvey what's the formation for the Bengals first offensive snap come September?— The wanderer (@thewanderer2020) June 5, 2015
@ColeyHarvey: Ah, an impossible question to answer. I can always count on my buddy, The wanderer, to ask one of those, ha. Seriously, Jackson and I both have no clue what formation the Bengals will come out in when they face the assistant coach's old squad in Oakland on Sept. 13. But knowing Jackson, it wouldn't be surprising if Cincinnati opened in some wild offensive set, or ran a unique gadget play within the first couple of plays of the new year. Remember last year's season opener when the Bengals flanked out their offensive tackles, putting Pro Bowl offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth effectively in the slot? (By the way, Whitworth jokingly complained to Jackson after Tuesday's OTA about not drawing up a play during a goal-line drill that would let him catch a touchdown pass. You laugh now, but you can't rule out such a play in Jackson's offense.)
What will the Bengals do on the opening play? Who knows? They could have a single running back with trips receivers on one side of the field and a tight end on the other. Or maybe they'll have two tight ends, an H-back, a single receiver and a single running back on the field. Or maybe they'll go with an unbalanced line. Or maybe, just maybe we're overthinking this whole thing and they come out in a traditional three-receiver set and throw it deep downfield?
@ColeyHarvey When & where can fans come an see , talk get pics w/player/coaches, thanks!— Craig Fluharty (@craigflu62) June 5, 2015
@ColeyHarvey: We don't yet have a training camp schedule from the Bengals, Craig. It should be released soon, though. For now, put in pencil, July 31 as the date camp opens. Typically the Bengals allow fans to get autographs after every practice for the first two weeks of camp. They also typically have two open scrimmages that feature autograph time. I'll keep you posted.