Bengals mailbag: Does Green-Ellis fit?

CINCINNATI -- During the Cincinnati Bengals' mandatory minicamp this week, rookie running back Jeremy Hill continued to get snaps ahead of veteran ball carrier BenJarvus Green-Ellis.

With Hill seemingly joining second-year back Giovani Bernard atop the depth chart at the position, the question becomes why?

Why isn't Green-Ellis getting the same attention Hill is? Does Hill's addition and apparent early favor mean Green-Ellis no longer fits in Cincinnati? If that is the case, then why is Green-Ellis still under contract with the Bengals? Is that a sign they may be going with a three-man rotation the position this season?

The short answer to all of that is "we don't know." But since that's not really a good response, we'll try to flesh the Green-Ellis issue a little further in this week's Bengals mailbag:

@ColeyHarvey. Two things came to mind when I first read your tweet, Jason. I was wondering if you were making a reference to the notoriously funk band "Earth, Wind and Fire," or you were slipping in a vague "Captain Planet" reference. I still can't tell which. If it's a "Captain Planet" reference does that mean would Green-Ellis is "earth," Hill "wind" and Bernard "fire?" You'll have to get back to me on that. Meanwhile, to answer your question, the reasons that Green-Ellis is still here kind of remain a mystery. It seems that he's slipped on the depth chart and the Bengals are more apt to giving carries to their apparent new shining star, Hill. He's got elements to his game that Green-Ellis doesn't have: He's big, has a little speed and can catch. That combination, when paired with the shifty and quick Bernard could be dangerous for opposing defenses. Does Green-Ellis fit into that mix? Maybe. Earlier this offseason we took a look at the way new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson used his backs in the running and passing games when he was the offensive coordinator and head coach at Oakland in 2010 and 2011. The evidence shows that it's been done before. @ColeyHarvey. Good time to transition to Adam's question. To answer it and to tie a bow on Jason's inquiry, I'll say that if I had to guess I'd say that Green-Ellis will be cut before the season. By letting him go the Bengals will save $2.5 million in cap space this season; space that along with other cuts could help fund the contract extensions quarterback Andy Dalton and linebacker Vontaze Burfict are trying to get this offseason. Again, it's possible that a three-back system could work as long as there's a nice balance of pass-catching and power/finesse running among all three backs. Since Hill can play the role of a physical runner and can catch passes, too, it's not so clear that Green-Ellis would be a good fit as a third back in Cincinnati's scheme. @ColeyHarvey. The Geno Atkins question has come up regularly in mailbags this offseason, and with good reason. Arguably the Bengals' most talented defensive lineman, his presence would be a big boost to a unit that's undergone a change in leadership. New defensive coordinator Paul Guenther and head coach Marvin Lewis would like Atkins back quickly, but judging from what Lewis said to reporters about Atkins this week, it's not clear exactly when exactly the Bengals will get the Pro Bowler back. His ACL tear happened Oct. 31, giving him enough recovery time to possibly make it back fully healthy by the start of the regular season, but it's going to be close. As for any setbacks, for now, there don't appear to be any. He is going through rehab like other injured players, and has even spent portions of warm-ups during the minicamp and organized team activities loosening up with his healthy teammates. @ColeyHarvey. Now that's a curveball question. I do not know Andy Dalton's favorite type of cake. Maybe during a light day I'll ask him and come back with an answer for you. As for mine, you can't go wrong with red velvet and my grandmother's lemon pound. Mmmm, now you've got me hungry, Master. @ColeyHarvey. Not much is going on right now with tight end Jermaine Gresham's contract, Twiggy. We might not see any action there at all. If we do, it likely won't be coming until sometime after the season. Like I mentioned earlier, Dalton and Burfict are the major contract targets for now, and if even one of them gets extended this offseason, it'll be tough to see any other longer term starters' deals get hammered out before the end of the season. Besides, the Bengals will have to ask themselves whether they want to bring back the fifth-year player. His relationship with most fans has been rocky -- untimely drops and penalties are the source of their problems with him -- and he easily could command on his next deal a larger contract than the Bengals would be willing to pay. He's already slated to end his rookie deal this season with a big increase in pay. He holds a cap value of more than $4.8 million this season. His base salary of $3.4 million is much greater than the $975,500 he previously topped out at in 2013. @ColeyHarvey. Really easy answer to your question, Roshan. "No." Cincinnati currently has nine cornerbacks. A 10th would completely overload capacity. The Bengals are in the business right now of growing and developing young talent at cornerback. They'll be phasing out their older ones, Terence Newman, Adam Jones and Leon Hall, in the next few years. So it's not very prudent to add to an already loaded position group a 28-year-old who already was cut for a reason.