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Bengals back it up

Posted Sep 5, 2009

Updated: 4:25 p.m.

For veteran running backs Brian Leonard and DeDe Dorsey, yes. For free-agent rookies Tom Nelson and Quan Cosby, also yes as the Bengals cut a 22-player swath through their roster Saturday to get to the maximum 53.

For veteran safeties Marvin White and Corey Lynch, no. And for rookie fullbacks Fui Vakapuna and Chris Pressley, also no.

With the exception of White, all of the players waived Saturday are eligible to be signed to an NFL practice squad if they clear waivers Sunday. The club said it plans to announce Sunday a practice squad of up to eight players.

On Saturday, head coach Marvin Lewis said Cosby is going to return punts in the Sept. 13 opener at Paul Brown Stadium. He also said all players but cornerback David Jones and backup guard-tackle Scott Kooistra are healthy for the Broncos. He indicated Jones, the third corner, has just started to put some weight on his broken foot and won't be back this week but wouldn't give a time frame. Lewis also left open the possibility that Kooistra would be healthy.

Lewis also said that rookie right tackle Andre Smith won't be practicing this week with a broken foot, but he wouldn't give a time frame when he expected him back. He did say Smith is spending enough time at PBS that "he might as well get a cot."

At least for now, the Bengals opted to bed down with four running backs and just one fullback (Jeremi Johnson) while also going with 10 defensive backs in a field that counts Nelson as well as special teams ace Kyries Hebert at safety.

They also terminated the contracts of three veterans not subject to waivers, in linebackers Darryl Blackstock and Jim Maxwell, and defensive tackle Langston Moore, and put wide receiver Antonio Chatman (ankle) on injured reserve.

The Bengals cut 18 players now eligible to be picked up on waivers, among them guard Andrew Crummey after he reached an injury settlement with the team.

The others waived were White, Lynch, Pressley, Vakapuna, guard Jason Shirley, defensive end Chris Harrington, running back James Johnson,  tight ends Kolomona Kapanui and Darius Hill, wide receivers Maurice Purify and Freddie Brown, defensive tackles Ventrell Jenkins and Clinton McDonald, cornerback Rico Murray, tackle Augustus Parrish, linebacker Dan Skuta and kicker Sam Swank.

Although he doesn't help much from scrimmage, Hebert's value on special teams is incalculable after his rookie NFL season in which he led the team in special-teams tackles and got a few Pro Bowl votes. Two young two draft picks, White, a fourth-rounder in 2007, and Lynch, a sixth-rounder in 2008, didn't make enough of an impact on special teams to complement what they do from scrimmage.

Another move for special teams came as a surprise when the Bengals kept both Nelson and Cosby after their competition to return punts. Cosby made it as the fifth wide receiver that is going to dress on Gameday even though, like Hebert, he also doesn't do much from scrimmage.

But Cosby, out of Texas, popped a 49-yard punt return for a touchdown in the third preseason game, the same night Nelson took a punt 44 yards against the Rams. Nelson, out of Illinois State, can do more from the scrimmage on the other side of the ball as a safety and cornerback in the nickel package.

Lewis trashed the theory that Nelson and Cosby wouldn't be on the team together.

"Both guys have done good things on offense and defense, respectively. I don't really consider Tom a punt returner," Lewis said. "Tom has done a good job as a defensive back and he's caught punts as one of the things he's done. Quan has been our punt returner and has been productive with it and I feel good about him going into the season. He'll be the first man up. And Kyries has been very productive as a special-teams player and we played games with him in the secondary."

The Bengals took out their entire seventh round Saturday (Vakapuna, McDonald, Brown) and it is the first time in Lewis' seven years that they've let go three draft picks before the opener. They'd probably like to get all three back on the practice squad.

Vakapuna, out of BYU, and Pressley, a free agent from Wisconsin, fell victim to the numbers crunch in the backfield triggered by the heated competition of Leonard and Dorsey for the No. 3 job behind starter Cedric Benson and rookie Bernard Scott. Incumbent fullback Jeremi Johnson looks to be on the verge of a nice comeback story after spending all last season out of football grappling with injury and conditioning and Lewis is comfortable with him as the lone fullback.

"He's been a rededicated person, a different person," Lewis said. "His entire life is changed. We feel real good about that. I know he feels real good about that."

After the impressive preseasons of Leonard and Dorsey the Bengals decided they would get more out of Dorsey from scrimmage and special teams compared to the rookie fullbacks. Plus, Leonard can play fullback in a pinch, as can tight end Dan Coats. Although Lewis admitted Saturday he's not sure yet if he can dress all four tailbacks on Sundays. 

"Brian has some versatility," Lewis said. "He's not taken a snap here at fullback. We didn't bring Brian Leonard in here to be the fullback. It's the way we put the team together. It's really not any different than the way we expected it to go together in some spots. It could change by tomorrow. It could change Monday. It could change, Friday, Saturday."

It will definitely change a week from Monday when Andre Smith uses up his exemption and has to count on the roster. Lewis wouldn't say if that move would come on the offensive line or elsewhere.

Frostee Rucker survived a hip injury and a nice preseason from McDonald to stick on a defensive line that opted to keep eight players instead of nine with Rucker and Jon Fanene able to play both end and tackle.

The moves also marked the near finish of filming for the HBO documentary Hard Knocks. Lewis said it had nothing to do with amping up the competition on the field.

"The cameras don't change what we do; what we do is already videoed," Lewis said. "That doesn't change us. I don't think that changes anything you do on the football field. As you have seen the cameras have not been a big deal to us. It's been a good, positive thing. It hasn't been intrusive at all. I think it's been a real positive and it's almost come to an end. The competition was for job and opportunity and we had that at a lot of different spots."

Asked to rate this year's competition for spots with his previous six seasons, Lewis said, "I don't remember competition last year. I don't go back. I just go forward."

But he did seem relaxed knowing he got his team to the gate relatively healthy.

"We're now pointing to the Denver Broncos and the regular season and that's what this is all about," Lewis said. "That's the way we get last year out of the system while we get off to a good start. We get to do in front of our fans here at home in an exciting day. It will be a great day to be a Bengals fan. It will be very cool."

ROSTER (NFL seasons)

QUARTERBACKS (3)

Carson Palmer (7), J.T. O'Sullivan (7), Jordan Palmer (2)

RUNNING BACKS (4)

Cedric Benson (5), DeDe Dorsey (4), Brian Leonard (3), Bernard Scott (R)

FULLBACKS (1)

Jeremi Johnson (7)

TIGHT ENDS (3)

Daniel Coats (3), J.P. Foschi (3), Chase Coffman (R)

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)

Laveranues Coles (10), Chad Ochocinco (9), Chris Henry (5), Andre Caldwell (2), Jerome Simpson (2), Quan Cosby (R).

OFFENSIVE LINE (9)

RG Bobbie Williams (10), G-T Scott Kooistra (7), G-C Evan Mathis (5), LT Andrew Whitworth (4), RT Anthony Collins (2), C Kyle Cook (2), LG Nate Livings (2), RT Dennis Roland (2), C Jonathan Luigs (R). EXEMPT: RT Andre Smith (R) 

DEFENSIVE LINE (8)

E Robert Geathers (6), E Antwan Odom (6), T Tank Johnson (6), E-T Jonathan Fanene (5), T Domata Peko (4), E-T Frostee Rucker (4), T Pat Sims (2), E Michael Johnson (R).

LINEBACKERS (6 )

Dhani Jones (10), Rashad Jeanty (4), Abdul Hodge (4),  Brandon Johnson (4), Keith Rivers (2), Rey Maualuga (R)

SECONDARY (10)

S Roy Williams (8), S-CB Chris Crocker (7), CB Johnathan Joseph (4), CB Leon Hall (3), CB David Jones (3), S Chinedum Ndukwe (3), S Kyries Hebert (2), CB Geoff Pope (2), CB Morgan Trent (R), S-CB Tom Nelson (R).

SPECIALISTS (3)

LS Brad St. Louis (10), K Shayne Graham (9), P Kevin Huber (R).

 

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