Hobson's Choice: safety concerns and being Tez

Posted Sep 2, 2014

The readers are worried about depth at safety. And, who would you be if you had your choice on game day?

How busy is wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher going to be with Marvin Jones out?

Geoff, thanks for taking my question. How much more of Sanzenbacher will we see this year? (At least until Marvin is healthy). Also, do you think Jermaine Gresham has a legitimate chance to return to his Pro-Bowl form? If he does, and Eifert keeps working his way up to hopefully do the same, I think we can make a legitimate case that we have the best tight end duo in the league. Collin Cleveland, Canon City, CO

COLLIN: Sanzenbacher’s role is kind of tied into your question about the tight ends. He had 82 snaps last season and six catches in 10 games, so you’d think he’d get more than eight snaps per game with Marvin Jones injured. The thinking is he goes into the slot with Mohamed Sanu outside in three wides until Jones gets back for Oct. 5 in New England.

But Gresham and Eifert can also play outside as well as the slot, so we’ll see what offensive coordinator Hue Jackson decides to do. Gresham’s only battle is consistency. One snap he looks like Gronk. The next it’s Gonk. But he’s a fine player. Eifert has to battle staying healthy after missing the last three preseason games with a shoulder problem. I agree. If Gresham stays focused and Eifert stays healthy, they’re hard to beat.

Have they ever tried Onterio McCalebb on offense in the slot position? He seems like he could be an Andrew Hawkins type of receiver. Ted Vander Roest, Springfield, OH

TED: From what I understand they haven’t yet put him in the slot, but it’s not a bad idea. They signed McCalebb after the 2013 draft with playing the slot as a possibility, but going from college running back to NFL corner is such a major adjustment that it takes all his time and all theirs.

He’s such a slight guy compared to Giovani Bernard and even Hawkins so he’s not the greatest target. But, you’re right. He can sure run fast. Yet there’s more to it than that and it looks like they think he’d be better covering routes than running them.

If you could be any other Bengal for a gameday, who would you be and why. Sarah Fortin. Sharonville, OH

SARAH: No question. Vontaze Burfict.

First of all, his helmet is hooked in with defensive coordinator Paul Guenther’s mike, so you could ask him about his wedge and the fifth at River Downs just to keep things loose.

Second, Burfict seems to be in on every play and he just keeps getting back up. The guy is indestructible. He never misses a snap even if he’s had his body wrenched into more angles than a con man. He might have a twinge in the knee or a bruise on the arm or a welt on his face, but he keeps getting back up. He plays with so much passion, it is contagious.

Plus, Tez plays with such a great confidence and an edge. I’d love to feel that way about myself for about 10 seconds, never mind 60 minutes. No one would cut me in the line at Panera anymore.

Could I get his new contract for the day?

Do you think keeping only 5 (mostly aging) CB's and 3 Safeties could come back to haunt the Bengals as the season wears on? Jim Hulsey, West Carrollton, OH

JIM:  They probably go with five corners for only the first two games and after that they’ll probably try to find a spot for Chris Lewis-Harris when he comes back from his two-game league suspension. They’re not aging until they play old and that certainly didn’t look to be the case in the preseason.

They go pretty deep there, but it’s always a concern when you have less than four safeties. Plus, Shawn Williams plays more special teams than safety and Taylor Mays plays more linebacker than safety. That may come back to bite before the corner thing.

The only 53 man roster moves I got wrong was James Wright over Cobi Hamilton, but I get that. And 7 backers, I had 5 safeties, keeping Manning. But I get that too. My questions are with the practice squad. No Cobi Hamilton, Nikita Whitlock, Orson Charles, Isaiah Lewis, Dontay Moch, LaKendrick Ross. Any idea why none of those guys made the cut? Moch and Charles may be past the 3 years, I'm not sure. But primarily, Hamilton, Whitlock, Lewis, and Ross I thought for sure would be there Aaron Newport, Kansas City, MO

AARON:  Moch and Charles were eligible, but Moch hasn’t been able to stick for three straight preseasons and third-rounder Will Clarke is going to be like a practice squad defensive end for the first half of the season, anyway. Charles was clearly out of position at fullback and they apparently found a practice squad tight end they like better in Kevin Greene, cut by the 49ers last week.

Lewis had a tough time keeping up with his speed and at the moment LaKendrick Ross is just too much of a project after playing for a year in high school and a year in college. They’ll keep their eye on them, but these guys didn’t get drafted for a reason.

They probably would have like to have had Hamilton and Whitlock. But Whitlock got a shot near his hometown in Dallas and Hamilton could end up back here. Having a deep roster doesn’t help you put together a practice squad.    

 Hi Geoff. Huge fan of your Bengals coverage on this website. Heading into this season most outside observers are putting a lot of pressure on the Bengals to take the next step and win at least one playoff game. As a Bengals fan who has endured many season of misery I have been more than happy to make the playoffs these last couple years and I will be content with the same this year. How important do you think winning a playoff game this year is to keeping the fan base satisfied considering that many like me are overjoyed just by making the playoffs? Samyukt Kumar, Stamford, CT

SAMYUKT: Thank you for your kind words and you ask a good question. Not many towns in the NFL have enjoyed this much success in the past five years or so. Only five teams have been to the playoffs three straight years and the AFC North is the only division in the NFL to have three different teams win at least three division titles since they changed the alignments in 2002.

It’s tough to know if you’re one of the Silent Majority or if another post-season loss would set off a powder keg. My guess is it’s somewhere in between. But I also know the Bengals spark a lot of emotion down through the generations. Take a walk through the antique stores in Lebanon, Ohio, and you can see that. I also know it will be lot easier to sell out games if they had a playoff win in there somewhere. The people running the outfit want to win the Super Bowl, so their fans should, too. And it can get emotional. A playoff win would ease a lot of angst. But I also think 20 years from now fans will look back on this stretch fondly.

What role will Ryan Hewitt play if any? Patrick Tynan, Somers, CT

PATRICK: We know he’ll at least be the starting fullback, or at least that’s the way they’ve lined up since the preseason opener. Now, how many snaps that gets him a game (six, eight, 12, 14) who knows? He can play tight end, too, but three guys are ahead of him there.

Mr. Hobson, Fantastic work this year, so far, and as always! Thank you for giving the fans a peek behind the scenes of Bengal nation! Here's my question. With the Bengals releasing Manning and him subsequently signing elsewhere, are they a little TOO thin at safety? Iloka and Nelson are solid. Williams is a special teams guy at the moment. And while Mays is listed as the fourth safety, he's played far more snaps as a backer so far this year. An injury to either starter makes things seem pretty dicey on the back end. Thoughts? Andre Edwards, Liberty Township, OH

ANDRE: Thank you for reading the column and I hear you. It seems like they’ve got two safeties where in most years they’ve had four. If Nelson or Iloka go down, there’s a big drop-off, although it appears they think Williams is making strides there. But at the very least that would hurt them on teams. And, you’re right. Mays is a backer not a safety.

There’s always Chris Crocker, right? Well, not really. They turned to him late the last two years because of his ability to play the slot and not safety. Now with Leon Hall back and the drafting of Darqueze Dennard, they should be OK in the slot. But safety, yes, a bit thin.

 I've been so impressed by Ryan Hewitt. He hits his mark every time. Can he step up and replace Gresham if he falters? Do you see him as the impact possibility as I do? Doug Pritchard, Huber Heights, OH

DOUG: We’re talking about two different guys here. Gresham was the 21st pick in the draft. Hewitt is undrafted. Like you, I like Hewitt. He’s solid. He’s one of these guys the other team always seems to have when they beat you. He’s a good blocker and he may not be a burner, but he can catch.

Yet not many tight ends in the NFL can do what Gresham does. He’s a beast down the seam.  Hewitt could give them competent snaps there, but he wouldn’t give them what Gresham gives them.

Why wouldnt we sign Tebow to practice squad? After Dalton we are extra thin at QB. He has at least got some experience and would be a great locker room presence. Thanks, and by the way love the changes made to the site. Jeremy Richards, Columbus, OH

JEREMY:  Thank you for your compliment and I’ll pass it on to Web Site Manager of the Year, Darius Howard, and Steven Hudy, the Vicar of Video.

I thought Tebow was an SEC announcer. I don’t think he’s ready, but AJ McCarron is hopefully going to be ready to get back to practice in six weeks when his shoulder gets healthy and he’s throwing. That’s why they drafted him.   

Why do you think the Bengals terminated Benjarvus Green-Ellis? Stevie Chavarria, Las Cruces, N.M.

STEVIE: Just not enough big runs. Tough, durable, and a great competitor. But it’s the same reason they didn’t give BJGE $9 million for three years in New England two years ago. He’s not going to run away from you and impact defenses. In second-round pick Jeremy Hill, they got a guy who can pound it and run away and is seven years younger. You’re talking about a 4.6 guy and a 3.9 guy. They thought they needed the half a yard.

Once the mandatory 6 weeks are over, will AJ McCarron get a fair chance at making it into the game? Taylor Smith, Tampa, FL

TAYLOR: He’ll get a fair shot to see if he can develop into a quarterback that can back up Dalton next year. I’m not sure they think he’s ready for game action this year.

Am a little baffled by the Bengals' under-use of TEs. We have 2 No. 1 draft choices here. Seems like this should be a defensive nightmare for competitors and especially with Jones being down. What gives here? Just seems like a waste or have the Bengals mis-judged talent here? Doug Lottes, Knoxville, TN

DOUG: You’d have to say that Eifert was underused last year, but it’s not like they ignored their tight ends. They combined for 86 catches, more than 800 yards and caught six TDs. They do have other people to throw it to and they did finish 10th in offense. But, I hear you. There’s some more there. It’s hard to know what a new coordinator would do because Gresham and Eifert both missed the spring with injuries and they have yet to appear on the field together in a game this year as Eifert nurses a shoulder injury. We’ll find out together.

Does it really make sense that Tyler Wilson was cut? I look at they drafted a QB who is hurt. Why not cut him? Now they have 2 QBs that are able to play. Brad Butte, Greenwood, AK

BRAD: They invested a fifth-round pick in McCarron so they’re not going to cut him without seeing how he can play when he gets healthy. I like Wilson and I was hoping they’d keep him around, but I think they feel like they’ve got the same kind of guy in McCarron and there would be no reason to have two developmental guys around with McCarron on the mend. And if both Dalton and Campbell get hurt, on the way to jumping off the Roebling they would be looking elsewhere, anyway, for someone who could play right now.

Is it just me, or does the Brown family ever talk about the lack of Bengals exposure on any kind of TV promo for the NFL, CBS, etc. I never see a Bengal player on national intros or in promotional materials i.e. Thursday Night Football. Yes, I caught the micro second of Gio, Andy, and AJ Green. What's your take? John Hambrecht,  Gainesville, TX

JOHN: All I’ve ever heard them say about that stuff is they hope all 32 teams are treated equally.

Personally, I’m with you. I notice it all the time. Especially on NFL Network. Starting right from the top. Even when they promo historical figures, they always seem to forget Paul Brown, the guy that literally professionalized football coaching.

Maybe we’re too close to it. And there is the old win-a-playoff-game before you gripe. It’s like when Howard Cosell did the half-time highlights on Monday Night Football and he always got nasty mail from cities whose teams didn’t get on that week.

But, gee, three straight playoff berths and you think you could get more than a second or two.


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