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Special take

Posted Sep 6, 2009


Kyries Hebert

Posted: 7:30 a.m.

At first the level of experience doesn't seem that much different in 2008 and 2009 when the Bengals cut their roster.

But special teams coach Darrin Simmons sensed it from his office when the dust cleared Saturday that this group is a little more battle-tested.

"For the first time in several years we've got a bunch of guys that have some years," Simmons said. "In order to be good, you need continuity and I think we've got that with a lot of these guys. They've been together for a few years now."
 
On Saturday, the Bengals were left with 27 players with at least four years experience. Last year, it was 25. On Saturday, they had 20 players with two years or less. Last year, it was 18.

But of the 18 young players in '08, just two, safeties Marvin White and Chinedum Ndukwe, started games the year before for the Bengals in the same position. This year, six of the youngsters started games last year because of the injuries.

And in the secondary, where there were seven players with two years or less experience last year, there are now four and Ndukwe and White have been basically replaced by the eight years of Roy Williams and seven years of Chris Crocker.

Some of this doesn't directly impact Simmons but, really, in the end it all impacts him because he has to deal with virtually the entire roster. Because of the way the safety position broke down, his best player, safety Kyries Hebert, survived on the bubble.

"Got to have him. He's important because he sets such a high level of play," Simmons said. "He sets a certain tempo and has really emerged into a leader for these guys."

Many of Simmons' players come from the secondary and linebackers, position groups that went through terrible injury spates last year that forced guys to play both from scrimmage and special teams no matter their youth. For instance, two backups this year, WILL linebacker Brandon Johnson (nine) and cornerback David Jones (seven) combined to start a season's worth of games.

It looked to be a kindler, gentler cut for the special teams than in years past. Over the last couple of years during various stages of the season and offseason, the Bengals have let go such top special-teams tacklers as Reggie Myles, Herana-Daze Jones, Corey Mays and Marcus Wilkins.

But with Hebert, Brandon Johnson, linebacker Rashad Jeanty, and long snapper Brad St. Louis retained Saturday, the Bengals have four of their top five cover players from last year as well as the player who has provided one of their recent special-teams touchdowns in punt blocker supreme DeDe Dorsey survive the bubble.

And in the top 10 tackles, even though he only played a few games, was linebacker Abdul Hodge and he's back.

Throw in the fact that the Bengals kept two punt returners in rookie free agents Tom Nelson and Quan Cosby and they have some options.

"I think we kept the best 53 guys," Simmons said. "Guys that are going to help this team doing a variety of things. There are guys I wished we could have kept, but you can't have everything. In Quan and Tom, we've got two guys that can make a play and we'll see what happens."

What happens Sunday is that the Bengals are meeting in the morning to see who they claim off the waiver wire. It is doubtful they'll pursue a vested veteran for one of the backup jobs, but a key position is third cornerback.

David Jones won't play in the opener and maybe a few games beyond and the next guy up is a rookie, sixth-rounder Morgan Trent. Crocker can play nickel corner, but the team needs depth on the outside.

And even though the Bengals kept two punt returners, they could get a proven one Sunday.


 

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