Posted: 7 p.m.
A quick look at impending roster battles by position as the Bengals mandatory minicamp opens Thursday morning. (The numbers in parenthesis reflect how many players they kept at that position on the '08 Opening Day roster).
Carson Palmer (seventh year); J.T. O'Sullivan (7), Jordan Palmer (2); Billy Farris (R).
It will be interesting to see if Jordan Palmer puts heat on O'Sullivan for the No. 2 job because he's been in the offense a year longer. The Bengals didn't keep a quarterback on the practice squad last year to start the season.
WIDE RECEIVERS (6)
Laveranues Coles (10), Chad Ochocinco (9), Antonio Chatman (7), Chris Henry (5), Andre Caldwell (2), Jerome Simpson (2), Maurice Purify (1), Mario Urrutia (1), Freddie Brown (R), Quan Cosby (R), Greg Orton (R), David Richmond (R).
Assuming The Ocho, Coles, Henry and Caldwell are locks, it's going to be a tractor pull for Nos. 5 and 6, especially if Cosby proves he can return punts and has to be active on Gameday. Usually, the Bengals only keep five receivers active. Simpson keeps showing flashes, but they're still waiting for his ample physical skills to catch up with the mental game.
Keep an eye on Brown's shake after a very sure catch. Last year two receivers (Purify and Urrutia) made the practice squad on Opening Day, and Downtown Freddie may be ready to follow them.
RUNNING BACKS (3)
Kenny Watson (8), Cedric Benson (5), DeDe Dorsey (4), Brian Leonard (3), James Johnson (1), Marlon Lucky (R), Bernard Scott (R).
One assumption is that the Leonard trade indicates he'll be Benson's backup and everyone else is gunning for the last spot. Another assumption is that Scott is going to flash in preseason games like he has in practice and the club will have to keep him because he won't clear waivers, a la Dorsey in '06, for the practice squad.
But Watson's experience and versatility, along with Dorsey's speed and Johnson's late-season push in '08 may also have a say. Leonard comes with a Watson-like pedigree of a good, all-round back when it comes to blocking and catching. Johnson was the one back that made the practice squad last year.
Jeremi Johnson (7), J.D. Runnels (3), Chris Pressley (R), Fui Vakapuna (R).
Will he or won't he?
Will Jeremi Johnson practice this weekend as the Bengals keep tabs on his conditioning? And just what is their threshold of tolerance? The young guys (Runnels is the only guy to play in an NFL game and he did it twice with the Bears in '06) are big, tough, smart guys but the club won't know a thing about them until the pads come on.
OFFENSIVE LINE (9)
G Bobbie Williams (10), G-T Scott Kooistra (7), G-C Evan Mathis (5), G-T Andrew Whitworth (4), C-G Dan Santucci (3), T Anthony Collins (2), Kyle Cook (2), C-G Andrew Crummey (2), G Nate Livings (2), T Dennis Roland (2), C-G Colin Dow (2), C Jonathan Luigs (R), T Andre Smith (R).
The starting line goes Cook at center, Williams and Livings at the guards and Whitworth and Smith at the tackles. Collins figures in as Whitworth's backup but the Bengals also believe he can play right tackle. Kooistra is also valuable because he can play right tackle and both guards. Luigs figures to make it as a fourth-round pick. The rest of the guys are going to have to be able to play both guard and center. Mathis is an interesting sort. He's made 15 NFL starts at guard and has practiced at tackle with some of his teams.
Livings was the lone offensive lineman that made the Opening Day practice squad and he later made the jump to make six starts. He and James Johnson were the only Opening Day practice squadders to play in a game.
TIGHT ENDS (3)
Reggie Kelly (11), Ben Utecht (5), Daniel Coats (3), Matt Sherry (2), Chase Coffman (R), Darius Hill (R).
Kelly is so huge in pass protection and run-blocking. The Bengals have a sizeable salary cap number on Utecht. Carson Palmer has never had a pass-receiving tight end like Coffman. Coffman could make his pro debut in team drills this weekend after coming back last week in individuals during his rehab for the foot he broke on the last offensive snap of Missouri's bowl game. They say he's closer to Heath Miller than Todd Heap, but Palmer would take Kevin Boss.
DEFENSIVE LINE (9)
E Robert Geathers (6), T Tank Johnson (6), E Antwan Odom (6), E-T Jonathan Fanene (5), T Domata Peko (4), E-T Frostee Rucker (4), T Jason Shirley (2), T Pat Sims (2), E Chris Harrington (1), E Michael Johnson (R), T Clinton McDonald (R), T Pernell Phillips (R).
Michael Johnson may have been the most impressive rookie on defense in the past month and Tank Johnson provides the kind of inside pass rushing threat the Bengals haven't had since John Thornton's first year here in '03. Peko was second among NFL tackles in tackles last year and when Sims got in the lineup last year in October the defense got stingier against the run.
The versatility of Fanene and Rucker is valued. The club really liked the pass-rushing skills of McDonald coming out of Memphis. Geathers and Odom remain the team's two best sack threats on the outside. If it gets tight in the numerical department the Bengals could count Michael Johnson as a linebacker.
Don't look for Geathers this weekend as he continues his spring-long rehab from microfracture knee surgery. He may try it, but why?
One defensive lineman made the practice squad last year coming out of camp, but the Bengals let Eric Henderson go earlier this year.
MLB-OLB Dhani Jones (10), OLB-DE Darryl Blackstock (5), OLB Brandon Johnson (5), OLB Jim Maxwell (5), MLB-OLB Abdul Hodge (4), OLB Rashad Jeanty (4), OLB-MLB Keith Rivers (2), OLB-MLB Rey Maualuga (R), MLB-OLB Dan Skuta (R).
This one is going to come down to special teams, so the Bengals could go light at some other position and keep seven. With last year's starters (Jones, Jeanty, Rivers) all back, Johnson coming off a solid year in place of the then-injured Rivers, and Maualuga being groomed to replace Jones in the middle, that's a pretty solid top five. Position versatility and special teams play could help guys like Blackstock and Hodge, and Maxwell can also be a factor on special teams. Hodge had five special-teams tackles last year in just six games before he ripped up his arm and Maxwell led the team in the preseason with four special-teams tackles.
One linebacker made the practice squad before the opener, but they have since let go Dan Howell.
S Roy Williams (8), S Chris Crocker (7), CB Johnathan Joseph (4), CB Leon Hall (3), CB David Jones (3), S Chinedum Ndukwe (3), S Marvin White (3), CB Simeon Castille (2), S Kyries Hebert (2), S Corey Lynch (2), CB Geoff Pope (2), CB Rico Murray (R), S Tom Nelson (R), CB Morgan Trent (R).
The breakdown last year was four corners and six safeties coming out of camp and even though the Bengals traditionally like it to be five and five, they may be headed that way again considering their glut of safeties and Crocker's ability to play nickel corner.
Two guys that haven't been out there all spring because of injuries, White (ACL) and Trent (foot), probably won't be out there this weekend but should be ready for the first weekend of camp. The word is that if he had to, Trent could play a game now, but why chance his stress fracture? The same thinking with White, a guy making a big-time recovery from December's reconstructive knee surgery.
After Hall and Joseph, defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has yet to see someone emerge at the Nos. 3 and 4 corners.
No DB made the practice squad coming out of camp last year.
LS Brad St. Louis (10), K Shayne Graham (9), P Kevin Huber (R), LS James Smith (R).
St. Louis is the only guy on the Bengals who played for them when they opened Paul Brown Stadium in 2000. Smith is going to have to knock out the champion.
No specialists made the practice squad coming of camp last year.