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Bengals use safety valve on cut to 53


Taylor Mays

Updated: 5 p.m.

With more moves still on the way, the Bengals pulled a few mild surprises Saturday when they handed in their 53-man roster with just five cornerbacks and five linebackers. That allowed them to carry four tight ends, among them H-back Orson Charles, and five safeties when they opted to keep both Taylor Mays and Jeromy Miles.

As expected the Bengals placed linebacker Emmanuel Lamur on season-ending injured reserve and Lewis said he'll have surgery on what is believed to be a dislocated shoulder.

But unexpectedly they kept only five backers when they released J.K. Schaffer and went with just two backups in four-year veteran Vincent Rey and rookie free-agent Jayson DiManche out of Southern Illinois.

Sixth-rounder Rex Burkhead edged Daniel Herron to join running backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis, second-rounder Giovani Bernard and Cedric Peerman. With the release of John Conner, the Bengals are going with no pure fullback the season after Chris Pressley got fewer than 15 snaps per game before he got hurt late in the year.

Also as expected running back Bernard Scott (knee) starts the first six weeks of the regular season on the physically unable to perform list.

Things can change Saturday and Sunday with the possibility the Bengals could claim that sixth linebacker or sixth cornerback, or any other position, for that matter, off waivers and have to cut somebody now on the club.

But head coach Marvin Lewis said the 46 guys he's putting in uniform in eight days in Chicago in the opener are pretty much here.

"The focus has to be what's best to get ready for the Chicago Bears; that's what the focus is right now," Lewis said. "It may need adjusted again after we play the Bears. But we're going to put together the best football team right now, and we feel really good about where we are with things. We have to focus on the guys that are going to go into that game in Chicago at Solider Field."

The A.J. Green-Andy Dalton Bengals that reconfigured the franchise two years ago are becoming slightly older. They may not be graying, but it's more salt and pepper. The youngest AFC team to make the playoffs last season now currently has an average years of NFL experience at 4.22 years. That's compared to 4.08 last cutdown day and 3.75 in 2011.

The average age also climbed, from 25.8 to 26.4 years old.

"We gain a year's experience across the board with the guys who were on the football team a year ago," Lewis said. "But when you're in flux (with) the new guys, you're staying a little younger. Obviously Orson's a little younger than John Conner. I feel good with where we are right now. Obviously it still stays in flux as you move forward because we've got a lot of things left to do."

Sixth-rounder Cobi Hamilton was the highest of three draft picks released as the Bengals kept veterans Ryan Whalen and Dane Sanzenbacher among seven wide receivers. That number changes Tuesday, when it is thought Andrew Hawkins (ankle) goes on injured reserve-recall and the Bengals get to add someone to the roster.

"That's something that still has to be weighed as we move forward," Lewis said. "Right now he's on the roster and we have to make those decisions at any point now after sometime Tuesday. He's doing OK and forecast the future as best as we can."

Also released were a pair of seventh-rounders, right tackle Reid Fragel and center-guard T.J. Johnson, who along with Hamilton are prime candidates for the practice squad if they aren't claimed on waivers. Also on that list is Schaffer, a first-year player, and Herron, a 2012 sixth-round pick.

Of the players waived, only Conner and quarterback John Skelton aren't eligible for the practice squad that is formed Sunday after the waiver claim period.

The Bengals went with the standard nine offensive linemen even though left tackle Andrew Whitworth has practiced minimally and didn't play in any preseason games with his rehabbing knee, right tackle Andre Smith sat out Thursday night's preseason finale with a tweaked knee, and guard-center Mike Pollak tweaked his knee in Thursday's fourth quarter.

But Smith says he'll play in the opener and head coach Marvin Lewis says Pollak's injury isn't major. The release of veteran backup right tackle Dennis Roland still leaves the Bengals with two backup tackles in six-year veteran Anthony Collins and fifth-rounder Tanner Hawkinson.

Roland, who joined the club in 2008, has played in every game since 2009.

"It is a very difficult day and every one of these guys we've had good history with. With the process of playing the game on Thursday and almost having an extra day, I was able to visit with a lot of the guys yesterday that this might be in the wings for the next 24 hours," Lewis said. "It kind of softens the blow of it for a bit and kind of gives them a heads-up and notice a little bit. It's still a difficult time. These guys have busted their tails. They've given to the football team everything they've had and this is just where we are now. Tomorrow it could be a little different. Things could change as we go forward."

Tyler Eifert, the first-round pick, joins two-time Pro Bowler Jermaine Gresham, and free-agent pickup Alex Smith at tight end, where Charles can also play.

Instead of keeping another cornerback behind the three regulars, Dre Kirkpatrick and Brandon Ghee, the Bengals decided to keep an extra safety. Reggie Nelson and George Iloka are listed first on the depth chart, but third-rounder Shawn Williams and four-year veteran Taylor Mays saw plenty of time when Iloka missed snaps with a broken hand.

It's a surprise that both Mays and Miles made it, but it means that special teams coach Darrin Simmons kept his three returning core players in the kicking game: Miles, Rey and Peerman. That trio finished 2-3-4 in special teams tackles last year.

Although the Bengals kept six cornerbacks and four safeties for the first three weeks of last season until they signed safety Chris Crocker and have almost always cut to six corners, Lewis objected to the notion they had gone light at corner.

"I don't think there's a usual anything. We kept the guys that we have. From what I remember it's 10 defensive backs," Lewis said. "There's not a usual anything. Last year we began the season with four corners. I don't think you can ever say what we usually have. The roster every year is going to be a different roster. There's no cookie cutter to put together a team of 53 guys. We used to carry three quarterbacks."

(NFL years in parenthesis)


Josh Johnson (5), Andy Dalton (3).

No, no Tebow. If the Bengals pick up a quarterback, it's for the practice squad.


Brandon Tate (5), A.J. Green (3), Andrew Hawkins (3), Ryan Whalen (3), Dane Sanzenbacher (3), Marvin Jones (2), Mohamed Sanu (2).

Hawkins (ankle) has to be on the 53-man Saturday before he's expected to be placed on injured reserve-recall Tuesday. Tate, Whalen and Sanzenbacher won their jobs fair and square by simply catching everything and Tate returns as the No. 1 kick returner.


BenJarvus Green-Ellis (6), Bernard Scott (5), Cedric Peerman (4), Giovani Bernard (R), Rex Burkhead (R).

Daniel Herron had great run and may end up helping at some point. But Burkhead is seen as an all-round guy whom the Bengals think can give them the same kind of jolt Brian Leonard did in key spots. Don't sleep on Scott going to PUP. With him and Hawkins making November debuts, those are four fast fresh legs.


Orson Charles (3).

But he made it because he can also play tight end and provides some athleticism on special teams. He can't do what he did Thursday night and drop an easy one.


Alex Smith (9), Jermaine Gresham (4), Tyler Eifert (R)

The Bengals feel like this trio makes them as versatile as they can be and indicates what we've seen all preseason. There'll be heavy dose of double tight ends.


LT Andrew Whitworth (8), T Anthony Collins (6), C Kyle Cook (6), G Mike Pollak (6), RT Andre Smith (5), G Clint Boling (3), G Kevin Zeitler (2), C Trevor Robinson (2), T Tanner Hawkinson (R).

The Bengals end up going with two backup center-guards in Pollak and Robinson at Nos. 8 and 9 instead of one tackle and one center-guard.


E Robert Geathers (10), NT Domata Peko (8), E Wallace Gilberry (6), RE Michael Johnson (5), LE Carlos Dunlap (4), DT Geno Atkins (4), DT Devon Still (2),  NT Brandon Thompson (2), RE Margus Hunt (R).

Ladies and gentlemen, the best D-line in football? How many weeks will it take Hunt to be active?


James Harrison (10), Rey Maualuga (5), Vincent Rey (4), Vontaze Burfict (2), Jayson DiManche (R).

If there's a surprise, this is it. Only five backers, but the Bengals could pick a sixth off waivers.


CB Terence Newman (11), CB Leon Hall (7), CB Adam Jones (7), S Reggie Nelson (7), CB Brandon Ghee (4), S Taylor Mays (4), S Jeromy Miles (4), CB Dre Kirkpatrick (2), S George Iloka (2).

If there's another surprise, this is it. Only five corners and both Mays and Miles making it. Miles can play corner to get through a game, but he's here for special teams. Mays struggled at times in preseason and didn't win the starting job, but the Bengals brought him back.


K Mike Nugent (9), P Kevin Huber (5), LS Clark Harris (5).

This trio heads into their fourth Opening Day together all with new contracts.

PLAYERS TERMINATED: T Dennis Roland (sixth-year player, Georgia)


» FB John Conner (fourth-year player, Kentucky)
» TE/LS Bryce Davis (first-year player; Central Oklahoma)
» S Tony Dye (second-year player, UCLA)
» T Reid Fragel (rookie, Ohio State)
» WR Cobi Hamilton (rookie, Arkansas)
» RB Daniel Herron (first-year player, Ohio State)
» C T.J. Johnson (rookie, South Carolina)
» CB Chris Lewis-Harris (first-year player, Tennessee-Chattanooga)
» CB Onterio McCalebb (rookie, Auburn)
» DE Dontay Moch (second-year player, Nevada)
» CB Shaun Prater (second-year player, Iowa)
» WR Taveon Rogers (second-year player, New Mexico State)
» WR Roy Roundtree (rookie, Michigan)
» LB J.K. Schaffer (first-year player, Cincinnati)
» QB John Skelton (fourth-year player, Fordham)
» DT Terrence Stephens (rookie, Stanford)
» G John Sullen (rookie, Auburn)
» LB Bruce Taylor (rookie, Virginia Tech)

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