DL: Best depth in years
BY GEOFF HOBSON - GEORGETOWN, Ky.
A look at the race for eight spots on the Bengals' defensive line and the players' years of experience:
STARTERS: ends John Copeland (8), Vaughn Booker (7), tackles Oliver Gibson (6), Tom Barndt (5).
SOLID BACKUPS: Glen Steele (3), Reinard Wilson (4).
LOOKING GOOD: Michael Bankston (9), Jevon Langford (5), Chad Pegues (1).
BATTLING: Andre Purvis (4), Mike Willetts (R)
Defensive line coach Tim Krumrie got exactly what he wanted in last Saturday's scrimmage when his unit held up more than well without the injured Copeland, Gibson and Bankston. He glimpsed the vision he had when the Bengals signed free-agents Booker and Barndt within 48 hours back in February.
"Even with those guys hurt, I was comfortable rotating people," Krumrie said. "I didn't care who I put in the scrimmage, I knew they were going to play. The main concern was the new guys adjusting to my coaching style, and they've come in and picked it right up."
Count Wilson as a new guy, too, because he's making the move full-time to defensive end after struggling in his first three years as a weak outside linebacker. The former No. 1 pick is now back in a three-point stance, where he was an All-American at Florida State, and has looked active.
With Bankston out for the next three to four weeks with a partially torn calf muscle and a knee scope for maintenance, Wilson has been promoted to his spot as the backup end on the open side in the base defense. Krumrie is also looking to get Booker some snaps on the right end in the base in case something happens to Copeland. Wilson will be the right end pass rusher in the nickel.
Bankston could be vulnerable on cutdown day because he's 30 and is unsigned for next season, but he's one of Krumrie's few players who can play all three spots: end, left and right tackle. The 6-0, 304-pound Pegues has played well, but he can only play inside and if he made it they would be thin at end. He is practice squad eligible.
"Chad is pushing strongly for a spot," said Jim Lippincott, the Bengals director of pro/college personnel. "He's stronger, has built-in leverage and his effort is endless. He's been tough to block. The problem is, he's only a tackle."
Steele's also had a good camp by playing with more balance and gets the start Friday in place of the injured Barndt. He's a better inside player, but he'll also get some work at end. Langford can also play inside, yet Krumrie wants to take advantage of his quickness and up-the-field ability in a wide alignment. "Jevon's coming on lately after coming in here in a fog," Krumrie said. "He can play all three spots, but I'd like to see him settle down and play in a wide defense and let him go."