Here's why backup tackles Anthony Collins and Dennis Roland are going to make the Bengals roster.
During Tuesday's practice on the Paul Brown Stadium grass fields, Collins and Roland were the left tackle and left guard, respectively, for the second offensive line. Then they switched on the third offensive line. In the wake of starting left guard Travelle Wharton's torn ACL, it is the more you can do up front.
Look for Roland to be inside a little bit inside when the Bengals play the Falcons on Thursday (8 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 19) in the Georgia Dome.
"It's a new thing. It's a new experience," said Roland, the fifth-year tackle who has largely backed up right tackle and been a tight end in goal-line and short-yardage packages. "The biggest things for me that are different are it's quicker, there's less space at tackle. The blocks come quicker. It's not as difficult as I thought it would be. It's just working on technique."
And offensive line coach Paul Alexander has always regarded the 6-9, 322-pound Roland as his top technician. The knock on him is that he's slow and has trouble handling quickness. But he'll also tell you, "If you don't know what you're doing, you're going to play slow."
If it's one thing Roland can do, it's that he knows what to do
"You have to know what to expect," Roland said.
After his third practice as the left guard, fellow Georgia product Clint Boling is who the Bengals thought he was.
"He's solid. He'll be fine," said offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.
But that doesn't mean the Bengals are not going to scour the waiver wire in the next few weeks. Collins and Roland don't play center, where Boling and right guard Kevin Zeitler are the top backups, respectively. They'd prefer to not have to pull either one out of the guard spot to play center, so the search is on for a veteran center-guard.
The problem is the Bengals are 21st on the claiming wire instead of fourth, like last season when they pilfered Eagles starting center Mike McGlynn on cutdown day. They could always go the free-agent route, but there's no one out there now. They apparently made a call on former Raven and Ram Jason Brown and were told he's retired.
GRUDEN IN SLOT: Slot receiver Jordan Shipley continues to grind, but this ultra-competitive field of receivers isn't the best place to be coming back from an ACL tear.
"He's getting there, but it has to be quicker," Gruden said after Tuesday's practice, which drew a crowd that looked a little bigger than Monday's 430.
"He's doing everything right. He knows what to do. He'll tell you he's not quite there yet," Gruden said. "It's tough. I know how good he was and how good he thinks he should be. He's coming along great."
Shipley has the reliability of those 52 catches in 2010 that led AFC rookies, but how much time does he have to return to form? Andrew Hawkins has looked excellent in the slot, showing the quickness and speed the Bengals haven't had there in years and gives Gruden the ability to exploit matchups.
"He poses a problem," Gruden said. "He's very shifty, nifty ... you want to use him downfield, and we've got (Jermaine) Gresham and A.J. (Green), so we've got some good weapons. We just have to use them correctly. (Hawkins) is definitely a guy you can move around a lot. He's very bright. He demands a lot of himself. He's very valuable on special teams and on offense."
Let's do the numbers again, stopping at six. There is Green, the two draft picks, and Hawkins, as well as Armon Binns and Brandon Tate. With Shipley on the mend and Ryan Whalen out since Aug. 3 with a hamstring, that would seem to be how it stands with three preseason games left.
BACKS ON PARADE: With BenJarvus Green-Ellis (foot) and Bernard Scott (hand) on the shelf for Thursday, the Bengals backup running backs are going to get plenty of work. They particularly want to see what three-year veteran Aaron Brown and sixth-round pick Daniel Herron give them.
Brown, who went to another high school in Andy Dalton's hometown of Katy, Texas, and played with him at Texas Christian, definitely has some upfield quicks. Brian Leonard is so ingrained in the offense as a third-down back and Cedric Peerman is such a special teams staple that it's hard to see either one getting cut. But Brown has a shot to show.
"He's a real fast guy," Dalton said. "He's able to make the big play. Hopefully we'll be able to get to see that Thursday."
"He definitely has flashes of excellence," Gruden said. "Every now and then he does something that you shake your head at. He does some little things that a lot of guys can't do with his speed. Very dynamic, you just have to make from a protection standpoint that he's consistent."
Herron has been in and out of the lineup nursing some muscle pulls ever since he arrived from Ohio State so the Bengals haven't seen all that much of his workhorse style between the tackles.
"He's definitely a north-south back with good vision," Gruden said. "Hopefully we'll get him some touches in Atlanta to see what he has."
Herron did carry it four times for eight yards against the Jets but he figures to get more carries Thursday.
INJURY UPDATE: The Bengals had 17 players missing from practice Tuesday and one of them was cornerback Adam Jones. After he said he was close to 100 percent on Monday, he hasn't practiced the past two days, indicating he's not ready to blow out his legs that have been hampered by strains and pulls.
Also out for more than a week with muscle pulls is cornerback Jason Allen, meaning after Leon Hall, Nate Clements and Terence Newman, the Falcons are going to get the Bengals rookies. But rookie safety Tony Dye, who has been playing corner, hasn't practiced since the Jets game with an unknown ailment.
With Falcons coach Mike Smith saying he's looking to give his first offense and defense each 25-30 snaps, the Bengals are going to see plenty of that big receiving corps. Wide receiver Julio Jones had 109 yards in one quarter last week against Baltimore.
The Bengals defensive line is also dinged. Along with left ends Robert Geathers and Carlos Dunlap out with knee injuries, rookie defensive tackle Brandon Thompson and second-year end DeQuin Evans didn't work Tuesday for unknown reasons. Tackle Geno Atkins wore the defense's golden leadership jersey amid the nicks.
WILL linebacker Thomas Howard (unknown) also didn't work but indications were he was just getting a rest.
The offense is going to be facing a first-team defense that stoned the Ravens without a first down its three series. The first offense had 21 snaps while the Bengals first-teamers took 18.
The list of injured: Wharton, Maualuga, Ghee, Kirkpatrick, Jones, Allen, Geathers, Dunlap, Sims, Green-Ellis, Scott, Whalen, Prater, Evans, Howard, Dye, Thompson.
REY BACK FOR PACK: With smoke clearing from the Battle of Wounded Knee, Bengals middle linebacker Rey Maualuga said before Tuesday's practice he should be able to play next week against the Packers at Paul Brown Stadium.
Calling it the least severe of the MCL sprains, Maualuga said he'll make the trip to Atlanta for Thursday's game (8 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) and be on the sidelines to help linebackers coach Paul Guenther work with backup middle backers Roddrick Muckelroy and Vontaze Burfict. He said he'll start working on the sidelines with rehab director Nick Cosgray during Tuesday's practice.
"I've got Samoan genes. That helps me out a little bit," Maualuga said. "I joke around with Nick that we heal fast."
Left guard Travelle Wharton, of course, isn't as lucky. He's waiting to schedule surgery for his torn right ACL and he's hoping it can be next week. Wharton, who did it to his left one in 2006, turns 32 in May but he has every intention of coming back and doesn't expect age to be a factor.
"I'm just going to attack this surgery as if I were a 21- or 22-year-old," Wharton said. "Age never crossed my mind. I just want to attack this rehab and surgery with an open mind."
He got the back of the knee rolled into at the end of the Bengals' third play of the game and he knew it was bad. All he could think about for that split second was the shocking pain going away.
"It's devastating," Wharton said. "People have welcomed me since this spring with open arms being a part of this family, this organization. Going down before you even get started, that's disappointing to anyone. I wanted to come in here and fit in to it and be ready to go to work."
Artrell Hawkins, a Bengals Radio Network analyst, was Wharton's teammate in Carolina in 2004 during Wharton's rookie year. They reminded each other that's how Wharton got his chance. Starting left guard Tutan Reyes went down and Wharton, a left tackle from South Carolina, played guard for the first time and started the last 11 games.
Wharton says his replacement, Clint Boling, "can play the game. I think he'll do well," but he admitted it hurt that he couldn't attend Tuesday night's downtown offensive line dinner paid for by left tackle Andrew Whitworth. According to a tweet re-tweeting Jeff Ruby.
"I was trying to get situated at home," Wharton said. "Being a part of it—I've been to a couple of dinners with the guys—you miss it. It's tough because you're part of the family."
NEXT STEP: Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton emerged from Friday's preseason opener in good spirits.
"Running 15 plays (in a drive) in the first preseason game, I thought that was pretty good," Dalton said. "Guys have a lot better understanding of what we're doing. We've got a little more time to practice. It's the second year in the offense, so that's how it should be."
He'll want to keep it going Thursday.
"When you have chances to make a big play, you have to do it and capitalize on everything you get."
LAST CALL: The Bengals distributed 460 tickets for Monday's practice. They're on the practice fields again Tuesday before leaving for Atlanta. When they come back they'll have two final training camp practices, Friday at 4 p.m. on the practice fields and Sunday at 4 p.m. in the stadium.