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Numbers game

Quan Cosby 

Posted: 3:55 p.m.

A quick review of the roster with the cut to 53 coming Saturday afternoon. But keep in mind, the Bengals have until noon Sunday to attack the waiver wire and finalize it. By the time the Ohio River explodes Sunday night, the Opening Day roster will be asleep. We may not know who, but there is a pretty good idea what they're talking about.  

QUARTERBACKS (3): Carson Palmer, J.T. O'Sullivan, Jordan Palmer.

OK, Carson Palmer has been gimping and he hasn't played in three weeks. But his ankle is relatively healthy going into the opener and his backup, O'Sullivan, had a 128.5 preseason passer rating. About 25 teams would take that right now.

RUNNING BACKS (3 or 4?):Cedric Benson, Bernard Scott are in. Brian Leonard probably is in because of his size (230 pounds), blocking and catching. DeDe Dorsey may be in with his spectacular special teams play and if the club decides it only needs one fullback. But what if he won't be active on Sunday? And Marvin Lewis talks more about Sunday's 45-man roster than Friday's 53.

Can they get James Johnson to the practice squad?

FULLBACKS (1 or 2?):Jeremi Johnson is in. The coaches love Chris Pressley as a blocker. Seventh-rounder Fui Vakapuna is an athletic big guy. But how much is that second fullback going to play from scrimmage and help on special teams compared to Leonard or Dorsey?

*TIGHT ENDS (2 or 3?): *Daniel Coats, Chase Coffman are in. It's hard to go with only two when the Bengals want to run the ball and J.P Foschi has proven to be a big, 265-pound blocker, which is what they want. He's already been here three weeks so why get a guy off waivers if he's the same guy? But maybe they go with two fullbacks and just two tight ends. Good for Kolomona Kapanui putting his 25-yard touchdown catch Thursday night on tape for others to see. 

WIDE RECEIVERS (6): Chad Ochocinco, Laveranues Coles, Andre Caldwell, Chris Henry are in. Even though it is unlikely he'll start the season active, it's hard to see the Bengals giving up on second-rounder Jerome Simpson.

That leaves one spot among veteran Antonio Chatman, second-year man Maurice Purify, and rookies Quan Cosby and Freddie Brown for the fifth spot that will be active on special teams on Sundays.

Chatman could be out of it with an ankle injury that took him out of all the preseason games. The Bengals may try to get Brown to the practice squad. That leaves Cosby vs. Purify in a battle that would seem to hinge on the safety situation. And the safety situation hinges on the numbers the club decides to keep at fullback, tight end and offensive line.

The CW is that Cosby's fate as a punt returner is tied to the status of rookie defensive back Tom Nelson. The argument is both can't make it. The problem is, there was no decisive end to their return derby. Then does Nelson's ability to play safety and cornerback trump Cosby's ordinary play from scrimmage and open up that fifth receiver spot for Chatman or Purify? But Chatman is also a punt returner. Would Purify's kick coverage and blocking be enough to get him on?

OFFENSIVE LINE (9): The first eight are pretty clear cut, right, since the Bengals have been saying they need backups that can play a couple of spots? Beyond the starting corps of tackles Andrew Whitworth and Anthony Collins, guards Bobbie Williams and Nate Livings, and center Kyle Cook are backup guard-center Evan Mathis and backup tackle-guard Scott Kooistra. Backup center Jonathan Luigs is a fourth-rounder who's not getting cut. The last spot has to be backup right tackle Dennis Roland, right, with the Andre Smith situation?

Guard-center Andrew Crummey was on crutches Thursday night with an ankle injury. Guard Jason Shirley has been an offensive player for about a month and probably needs seasoning on the practice squad. Gus Parrish had the struggles of a rookie free agent.

The big question is what they do when Smith's roster exemption is up the week after the opener. It looks like the Bengals are not putting him on injured reserve with that small broken bone in his foot because they think he can help them in the second half of the season. But they need to keep a roster spot warm even though Smith won't be able to play for what seems at least a few more weeks, maybe more. So they may have to go with 10 linemen and light at some other position after the Denver game.

DEFENSIVE LINE (8 or 9?): With all this talk about extra DBs, extra fullbacks, extra OL, the Bengals would have to go one light here with eight, right? Ends Robert Geathers, Antwan Odom and Michael Johnson are in. Tackles Domata Peko, Tank Johnson and Pat Sims are in. The way Lewis raved about Jonathan Fanene after Thursday's game, he's in as a fourth tackle and fourth end.

You have to feel Frostee Rucker is in a fight with rookie tackle Clinton McDonald. Both had sacks on Thursday lined up on the edge and the coaches really like McDonald's upside. Rucker has been hurt all four of his seasons, but he showed Thursday that he's a disruptor when healthy.

Tackles Langston Moore and Ventrell Jenkins arrived late and end Chris Harrington has some pricey guys in front of him.

LINEBACKERS (6 or 7?):Starters Rashad Jeanty, Dhani Jones and Keith Rivers are in. Backups Rey Maualuga and Brandon Johnson are in. Abdul Hodge should be in. Jim Maxwell and Darryl Blackstock are solid pros and special-teamers, but can they do more than an extra DB? Could rookie free agent Dan Skuta take his versatility to the practice squad?

SECONDARY (9 or 10?):Cornerbacks Johnathan Joseph, Leon Hall, David Jones, Morgan Trent are in. Safeties Chris Crocker, Roy Williams, Chinedum Ndukwe are in.

Preferably the Bengals would like to keep six cornerbacks and not knowing if Jones is going to be healthy for the opener would make one think that may bode well for Geoff Pope even though he got beat for the only Colts touchdown Thursday. Plus, Crocker can play some nickel corner.

So how many safeties do they keep after the first three? Corey Lynch and Marvin White, who have been portrayed as on the bubble in Hard Knocks, made some plays Thursday and not only help on special teams but from scrimmage. Kyries Hebert doesn't play much from scrimmage, but he is the inspirational leader of the special teams, not to mention their leading tackler. How many guys on this team got some Pro Bowl votes last year? Hebert did.

And then there is Nelson.

More than anything, it's a numbers game matched to the positions.

SPECIALISTS (3): K Shayne Graham, P Kevin Huber, LS Brad St. Louis.

It looks as if Graham is healthy after injuring his groin and not kicking in the last three games, so Sam Swank probably goes to waivers with a nice 49-yarder on tape and the only Bengals field goal of the preseason.

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