8-4-03, 7:30 a.m.
After the first weekend of intrasquad skirmishes and backyard spats, every NFL roster is in a state of flux because there are guys making new impressions.
Maybe he is an undrafted rookie, or a youngster finally getting a shot, or a waiver-wire gamble, or a veteran in a numbers crunch. The Bengals have examples of all of them as the question marks emerged into the roster hunt with solid play in Friday's scrimmage and Saturday's mock game: **
Left outside linebacker Dwayne Levels _ ** Levels, 24, got credited with six tackles in the non-tackling mock game, racked up a safety on a blitz, added two pass breakups, and is very much in the mix at backup outside backer with veterans Adrian Ross and Riall Johnson, and fifth-round pick Khalid Abdullah.
After spending all last season either on the practice squad or the inactive list, Levels, an undrafted free agent out of Oklahoma State, went to NFL Europe and made all-league as Barcelona's second-leading tackler behind Bengals teammate Tito Rodriguez.
The 6-2, 248-pound Levels is a Marvin Lewis kind of player. He's fast, athletic, and has arrived in the NFL the hard way. Also attractive is that he played both outside spots for the Dragons and made an impact. He was NFL Europe's Defensive Player of the Week against Rhein when he had nine tackles, three passes defensed, and an interception return of 26 yards.
"I think I can pretty much do everything that they ask," Levels said Saturday. "My athleticism is a big thing. I try to fly around and make something happen." **
Tight end Sean Brewer _ ** Left for the waiver wire behind the leading trio of Reggie Kelly, Matt Schobel, and Tony Stewart, Brewer let it be known he won't be going away quietly, if at all. He was the leading receiver in Friday's scrimmage with
four catches for 39 yards and a touchdown, and added another catch in the mock game.
After the scrimmage, Brewer, 25, detailed what has happened to him in a very busy offseason. While he started pounding away in the weight room during the first week of March remaking the body that made the Bengals a punch line in the 2001 draft, the club signed a former starter in Kelly from the Falcons.
The new conditioning program and his spring marriage to a diet -conscious athlete (his wife competed against Carson Palmer's wife during their college career) did wonders for the 6-4, 250-pound Brewer. He has lost anywhere between 20 and 30 pounds and has stripped 10 points (23 to 13) off his body fat.
"It's do or die," Brewer said.
He'll have to do more blocking, an area he has been inconsistent and where the 6-5, 260-pound Stewart excels. But with Schobel battling a recurrence of last summer's hamstring problem, it looks like he's going to get plenty of snaps. **
Strong safety Rogers Beckett _ ** The safety spot is quite a mish-mash with anyone and everyone getting a shot. Beckett, 26, moved solidly into the picture by reminding people why he started 29 games for San Diego during his three seasons in the NFL.
They like his range, his hands, and his willingness. Friday's biggest collision belonged to him and Brewer, a real pad-popper that got the crowd into it as Brewer leaped to his feet and Jeremy Shockeyed his way back to the huddle pumping his fast.
But it was also noticed that the 6-2, 205-pound Beckett showed no fear coming up to make the hit. He was tied for third with tackles when they were tackling Friday, and he, along with converted cornerback Kevin Kaesviharn at free safety, have made the depth chart interesting. **
Running back Ray Jackson _ ** Jackson, the former University of Cincinnati and Michigan back, picked up where he left off in the spring drills. He carried five times for 19 yards against the tacklers Friday and added 35 more on eight carries Saturday. Jackson, a free-agent who didn't play his first year out of college, turned 25 on scrimmage day. He shows good instincts at finding room and has a good burst, and although he didn't catch a ball during the weekend, they like his hands well enough that he's competing with running back Brandon Bennett for returning kickoffs.
The 6-1, 227-pound Jackson is one of four running backs in camp, which means he would most likely have to displace Bennett or Rudi Johnson to make it. Maybe. They could always keep four backs and two fullbacks, but that is a bit top heavy. Bennett's balky back that cost him the off-season minicamps seems fine here, and he looked like his quick self Friday with two carries for 15 yards through the tacklers, when Johnson had 27 yards on nine carries. **
Cornerback Terrell Roberts _ ** Oregon State teammate and fellow corner Dennis Weathersby got the pub and the fourth-round pick by the Bengals, but it was the undrafted rookie Roberts who had people talking this past weekend. Weathersby couldn't play because of a bruised quad, but Roberts certainly did with a defense-leading five tackles Friday, and two more on Saturday.
Roberts, 22, is just 5-9, but makes up for it with a strong and physical 197 pounds. His ability to redirect receivers and be physical with them has been noticed. Wide receiver Peter Warrick did get behind him for a 49-yard touchdown catch, and Lewis alluded to problems "in the back." But if Roberts' deep speed is a concern, it looks like he has all the makings of a solid zone corner who aggressively plays everything in front of him.
He's also taking turns at returning kicks and despite his size and style, he has shown durability here and in college, where he missed just one game the past two seasons. **
Cornerback Reggie Myles _ ** Another undrafted free agent, but he played in nine games last year and did some impressive things on special teams while struggling at times from scrimmage.
But there's no worry about deep speed here. The 5-11, 185-pound Myles, 23, impressed at the minicamps and he's doing the same thing here. He's also Lewis' kind of player (fast, undrafted) and may prove to be one of examples of the coach's goal to keep the best special teams players as backups. Last year, Myles had two games with three tackles on teams.
If the Bengals keep five corners (figure Tory James, Jeff Burris, Artrell Hawkins, and Weathersby are probably in), that puts Myles in a big battle with Roberts and free-agent rookie Maurice Tucker.
Wide receiver Adam Ziesel _ The free-agent rookie from Missouri Western impressed with his hands even before he made a leaping 14-yard catch in the end zone Friday. But they took note of his toughness, because after he caught the ball he fell on his shoulder and kept playing even though a post-game examination revealed he had a shoulder sprain.
Like all the other free-agent rookie receivers, the 6-2, 194-pound Ziesel, 22, doesn't appear to have a spot. But if the Bengals are true to their word about using special teams as a big factor in their roster status, Ziesel would have to be considered at least as a practice squad player. He'll help you on teams, and he appears to have a knack. Counting Friday, he's scored 21 touchdowns in his last 22 games.