Everybody that has praised the Bengals for their roster depth looked like Nostradamus on Thursday night in Atlanta.
“We were talking about that on the sideline,” said quarterback Josh Johnson. “We have a bunch of talented guys all over the roster – we can go four or five deep at some positions.”
When the starters were in, the game was basically even. When it was subs vs. subs, it was no contest, resulting in Cincinnati’s 34-10 win.
“When the second string came in there really wasn’t much off a fall-off,” said rookie linebacker Jayson DiManche. “The same intensity, the same techniques, and we were just out there playing as hard as we can. That just shows how well everybody is coached and how solid of a team this is.”
DiManche, who signed with the Bengals as a free agent out of Southern Illinois, had a sack and two tackles for loss. JK Schaffer, in his first training camp with the Bengals after an outstanding career at UC, led the team in tackles with six. Both are currently listed as third-stringers on the depth chart.
“I feel like every guy on this team – especially the linebackers – could play for any team,” said Schaffer. “It’s pretty crazy how much talent is on this team. We have a lot of guys that have played good football and a lot of guys with upside too.”
Dane Sanzenbacher is also listed on the third string at wide receiver. All he did in his first game in a Bengals uniform was catch two passes for 59 yards and a touchdown, and return a punt 71 yards for a TD. The absence of injured receivers A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, and Andrew Hawkins did not cripple the Bengals passing attack.
“I don’t think that’s any real surprise for us,” said Sanzenbacher. “We knew that we have a bunch of guys that can play. Unfortunately, we have had some injuries early in camp, but thankfully they’re not that serious and it gives the rest of us an opportunity to get reps in games.”
“We can’t wait to get A.J. and Marvin and all of them back because those guys are great, but we’re pretty deep,” said cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick.
Unfortunately, it’s not college football and the Bengals won’t be able to keep everybody.
“The hard thing is that only 53 guys make it, but you never want to worry about that as a player,” said Johnson. “All you want to do is keep going out there and put your best showing on the tape.”
“It’s a tough situation but you can’t really think about those things – especially this early in the preseason,” said Schaffer. “You’ve got to put your head down and keep working.”
“It’s too early to worry about that,” said Sanzenbacher. “Just go out and take advantage of your opportunities and stuff will fall into place.”
Last year at this time, even the biggest Bengals fans had barely heard of undrafted free agents Trevor Robinson and Emanuel Lamur and they both wound up starting games as rookies. Thursday’s win in Atlanta showed that there are probably young players near the bottom of the current depth chart who will not only make the team but play key roles before the season is finished.
“We have a lot of guys fighting to stay, and a lot of guys fighting for more playing time,” said Marvin Lewis.
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