Even before Monday, Bengals wide receivers coach Mike Sheppard had to agree that the battle for the last few spots at his position is murky. A tossup where there are no clear-cut guys stepping up to round out what will be a six-man field.
“That’s fair,” Sheppard said. “Everybody has done something good. And then there have been some unfortunate things like Maurice (Purify) getting hurt.”
Purify’s knee tendinitis has shelved him for the last two games and he was down Monday, a devastating blow for a guy trying to prove he can consistently produce on special teams. But Purify wasn’t the only receiver on the bubble Monday who was out. Matt Jones didn’t dress and while Andre Caldwell may not be on the bubble, he hasn’t dressed either in a week he’s looking to reassert himself.
And then there is the $10 million elephant in the room. With the final preseason game just nine days away, there has been no sign of Antonio Bryant (knee) on the field. The injured guys that are on the side rehabbing usually do some running early in practice when it is open to the media. Bryant wasn’t out there Monday. Maybe he came out later, but it is another indication that things aren’t going the way they hoped with him.
Do they cut their losses?
It is hard to see anyone eating $10 million. It is harder still to see them cut a younger, healthier receiver. It would appear if they do keep him, they would almost have to go with seven receivers at this point. Can they do that when they already have to go one extra at running back because of Brian Leonard’s injury?
What we think we know is that these four guys are here: The Ocho, T.O., Caldwell, and Jordan Shipley. So with no Bryant you’ve got a scrum with Jones, Purify, Quan Cosby, Jerome Simpson and Dez Briscoe for two spots. With Bryant, just one of them makes it.
The guys who are supposed to have the edge are Jones and Simpson because they are bigger, taller, and can make plays down the field. Jones has disappeared after his big opener and there is concern about his speed. Simpson continues to flash, but inconsistently. The classic example is last Friday night’s fumble after a 20-yard-plus play. The good and the bad. Plus, the coaches are still looking for more when it comes to executing his assignments.
It always keeps coming back to Cosby. He has been the most productive on the field with his special teams work. It would seem they would have no use for his punt returning skills because they now have cornerback Adam Jones and Shipley. Jones and Shipley can also return kicks, but running back Bernard Scott is the guy.
Yet Cosby does other things on special teams, like tackle and block, which a No. 5 receiver is supposed to do. The knock is he’s too small and too slow to do anything from scrimmage, but Sheppard thinks he can.
“He’s rarely been wrong. He’s very smart and he backs up every position,” Sheppard said. “So he’s dependable and when you call on him to make plays, he does.”
So do they sacrifice potential big plays for say, a Simpson, and go with dependability in a guy like Cosby? When you’ve got guys that can do what Cosby already does and Simpson does have some rare qualities, what do you do? It sounds like a philosophy final instead of Cutdown Day. There may be no right and wrong, but your essay better back up your choice.
And then there is Briscoe. If he doesn’t make it, the prediction is he’ll be gone off waivers and forget the practice squad. So maybe he’s a guy that has to make it. They like what he’s shown so far (route running, hands), but he doesn’t turn 21 until a week from Tuesday and he’s raw.
It would be good for Caldwell, too, to get something done in games. Hard to see them cutting him because of his speed and his ability to play all three spots and he looked great early in camp when Carson Palmer was throwing to him. But he’s been hard to find with the backup QBs in the second half.
Two games left and they’re right where they were the opening night of camp when Bryant went to the sidelines and T.O. showed up. It is competition they wanted and they got it.
Tags: Antonio Bryant, Bengals receiver roster battle, Jerome Simpson, Quan Cosby
Posted in Hobson's Choice | 26 Comments »