Cincinnati Bengals Training Camp: Week 3 Stock Report
After two-and-a-half weeks of training camp and their first preseason game, the Cincinnati Bengals can finally start making decisions about whose stock is higher and whose is lower. It's one thing to show off in practices, but a game situation can tell so much more, even if it is the preseason.
For instance, UDFA Trey Hopkins did wonderfully at OTAs and training camp, which earned him a starting spot this past Friday night at left guard—where does his stock stand after the game? Or we could examine late-round draft picks like James Wright and Marquis Flowers, both of whom are on the roster bubble.
Then there comes the older guys that may or may not be exiled from Cincinnati—Brandon Tate caught a touchdown against the Chiefs, so did he buy himself some more time?
This roster is as talented as ever and it is time to start examining those who stand out. It is also important to note whether or not it is a good thing that the player is standing out. There's a condition I like to call "Long Snapper Syndrome," which applies to players on the offensive line and special teams who only stand out for bad reasons. Sometimes, there are guys whose name you just wouldn't know if not for a colossal mistake.
That being said, who's up and who's down for this week?
Up: Trey Hopkins
It's difficult to gauge the stock of offensive linemen until the regular season for the most part, but the rise of Trey Hopkins is definitely something worth discussing.
After impressing at his initial showing during OTAs, Hopkins has taken the bull by the horns and put himself in the mix not just to make the roster, but to possibly start. Will that happen this season? Likely not, but if he continues to play well in the preseason, he very well could get plenty of time during the regular season.
Hopkins got this opportunity due to the injury to Clint Boling as he continues to recover from a torn ACL suffered last season. It is likely that Boling will start the season as the team's starting left guard, but it seems he finally has legitimate competition to take his spot.
It also works in Hopkins' favor that he played some right tackle at Texas, and with Andre Smith hurt as well, the team may decide to keep him on simply as insurance for both positions.
Things are certainly on the upswing for Hopkins, who may be one of only two or three rookies to start if things continue to go his way (Bodine and Dennard being the others).
Down: Jason Campbell
I understand that as the team's backup quarterback, Jason Campbell's stock wasn't necessarily sky high to begin with—and why should it be? As a seasoned veteran, he is what he is and we all know it.
Having said that, Campbell was far and away the worst quarterback on the field Thursday night. He was 6-of-15 for 72 yards, tossing two touchdowns and two interceptions. While he led the Bengals' quarterbacks in yards and managed to score a couple of times, Campbell looked lost on offense.
To be fair, he was under pressure a lot, but his throws were often off-target, which can be a troubling sign for a veteran quarterback. Things didn't get better when he went down with an injured elbow.
That prompted the team to sign Tyler Wilson, fresh off being waived by the Tennessee Titans. Does that mean Campbell's spot as the team's backup is in danger? Absolutely not, but confidence in him has to be wavering a bit, and if his injury will keep him out for an extended period, it's hard to say if his play will get better anytime soon.
Up: Robert Geathers
After missing most of the 2013 season due to an injury, Robert Geathers appeared to be in mid-2000s form against the Chiefs. He didn't light up the boards with multiple sacks, but he did get one on Alex Smith and was able to get into the backfield.
This is a good sign for a man who, first of all, is coming off an injury that kept him out for almost an entire season, and also for a guy who may be fighting for a spot on the 53-man roster. It was never very likely that the team would cut its longest-tenured player, but with the talent at defensive end, it didn't seem like he was totally safe, either.
Geathers had a fantastic 2006 showing, scoring 10.5 sacks. He's had his highs and lows since then, but he really never came close to making as big an impact on defense as he did that season.
Now, after a game where his presence was felt, maybe there's something left in the tank for a man who has worn black and orange since 2004. It certainly would be nice to have him back in full commission on one of the best defensive lines in all of football.
Down: Rey Maualuga
Rey Maualuga's stock isn't necessarily down because of any poor performance on his part, but more because of the fact that he was outplayed by Vincent Rey, who very possibly could take his starting spot.
Maualuga logged a tackle against the Chiefs, while Rey posted three of them—no, that's not a huge difference in the grand scheme of things, but for a fanbase that wants to see Rey play, every performance counts.
At this point, the best thing we can say about Maualuga's status is that it can't be any lower than it was in February of 2013, and he wasn't let go then. I'm not a believer in the idea that he could be cut by the end of the preseason to make way for Rey, but it's possible if the latter outplays him throughout the rest of the preseason.
Is the clock ticking on Maualuga's time in Cincinnati?
Up: Dane Sanzenbacher
Past A.J. Green, Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones, the four, five and six receiver slots seemed to be up in the air. Now, given the injury to Jones that could put him out for an extended period, Sanzenbacher stands to gain a lot of playing time as long as he keeps his stock high.
He found the endzone once against the Chiefs and was likely going to be the second slot man after Jones. He possesses fantastic speed and showed he can play in his brief stint in Chicago—he caught 27 passes and scored three times in 2011.
Given another chance, I'm very interested to see if Sanzenbacher can duplicate what Jones did last season. Yes, that's a tall task to ask of him, but he is likely the guy that will be playing in the position Andrew Hawkins was prior to his exit.
After solid camp performances and a good showing in Kansas City, the expectations, as well as the stock, are rising for Sanzenbacher.
Down: Devon Still
The opportunity was certainly there for Devon Still to shine after Geno Atkins tore his ACL on Halloween last season. The issue, however, was that Still couldn't stay healthy himself and has recently been outplayed by Christo Bilukidi, not necessarily jeopardizing his roster spot but certainly calling his role into question.
Still's position got drastically more difficult earlier this summer, when it was tragically reported that his daughter, Leah, was diagnosed with cancer, per FoxSports.com. He was excused from OTAs, so clearly Still has bigger things on his mind.
Looking at the football, he was almost invisible when he was on the field and was only able to muster an assist during his time in the game against Kansas City. A bad on-field performance certainly won't help his chances when it comes to playing time, and when you combine that he's missed 14 of 32 games since entering the league, there's a lot to be concerned about here.
There is a lot of talent on the defensive line and Still has plenty of it. We need to start seeing it if he doesn't want to get out-shined by Brandon Thompson and the aforementioned Bilukidi.
Up: James Wright
It seems that the longer these practices and the preseason as a whole goes on, the more recognition James Wright gets. ESPN.com's Coley Harvey called Wright "one to watch" during Bengals' training camp.
After a strong training camp performance, Wright continued to impress in Kansas City when he caught a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. All of this praise isn't bad for a seventh-round pick whose strength on the field in college was special teams.
Like Dane Sanzenbacher, Wright could stand to gain a lot of exposure with the recent injury to Marvin Jones. You hate to be excited to see someone get an opportunity due to another's injury, but I must admit, seeing the former LSU Tiger play offense is one of the things I'm most looking forward to.
Granted, Wright has to make the roster first. His opportunities got a big boost because of Jones' injury, but if this strong training camp performance keeps up, he could wind up being one of the bigger steals in the entire 2014 draft.
Up: Dre Kirkpatrick
The first two NFL seasons of Dre Kirkpatrick's career have not exactly gone according to plan. He struggled with injuries in 2012 and into 2013, but he came onto the scene at the end of last season, culminating with a two-interception performance in Baltimore in Week 17.
Coming into this season, it isn't too far-fetched to call Kirkpatrick's role into question. Leon Hall is returning from an Achilles injury, Terence Newman and Adam Jones are seasoned veterans and the team drafted Darqueze Dennard. That's a lot of talent for one position.
With Kirkpatrick's early struggles, the coming of Dennard could have been a message sent to him to get it together, and he certainly looked prepared for the season after taking a Chase Daniel interception back 40-yards. He also recorded a couple of tackles.
There's still preseason games left and plenty of practices before the season, so injuries have quickly become a concern for him. However, the upside is that he finally seems to be emerging as a first-round caliber cornerback, and that could make the Cincinnati defense an even bigger nightmare.
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