AFC North: Antonio Chatman

Bengals minicamp notes

June, 20, 2009
6/20/09
1:05
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

CINCINNATI -- The Cincinnati Bengals wrapped up their 2009 mandatory minicamp Saturday.

Here are some final observations:

  • Bengals fans were allowed to watch the final practice thanks to Cincinnati's select-a-seat program. The public entered the stadium and could potentially buy tickets for seats that were still available for the 2009 season while the team ran through its final session.
  • Although it's just June, based on this minicamp it's safe to assume the early leaders in the race to be Cincinnati's No. 3 receiver are Chris Henry and Andre Caldwell. Both stood out and made plays throughout the three days of practices and separated from the pack that also includes former second-round pick Jerome Simpson and veteran Antonio Chatman.
  • Speaking of receivers, overall Chad Ochocinco had a good camp. He did drop a few passes, which could be a product of not working with the Bengals' quarterbacks for a majority of the offseason. But Ochocinco looked explosive and had few problems separating from defenders. He also caught a long touchdown pass from quarterback Carson Palmer in Saturday's practice and had some fun with the fans.
  • There are still some concerns about Cincinnati's offensive line. I didn't want to focus on it too much because the Bengals were playing without pads. But it is a major question this year, so I took notice throughout the week. I felt the offensive line was a little shaky early in camp and gradually improved.
  • Fullback/tailback Brian Leonard, who was recently acquired in a trade with the St. Louis Rams, is getting a lot of carries at tailback, which could be a prelude to training camp and the preseason. Leonard also caught the ball well out of the backfield this week.
  • The Bengals made a series of roster moves following minicamp. They signed sixth-round pick and running back Bernard Scott, who became the third draft pick under contract. Cincinnati also waived four players: Tight end Matt Sherry, receiver Mario Urrutia, quarterback Billy Farris and long-snapper James Smith.
  • Lastly, the Bengals got out of minicamp in good health. Center Dan Santucci injured his foot. Other than that, there were no significant injuries for the team.

Thought of the Day

May, 27, 2009
5/27/09
10:05
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

In our latest version of "Thought of the Day," we have someone in our AFC North community who needs help settling an argument.

Help Jon out, AFC North readers.

Who has the best overall group of receivers in the division: Cincinnati or Pittsburgh? If you believe the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns shouldn't be left out of the conversation, feel free to state your case for those teams as well in our comment section or the AFC North inbox.

We will run the best "Thought of the Day" responses throughout the week, and by then, Jon and his friend should have enough input from everyone to settle this debate.

Who's out at WR for Bengals?

May, 11, 2009
5/11/09
4:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

Crowded field

The Bengals have 11 receivers most likely fighting for five roster spots.

Player, Experience

Chad Ocho Cinco: 9 seasons

Laveranues Coles: 10

Chris Henry: 5

Andre Caldwell: 2

Jerome Simpson: 2

Antonio Chatman: 7

Quan Cosby: rookie

Mario Urrutia: 1

Maurice Purify: 1

David Richmond: rookie

Greg Orton: rookie

Who will be the odd man out at receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals?

The Bengals have 11 players at the position vying for a limited number of spots on Cincinnati's 53-man roster. Most NFL teams will keep about five receivers active in the fall.

Laveranues Coles and Chad Ocho Cinco are locks as starters. That likely leaves three active roster spots for eight remaining receivers.

Chris Henry, Andre Caldwell, Jerome Simpson and Antonio Chatman played last year and have to be among the favorites. Chatman could be on thin ice this summer or latch on as a sixth receiver because of his return skills. But the Bengals may need that roster spot and look elsewhere for help on special teams.

Chatman cannot be retained on the practice squad because of his seven years of NFL experience, so he might fall victim to the the numbers game.

A young, inexperienced group of Quan Cosby, Maurice Purify and Mario Urrutia are behind them and will have an uphill climb. But if any of these players has an outstanding camp, perhaps Cosby, it could force another difficult decision at receiver for Cincinnati's coaching staff down the road.

AFC North bubble watch

August, 28, 2008
8/28/08
3:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

With the final week of preseason games starting Thursday night, it's a good time to keep close tabs on bubble players from each AFC North team. Rosters will be trimmed from 75 to 53 players by Saturday, which means there are a lot of big decisions to be made on players in the next 48 hours.

Here are some notable bubble players that could help their cause with big preseason games this week:

Pittsburgh Steelers

Players: Receivers Willie Reid and Dallas Baker

Skinny: Both young players have been around, know the system well and have shown flashes. But Pittsburgh is stacked with skill players and don't have to wait for both to develop. Receivers Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, Nate Washington and Limas Sweed will be the top four in this group. Our guess is the Steelers only take five receivers into the regular season.

Prediction: Reid stays, Baker goes

Players: Punters Mitch Berger and Paul Ernster

Skinny: This competition was created by the season-ending knee injury to punter Daniel Sepulveda. Ernster has been around a little longer and has the edge, especially after last week's performance with three punts inside the 20. But he still could use a strong finish.

Prediction: Ernster stays, Berger goes


Cincinnati Bengals

Players: Fullbacks Daniel Coats and Jeremi Johnson

Skinny: Coats, a former tight end, has been impressive this summer making the move to fullback. He earned most of the reps, and most likely a roster spot, because Johnson's weight kept him out for most of camp. The Bengals are tired of dealing with Johnson coming into camp out of shape every year. But he's been too good a player for the Bengals to let go so far.

Prediction: Coats and Johnson (barely) stay

Players: Receivers Glenn Holt and Antonio Chatman

Skinny: There are a lot of young receivers on this roster behind starters Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. So don't be surprised if one of the proven veterans is let go. Holt and Chatman are both on the bubble because they're undersized and don't fit the system -- Cincinnati prefers bigger, stronger pass catchers. Injuries to Johnson (shoulder) and rookie Andre Caldwell (toe) may scare the team into keeping both Chatman and Holt, but we doubt it.

Prediction: Chatman stays, Holt goes


Cleveland Browns

Players: Receivers Travis Wilson, Steve Sanders and Paul Hubbard

Skinny: The battle for the No. 3 receiver spot in Cleveland has been underwhelming, to say the least. Now all three of these players could use a big performance tonight against the Chicago Bears to solidify a roster spot. With Syndric Steptoe likely on the 53-man roster, at least two of these receivers, if not all three, will be cut by Saturday.

Prediction: Hubbard stays (or practice squad), Wilson and Sanders goes

Players: Linebackers Kris Griffin, David McMillan and Alex Hall

Skinny: This decision is more important than it appears on the surface. Hall, a rookie, has been a nice sleeper this summer, and Griffin and McMillan are important cogs on special teams. Luckily, they all play linebacker and Cleveland is a 3-4 team. But one still has to go.

Prediction: Hall and Griffin stay, McMillan goes


Baltimore Ravens

Player: Fullback Le'Ron McClain

Skinny: The banged-up Ravens have seven guys already on injured reserve, so there aren't as many significant bubble players. But McClain is one because the team recently signed Pro Bowler Lorenzo Neal. New offensive coordinator Cam Cameron wants more of his style of players to run his offense. The question is, with Neal's injury history, does Baltimore want to risk taking one fullback into the season? Probably not.

Prediction: McClain stays

Who will Palmer throw to tonight?

August, 23, 2008
8/23/08
6:41
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

CINCINNATI -- We are in the Queen City to get a look at the Bengals in their third preseason game Saturday night against the New Orleans Saints.

The inactives were just released and confirmed that both starting receivers -- Chad Johnson (shoulder) and T.J. Houshmandzadeh (hamstring) -- will not play. This week the Bengals also lost Marcus Maxwell, who had the edge as the No. 3 receiver, to a serious thigh injury for the season. Also, newly-signed receiver Chris Henry is not ready to play tonight.

So who will Carson Palmer throw to against the Saints? The starting offense is expected to play the entire first half and likely some of the third quarter.

Backups Glenn Holt and Antonio Chatman will start. Rookie Jerome Simpson, who had 114 yards last week, also will see a lot of time tonight. But the Bengals offense is far from full strength.

Other key inactives tonight include starting running back Rudi Johnson (hamstring) and rookie receiver Andre Caldwell (toe).

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

The Cincinnati Bengals will open their 2008 preseason against the Green Bay Packers Monday night on ESPN at 8 p.m.

While most eyes will be on Packers staring quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Bengals also have several major questions.

Here are some things to look for:

  • First and foremost, take a close look at Cincinnati's new-look defense under assistant coach Mike Zimmer. The unit is very young and in the process of trying to learn a new scheme. The good news is Rodgers, considering the circumstances, likely will play more than one series. So the Bengals should get a decent look from Green Bay's first-team offense.
  • Speaking of Cincinnati's defense, rookie linebacker Keith Rivers will make his debut tonight. The No. 9 overall pick was a late arrival to training camp and is trying to catch up to speed. He has a reputation as one of this year's most NFL-ready rookies, and he will get a chance to show that before a national audience.
  • Ben Utecht is expected to add another dimension to Cincinnati's offense as a pass-catching tight end. Utecht spent three years as a backup with the Indianapolis Colts but will be a full-time starter with the Bengals. It will be interesting to watch how his role begins to develop.
  • Starting receiver Chad Johnson would be higher on this list of what to watch, but reports out of Cincinnati indicate that he will be a game-time decision. Johnson recently returned to practice following June ankle surgery. Johnson would face a good test with Green Bay cornerbacks Al Harris and Charles Woodson if he decides to play.
  • Also watch the race for the No. 3 receiver spot. A plethora of players, which include Marcus Maxwell, Antonio Chatman and rookies Andre Caldwell and Jerome Simpson, will get an extended look to see who will step up. This will be one reason to watch closely in the second half while all of the starters are on the sidelines.

The Bengals' secret weapon

July, 29, 2008
7/29/08
1:00
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
Maxwell

GEORGETOWN, Ky. -- There is a player flying under the radar that the Cincinnati Bengals' coaching staff really likes.

He wears No. 10. He has great size at 6-foot-3. He has quickness and reliable hands.

This receiver has made plays since minicamps and organized team activities, yet most NFL observers have no idea who he is.

"I love it," Bengals receiver Marcus Maxwell said with a smile. "I like when people don't know who I am. When I think about that, it makes me work that much harder. I want people to say, 'Who is that guy?'"

The fourth-year journeyman from the University of Oregon has one career reception but is quietly catching on in Cincinnati. He was cut three times in three years while fighting for a roster spot with the San Francisco 49ers. He also spent a year playing overseas in Hamburg, Germany.

But Maxwell has made such an impression in Cincinnati this offseason that he's currently working with the first-team offense. The Bengals cut talented but trouble receiver Chris Henry in the spring and starter Chad Johnson is recovering from right ankle surgery, which has given Maxwell an opportunity to show what he can do.

"We're counting on him to fill some roles," said Bengals offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski. "Really, the ball is in his court. I think, as we speak right now, with Chad (Johnson) not here, he's the starting X [receiver] behind Chad. As the year goes on, he will determine his own role."

The No. 3 receiver spot is wide open for the Bengals. Maxwell is currently in competition with a pair of rookies in Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell, in addition to holdovers Glenn Holt and Antonio Chatman.

So far, Maxwell is winning the battle. Minicamps and training camps haven't seemed too big for him as Maxwell has been one of the steadiest players, including making several nice catches on Monday.

Maxwell says this is his first legitimate chance to make an NFL roster in four years and is "honored" that he's doing it while catching balls from quarterback Carson Palmer and lining up next to T.J. Houshmandzadeh with the starting unit.

If Maxwell makes the team and produces, he would be one of the biggest surprise stories in the AFC North this season.

"It's been a rollercoaster, but it's been good," Maxwell said. "You learn from the ups and downs that you go through. I was struggling to find a team last year and luckily I had a workout here. I worked hard for these workouts and it's paying off."

Bengals position battles

July, 24, 2008
7/24/08
10:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

Here is a look at key position battles for the Bengals:

 Marvin White Chinedum Ndukwe

 White

 Ndukwe

Safety: Marvin White vs. Chinedum Ndukwe

There was a reason the Cincinnati Bengals felt comfortable letting Madieu Williams sign with the Minnesota Vikings this offseason. Cincinnati should have a nice battle with two up-and-coming second-year players in Marvin White and Chinedum Ndukwe, who were selected in the fourth and seventh round in 2007, respectively. Both started during the final month of the season and played well. Former Super Bowl MVP Dexter Jackson will start at strong safety.

Intensity index: Hot

Willie Anderson  Stacey Andrews

 Anderson

 Andrews

Right tackle: Willie Anderson vs. Stacy Andrews

What's interesting is this hasn't been labeled as a competition by Cincinnati's coaching staff, but it kind of is. Former Pro Bowler and longtime right tackle Willie Anderson has played hurt or missed games for the better part of three years, and he will have to prove that he's healthy enough (he's obviously good enough) to hold the job this year. If not, the Bengals have a much younger, more athletic Stacy Andrews waiting to take Anderson's place. Is that considered a competition? I'm not sure. But the team will find a place in the lineup for Andrews eventually. He signed a one-year franchise tag and is expected to get a long-term extension after the season.

Intensity index: Mild

(A bonus honorable mention for Bengals fans!)

No. 3 receiver

The race to replace Chris Henry has been lukewarm so far, and the Bengals are hoping things heat up in training camp. The third receiver is important in Cincinnati's offense because of all the attention drawn by Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Rookies Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell didn't overwhelm in minicamp but that's expected in their first taste of the NFL. Glen Holt and Antonio Chatman aren't considered long-term solutions but look out for Marcus Maxwell, who did have a good spring and could be a sleeper.

Intensity index: Mild, but expected to heat up soon.

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