AFC North: Ryan Hewitt

CINCINNATI -- The Cincinnati Bengals have parted ways with defensive tackle Devon Still and H-back Orson Charles, according to Pro Football Talk.

A former second-round pick out of Penn State, Still was part of the same 2012 rookie class that brought linebacker Vontaze Burfict to Cincinnati as an undrafted free agent. Charles was a fourth-round Bengals selection in that same draft. He came to Cincinnati as a tight end but was moved to H-back last season.

In his two seasons with the Bengals, Still appeared in 18 games and recorded just 21 tackles. He also had one half sack, which came his rookie year.

Injuries overshadowed much of Still's career with the Bengals, including two major injuries he fought through in 2013. After bouncing back from a dislocated elbow, he suffered a back injury that held him out of the last two games of the regular season, as well as the Bengals' opening-round playoff loss to the Chargers. This offseason, Still underwent back surgery to repair a ruptured disc. He returned in time for training camp.

Still was hopeful that he'd contribute this season, going as far as telling me last week that he felt in the best health he had been in for quite some time.

Bengals coaches apparently didn't quite see Still's playing prospects as well as he did. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther intimated ahead of last week's third preseason game at Arizona that he wanted to see more from Still.

"I still think the fourth tackle spot's kind of open right now," Guenther said. "So hopefully somebody can take the lead on that one."

That "somebody" should have been Still, the backup to Domata Peko who played at times alongside fellow 2012 draft pick Brandon Thompson. With Geno Atkins sidelined with an ACL injury last season, Thompson stepped up and filled in admirably. He continued that strong play this preseason.

Still presumably will be replaced by Christo Bilukidi. Rookie Ryan Hewitt has been Charles' challenger all preseason, and is his expected replacement.

The news on Still getting cut has some poor timing for the lineman who is going through personal hardship right now. His 4-year-old daughter, Leah, was diagnosed earlier this offseason with a serious pediatric cancer. Just last weekend she moved from Delaware to Cincinnati, where she will be almost exclusively treated at Cincinnati Children's Hospital.

Charles had his own off-field situation this offseason. In March, he was arrested for waving a gun at a motorist in Kentucky while he traveled along Interstate 75. His legal proceedings are still pending.

Along with Still and Charles, the Bengals have also reportedly cut ties with offensive lineman Trevor Robinson and receiver Colin Lockett. With cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris set to begin serving a two-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy, the Bengals -- as of this posting -- are now in need of cutting another 13 players to get to the magical number of 53 by Saturday's 4 p.m. ET deadline.
CINCINNATI -- In no particular order, the following are five Cincinnati Bengals you'll want to pay attention to on the offensive side of the ball during Saturday night's preseason home opener against the New York Jets (7 ET).

Be on the lookout for five defensive players to watch in the Bengals' second preseason game, coming soon.

Scott
1. QB Matt Scott. One week after dominating the headlines in the Bengals' Week 1 preseason loss at Kansas City, Scott has a chance to turn more heads this weekend when he likely receives more playing time. With No. 2 backup Jason Campbell still nursing an elbow bruise, the Bengals will turn to Scott a little earlier than they did last week. Against the Chiefs, Scott jogged onto the field midway through the third quarter after Campbell's throwing arm was struck by a defender's helmet. Scott went on to pass for 66 yards and two touchdowns, and rush for a game-high 68 yards. It was what he considered the combination of a pre-game sinus infection, high humidity and exhaustion that turned him into an unexpected Internet star last week. On multiple occasions during a fourth-quarter drive, he vomited a la Willie Beamen, the fictional quarterback in the movie "Any Given Sunday." The clip made its rounds on the Web in the days that followed. Scott, who will be playing through a sore shoulder, hopes he'll be remembered more for his play this week.

2. QB Tyler Wilson. Since Scott does have a minor injury that could affect his throwing, the Bengals might have to turn to Wilson a little earlier than perhaps they would have anticipated, too. Starter Andy Dalton probably won't go any deeper than the two first-quarter series before Scott enters the game. From there, Scott probably won't make it all the way to the fourth quarter. Whenever Wilson does come in, watch for how well he connects with the existing receivers still in the game. If Cobi Hamilton is still playing, the two could be a good combination to watch. Hamilton was one of Wilson's top targets in college when they both played at Arkansas. Otherwise, Wilson will be intriguing to watch because he's playing after only one week of practices with the Bengals, and he's playing for his professional career.

Burkhead
3. RB Rex Burkhead. You may be noticing a trend here. We're focusing on reserve players in this week's "Bengals to watch," primarily because we are arriving at that point in camp when players down on the depth chart are truly fighting for roster spots. Burkhead is among those running backs involved in arguably the team's most interesting position battle. He's gotten his share of touches with the second-team offense in recent weeks and probably will see some opportunities with a mix of that group Saturday night. Be on the lookout for how often Burkhead carries the ball in what could be a ground-and-pound kind of preseason contest. The Jets have already said they expect a physical game. With the Bengals in a bit of a quarterback quandary, there are compelling reasons for them to give New York the physical showdown it is anticipating.

4. WR Dane Sanzenbacher. The position battle at receiver is another one to keep an eye on. Much like running back where the first two positions appear set, the top three spots are squared away on the Bengals' depth chart at receiver. Sanzenbacher is among a group of wideouts trying to crack the bottom portion of the pass-catching roster. With his versatility and wealth of playmaking opportunities both on offense and special teams, he will have his share of chances to prove he belongs in these next three games. After having a few long punt and kick returns in last week's game and catching a 26-yard touchdown pass that ended when he dove for a pylon, Sanzenbacher made a strong case for being included on the 53-man roster. Watch to see if he impresses Saturday.

5. H-back Ryan Hewitt. This will be the second straight week we've listed Hewitt among the Bengals to watch, and with good reason. Earlier this week, coach Marvin Lewis lauded the undrafted rookie free agent for how well he has played throughout this camp. Hewitt has brought his own measure of versatility to the backfield by being used as a blocker, flanking off the line as a tight end and catching passes. It certainly appears he has won the position battle over Orson Charles, the former tight end who was converted to H-back last preseason. Hewitt caught two passes last week. Look for how much he gets involved in the passing game this week.
CINCINNATI -- From the tone of his responses to questions about the players competing at his hybrid H-back/fullback/tight end position, Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis sounds sold on rookie Ryan Hewitt.

He sounds less excited about third-year veteran Orson Charles.

"He's in a dogfight with these other guys who have come on, and that's what you want for your football team," Lewis said, referring to the position's competition.

That was virtually the extent of his thoughts on Charles during a Wednesday afternoon news conference. Prior to those comments, Lewis spoke at length about the versatility Hewitt brings to the blocking-based position. Lewis also hinted at how Hewitt could be the team's future at the position.

"It's just not been too big for him," Lewis said. "As he grows and [if] he's fortunate enough to stay around here, I think by next year we'll have a real, real, real big, physical man. He's going to be a big person."

The Bengals are like a lot of teams that have started utilizing tight ends like fullbacks, calling on them to provide additional blocking options in running situations, and having them step up from the backfield to block in occasional pass-protection schemes. It seems that the days of the traditional NFL fullback are going by the wayside.

Just think back to last preseason when the Bengals had the option of keeping true fullback John Conner or holding on to Charles, who was being converted into the H-back after having spent his career to that point as a tight end. The Bengals felt Charles gave them more versatility as a special-teams fit, and they liked his upside as a younger player.

He barely got used offensively last season, though. Charles appeared in 13 games, mostly playing special teams. He saw just 62 snaps on offense, with more than half of those coming in Week 17 when he was filling in for tight ends Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham, who were out with injuries, and backup Alex Smith, who dislocated a wrist during the game. Charles' only catch of the season came in that regular-season finale.

The hope is that Hewitt will be involved more. He caught two passes in last Thursday's preseason opener, and he was on the field for 28 offensive plays, according to the NFL's Game and Statistics Information System. Charles wasn't out there for a single one.

When you take into account how highly the Bengals seem to regard the H-back's role, it appears strange that Charles wouldn't get used at all. It also appears like a clear sign that Charles' days in Cincinnati may be numbered.

"It's a position that I really hold valuable to our offensive football team because I think you have to have a guy that can do that," offensive coordinator Hue Jackson said about the H-back.

He acknowledged that the position didn't work as well as he would have hoped last season.

"Nothing against Orson, but at the end of the day, it's competition and the best people win. That's just the way it goes," Jackson said. "Orson still has some chances here and we're going to see if he can continue to improve. But at the end of the day, as you know, there's only so many spots on the football team. So you've got to make sure when your number's called that you make the most of it."

That's an endorsement for Charles -- for now -- but not exactly a ringing one.

As it did last season, Cincinnati likely will keep only one hybrid H-back/fullback/tight end-type of player. Don't be surprised if the undrafted rookie free agent Hewitt is it.

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