Cincinnati Bengals: Dontay Moch
With training camp going on the last few weeks it was hard to get back into a rhythm getting these up every weekend, but with the season on the horizon, they're back now. Many thanks for your patience. Expect these to come each weekend between now and the end of the season.
To quickly set up this particular mailbag -- which, as you'll see Sunday morning, is separated into two parts -- let me encourage you to read this story. Hopefully it'll catch you up with where things stand involving linebacker Vontaze Burfict's reported contract extension. As coach Marvin Lewis said Friday, the deal has "not been signed off."
With that, away we go:
@ColeyHarvey: You're not the only person who has thought or typed those words the past few days, Battleship. But as much as I love a good conspiracy theory, I've got to sink this idea. There is no type of "hold out" going on with Burfict. If he were holding out, he simply would have avoided coming to the stadium when camp started a month ago, before his contract talks reportedly cooled. He certainly wouldn't be coming around the team right now if he's salty over the four-year, $20 million deal he reportedly received Wednesday. I will say you're right to point out how bizarre this entire situation has become. One day Burfict was ready to sign, the next he wasn't. Another day passes and he still isn't. I'm not completely positive about what's led to his suddenly cold feet, but I'm certain an illness isn't it. I'm even more certain he isn't holding out ... he already is under contract.
@ColeyHarvey is Burfict's illness a cover up for a hold out?— The Battleship (@theUDbattleship) August 22, 2014
Thomas Bryant (@thomasbryant650) August 22, 2014@ColeyHarvey: Once more, with feeling: there is no Burfict hold out in Cincinnati. I won't speak authoritatively to the structure of Burfict's deal because I'm not sure what all the specifics of it are or will be. I wouldn't be surprised if Pro Bowl provisions are going to be part of the new deal. That would be a standard incentive, particularly for a player who already has been to the all-star game. There could be issues with the way the guaranteed money was arranged. There could be issues with the payment schedule of his signing bonus money. It could be anything. Without being in the room with Burfict's representatives and Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn, I can't fully say what's causing the issue. You are right to point to the deal itself, though. Something there isn't right.
@ColeyHarvey: Back to on-field matters. Will Clarke has, by most accounts, had a pretty decent preseason. He hasn't necessarily wowed any of the coaches, but he's been solid enough for a third-round player. He's played both defense and special teams, and he's been rather clean in both areas. He hasn't had the "wow" factor at end, but he also hasn't had any glaring mistakes, either. Anytime a rookie can simply do his job and not mess things up too much, you have to consider that a win. Aside from that, he's staring at a lot of bodies above him on the depth chart.
@ColeyHarvey what's going on with will clarke? haven't heard anything about him.— Adam Heldman (@awheldman) August 22, 2014
@ColeyHarvey: I definitely think Clarke will make the team, Scott. Again, he's a third-round guy who hasn't done anything glaringly bad or spectacularly great. They'll want to keep him around to keep coaching him up. Dontay Moch is an end who I have off my latest 53-man roster projection, for now, but he's an end whose services I believe the Bengals might need. He's got some hybrid stand-up defensive end, rushing outside linebacker ability. He could give the Bengals added versatility and a look they don't really have anywhere else on the defensive line. I still have him off the roster, but I don't think he's that far off.
@ColeyHarvey With DE being so deep - what are the chances of Moch or Clarke making the team?— Scott Hulett (@ScottHulett1) August 22, 2014
@ColeyHarvey: Well, Layne, my friend, I could see Moch as a distinct possibility. He's one of those players with less than four years in the league who would have accrued enough time toward free agency to still be practice-squad eligible under the rule revisions announced this week. H-back Orson Charles or even safety Shawn Williams could fall under that category, too. I'd probably pick Williams and Moch out of those three. I just believe coaches have grown tired of the Charles experiment and are all-in on undrafted rookie free agent Ryan Hewitt there.
@ColeyHarvey Who will be the beneficiaries of the two new practice squad spots available?— LayneHerdt (@LayneHerdt) August 22, 2014
@ColeyHarvey: Snoops, take a look at this blog from Friday to get a good idea of what Lewis and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson think about Jeremy Hill. He hasn't yet played with the first-string offense in a game, but that's about to change. Lewis said Friday that he'd like to give Hill more playing time on Sunday when the Bengals visit the Cardinals. He contends he and his staff has been "excited" about having Hill in the fold, and want to give the second-round draft pick a little more run this week. In my book, he's still Cincinnati's No. 2 back.
@ColeyHarvey Curious about what coaches and players are saying about Hill. Seems really quiet. Hasn't played with 1's quite yet. Is he # 2?— Sir-Snoops-A-Lot (@ourdailybadge) August 22, 2014
Just know his goal Sunday night at University of Phoenix Stadium is to let his hometown team know what it missed out on when it waived him in March.
Moch was cut previously by the Cincinnati Bengals, who drafted him in the third round in 2011. Now he's back and will play mere miles from where he grew up against the team that most recently let him go, all while fighting for a roster spot. It's almost like something out of Hollywood. Makes you curious to see if he is able to exact his revenge.
If he has a strong game Sunday, what an intriguing storyline he'll have entering the final week of the preseason.
Moch was an outside linebacker in the Cardinals' 3-4 defensive scheme at times last season before they let him go near the start of free agency. When the Bengals acquired him not long after, they moved him back to defensive end, where he is more comfortable. At end for the first time since college, the pass-rusher is one of the many players on the Bengals' roster bubble.
Though Sunday night's game will be more about getting starters extended playing time, Moch should be on the field somewhat often as an alternate on defense in the second half, and on special teams all night. He should have his share of opportunities to exact his revenge, retribution, or whatever it is that he wants to call what he's trying to do.
"It's a little extra," Moch said. "There's more energy I'll be putting in it."
That kind of sounds like revenge.
But is that a bad thing? No. If he plays well, he'll live to see another week on the Bengals' roster after Tuesday's cuts to 75, and he might create a little momentum for himself as he gets set for the Bengals' final preseason game against the Colts next Thursday.
Besides, Moch isn't the only one who will have a little extra for the Cardinals. Linebackers Vontaze Burfict (Arizona) and Marquis Flowers (Arizona State) played college ball in the state, and Flowers hails from the Phoenix area. Backup quarterback Matt Scott also played at Arizona.
Then there is the Carson Palmer angle. Sixteen current Bengals played with Palmer when he was Cincinnati's quarterback before Andy Dalton was drafted in 2011. They will want to one-up their former teammate in only the second game he has played against the Bengals since his drama-filled departure.
As for Moch, the need to play well Sunday is serious. The defensive end position is deep, even if he brings the added dimension of being a stand-up type of rusher who also can drop into space in certain passing situations.
"It's a business, so I don't really try to put that at work," Moch said of the numbers game at his position. "All I can control is what I put out there and what my output is, not who they're bringing in or who they're playing. I just have to show them I can contribute and hopefully show that amongst the others."
Soon, the Bengals will have a chance to start washing out the bitter taste they still have in their mouths over January's 27-10 loss to San Diego in the wild-card round of last season's AFC playoffs.
Before they get to play any games, though, the Bengals first have to set their roster. The 89 souls who will enter their locker room Thursday morning must be cut down to 53 by the end of August. How will they get to the magical 53? And who will be among those to make the cut? Well, that's a question many of you had in Part 1 of this final, pre-training camp mailbag:
@ColeyHarvey. Thanks for the question, Andrew. Since you and others have pretty similar questions in this mailbag, I'm going to take the time now to shamelessly plug an item ESPN.com ran on each of its NFL Nation blogs Friday. All 32 team reporters broke down their teams' depth charts, and offered their best guesses at what each 53-man roster will look like when it's all said and done. Here is my Bengals projection. Along the same lines (another shameless plug coming, my apologies), I also spent part of the summer looking at the 11 Bengals players who I consider "on the bubble" entering training camp.
@ColeyHarvey what 10 players are fighting for the last 5 spots on the Bengals 53 man roster?— Andrew Hursh" (@Hursshhh) July 18, 2014
To fully answer your question, I would refer to the players outlined here: running backs BenJarvus Green-Eliis, Rex Burkhead and James Wilder Jr., receivers Cobi Hamilton, Brandon Tate and James Wright, defensive end Sam Montgomery, linebackers Dontay Moch, Jayson DiManche and J.K. Schaffer, and safety Taylor Mays. In the individual blogs on the players, I offered odds I felt they made the team. Each of them are at positions that will feature some intriguing battles to watch.
@ColeyHarvey. Moch certainly could bolster the Bengals' pass rushing presence, but I'd have a hard time saying right now that he's a better rusher than Wallace Gilberry or Margus Hunt. Cincinnati is aware of what Moch could bring to the table as a hybrid outside linebacker/rush defensive end. The organization signed him out of free agency for much that reason. As the Bengals try to confuse opposing lines with a series of defensive line rotations, having a player with Moch's versatility at the two levels of defense could be a big benefit. Sam Montgomery presents a little bit of that versatility, as well, although he's more of a true end than Moch is.
@ColeyHarvey don't you think Moch could be the better pash rusher behind Atkins and Dunlap if he makes the roster?— Alberto Luque (@muertedeatenas) July 18, 2014
Right now I don't have Moch making the team, but you never know what could happen. His length -- he's 6-foot-2 with long arms and range -- makes him an intriguing option for the many rotations the Bengals hope to enact. But again, Gilberry -- who tied with Carlos Dunlap for the team lead in sacks last season -- can't be completely dismissed. Neither should Hunt, who ought to have greater playing time than he did a "redshirt" last year.
@ColeyHarvey Who has the better shot of making the team, either Practice or 53-man. Wright or Wilder?— Scott Hulett (@ScottHulett1) July 18, 2014
Interesting questions, Scott. If I had to choose between the two, I'd pick James Wright right now. That's primarily because of the special teams benefit he provides, as well as the impressive play he consistently had on offense during minicamps and organized team activities this spring. Coaches certainly like him, as they do James Wilder Jr. The problem for Wilder is that he's at a position that's already chock-full of versatile talent. Both Cedric Peerman and Rex Burkhead could factor into the Bengals' special teams plans, making them that much more marketable in the battle for the final running back roster spots. Wilder also has some special teams experience, playing on coverage units in college at Florida State, but it just seems that Wright's exploits in that area are universally accepted as being better.
@ColeyHarvey And can they really afford to let either walk and join another squad?— Scott Hulett (@ScottHulett1) July 18, 2014
To answer the second part of your question, right now, I don't think the Bengals can really afford to let either walk. In the event the Bengals hold on to Green-Ellis and allow him to play out this final year of his contract, it would be important to keep Wilder around. The young, physical runner would then be able to fill Green-Ellis' spot next season. Essentially, I could see them giving Wilder a year to "redshirt" to get a little more polished ahead of 2015. Wright's aforementioned abilities also make him an ideal candidate to remain part of the team.
@ColeyHarvey. You could come up with any number of answers to this question, Shawn. But I think we'll certainly see rookie running back Jeremy Hill break out this year. I could see first-round pick Darqueze Dennard play well in a backup cornerback role, too. That's particularly if a player ahead of him on the depth chart goes down with an injury (which, as we saw last season, isn't out of the realm of possibility) he would be asked to play a key role for the defense. His reputation as a shutdown corner helped him get to the NFL, and that style of play should help him turn heads in this first year. Tight end Tyler Eifert seemed poised for a productive year, as do the ends Dunlap, Gilberry and Hunt. Also, as I've said before, don't be surprised if quarterback Andy Dalton plays consistently better in offensive coordinator Hue Jackson's system. Oh, and I might as well include former onetime-undrafted free agent Vontaze Burfict since his two-year career has been defined by breakout seasons.
@ColeyHarvey Which players are primed for a breakout 2014 season in your opinion?— Shawn Coleman (@SColeman8109) July 18, 2014
As permitted by league rules, the roster currently stands at 89.
We're not going in any particular order. After looking at Taylor Mays, Brandon Tate, J.K. Schaffer, Cobi Hamilton, Rex Burkhead, James Wilder Jr., Dontay Moch and Jayson DiManche, we look at defensive end Sam Montgomery:
Why he's on the bubble: With respect to Montgomery, the timing of our Bengals "bubble watch" couldn't have been worse. Then again, come to think of it, maybe it couldn't have been better. This may very well be a welcomed football-focused distraction from the other attention he's been getting since his arrest last Wednesday morning near his hometown of Greenwood, South Carolina. He was traveling 89 mph in a 55 mph zone. Since the arrest, he's been in the national spotlight because of apparent questionable methods the officer used during the arrest. Dashcam footage of Montgomery's arrest released Monday night showed the officer asking Montgomery two questions before informing him he was being jailed. "You military?" the officer first asked. "No sir," Montgomery said. "You NFL?" When Montgomery said yes, the state patrolman said he was being arrested. As he tried to get the bigger Montgomery in a position where he could put handcuffs on him, the officer threatened to use his taser. Montgomery seemed to be cooperating the whole time, despite having difficulty understanding some of the officer's commands. The video also doesn't appear to show Montgomery being read his full Miranda rights. The patrolman has since been suspended.
As Montgomery now deals with the legal matter, he also has to continue getting himself ready for training camp in Cincinnati. It's not guaranteed he'll end up with a roster spot because of the logjam ahead of him at defensive end. Signed out of free agency earlier this offseason, Montgomery has hoped to use his time with the Bengals as an opportunity to better his image. He was one of three players the Texans released one weekend last season for rules violations. ESPN.com reported the violations stemmed from marijuana use, although Montgomery's agent vehemently claimed that wasn't the case. Regardless the nature of the infraction, Montgomery still came to Cincinnati walking a bit of a fine line because of that incident. He virtually stepped into Paul Brown Stadium on bubble watch.
What he has to do to get off the bubble: The fact that all this off-field drama is taking place now and not later in this month will end up helping Montgomery. Soon enough the off-field issues will fade, and he'll be able to more fully focus on football and keeping a job in the league. That will help him get off the bubble. Avoiding whatever trouble he got into in Houston will help, too. So will simply playing harder and better in training camp than the defensive ends on the team. Much like Dontay Moch, Montgomery could be used as a sort of roving end/outside linebacker in certain situations for the Bengals' defense. He can serve as a stand-up rush end or add a little extra size and length as a true hand-in-the-dirt end. While Wallace Gilberry, Carlos Dunlap, Margus Hunt and Robert Geathers appear to be factoring into the Bengals' base defensive end rotation, Montgomery still could factor in scenarios that might either force those players onto the line's interior or off the field. Montgomery can get off the bubble, but his climb is steeper than what a few others have.
Odds he makes the team: Low. Remember, "very low" is the absolute baseline we're using in these bubble watches. And "50/50" would be a step above "low." I'd put his exact chances somewhere between the latter two areas of demarcation. He doesn't have the greatest odds to make the 53-man roster right now, but they aren't nonexistent, either. He has a skill set that could prove valuable. It all depends on how well he showcases that skill set, and also how much he's able to keep his off-field situation from becoming an on-field issue.
It's been a couple weeks since we've had a morning Quick Takes post here on the Cincinnati Bengals page, so I figured now was as good a time as any to bring back the post even if only temporarily.
While I was off for a few days last week -- I've got another break coming up in a few days that will be my last before training camp begins -- there was a little Bengals news I wanted to get to. We'll call this the playing catch up blog:
1. Bubble watchers. Quickly, let's begin by pointing out the series we had running on the blog during my absence last week. In case you haven't seen them yet, we have a group of "bubble watch" blogs that are analyzing the players who seem to be the most susceptible to being on the dreaded late-camp bubble. As you well know there are 53 spots up for grabs by the end of August, and as of Monday morning, 89 players are slated to compete for them. For that reason, there are going to be more than a few who will be cut that some fans will think don't deserve to be. We'll have another "bubble watch" later Monday morning, but for now take a look at the latest to be broken down: Dontay Moch.
2. Bengals tickets Part 1. Let's begin these next two items by first pointing out that most single-game tickets went on sale Saturday morning at Bengals.com and through the team's ticket office. Only the Dec. 7 and Dec. 22 games against Pittsburgh and Denver aren't yet open for purchase through the team yet. Tickets to those games will be available on a single-game basis at a later date.
3. Bengals tickets Part 2. Now, having said all of that, one day before the Bengals opened single-game sales, Forbes wrote that Bengals tickets on the open market had hit their most expensive point in the last four years. The magazine cited TiqIQ as having said Cincinnati's average secondary market ticket will cost $166.02 this season. While that remains one of the least expensive home averages for an NFL team this year, this will mark the first season since TiqIQ has tracked Bengals ticket data that the team has a season average above $120. Last year, average home tickets cost $118.74, according to TiqIQ. It bears noting that the home games against Pittsburgh and Denver currently are the most expensive on the secondary market this year.
4. Mr. Caskey goes to Washington. We write often about the downtime the players get now that minicamp has concluded and training camp is still about a month away, but what about the coaches? Some have taken off on quiet vacation retreats with family. Others have competed in golf tournaments or are just simply working privately on their handicaps. But neither has been the case for running backs coach Kyle Caskey. The young assistant spent last week in Washington serving a political fellowship in the office of Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio). The Cincinnati Enquirer's Paul Dehner Jr. caught up with Caskey, who said he spent the week learning the similarities between football leadership and the leadership that goes into attempting to run a country. Perhaps the tactics he learned from his week in Washington will help Caskey as he begins his first season as a position coach.
5. Montgomery arrested. You may have seen last week that Bengals linebacker Sam Montgomery was arrested for speeding near his hometown of Greenwood, S.C. He was reportedly driving 89 mph in a 55 mph zone. A spokesman for the state's Department of Public Safety said the arrest was lawful, but the circumstances of the arrest were investigated nonetheless. Friday afternoon, the officer who pulled over Montgomery and arrested him was suspended without pay. As is the case with all legal matters involving their personnel, the Bengals won't speak until the legal process has run its course. For a player who -- as you'll see later this week -- is on the Bengals' bubble, will this arrest have any impact? That's very, very doubtful.
As permitted by league rules, the roster currently stands at 89.
We're not going in any particular order. After looking last week at Taylor Mays, Brandon Tate, J.K. Schaffer, Cobi Hamilton, Rex Burkhead and James Wilder Jr., we open this week by looking at linebacker Dontay Moch:
What he has to do to get off the bubble: Moch has to prove in training camp that his hybrid end-outside linebacker duties are necessary in the Bengals' defense. He has to do that in part by playing quickly and athletically at the line of scrimmage, providing a fast rush off the outside edge when he's asked to do so. With ends such as Carlos Dunlap, Wallace Gilberry, Margus Hunt, Robert Geathers and Will Clarke already in the fold, Moch's line duties aren't necessary. So in order to avoid being released again, he'll have to make sure they know how much an advantage his rush ability can provide the defense as it tries to constantly change up its looks.
Odds he makes the team: 50/50. Moch's role doesn't appear to be a flat-out necessity for the Bengals, but it would be a good one to have in their arsenal. If he does enough in the preseason to prove he can execute the hybrid gig that's set aside for him, the Bengals will use a roving end/linebacker at times this season. It seems Moch and fellow free agency add Sam Montgomery are competing for the same job, meaning there's a good chance Cincinnati will be employing an extra rush end and occasional outside backer to bolster the pass-defense efforts. Since it looks like he's directly competing with Montgomery, 50/50 odds in this case make sense. They also make sense because as much as the Bengals might like to have a player who can do what they'll want Moch to do, again, they still don't need such a player if it simply doesn't work out in training camp.
Let the proverbial ball of pigskin fall in the heart of New York:
1. Draft day is here. Yes indeed, the day we've been anticipating since the day after the Super Bowl has arrived. Thirty-two teams likely woke this morning like little kids anxious to run and see what new goodies have been left underneath their team's draft-day tree. In about 11 hours after this post goes live, they'll get a chance to finally see what shiny new toys commissioner Roger Goodell allowed them to have. On some of their draft lists were fast receivers and even faster cornerbacks. Others have been hoping a big, burly offensive lineman fall into their laps. Others still were looking for quarterbacks who might be able to offer some pre-opening weekend hope and provide peace to fan bases who are tired of saying "wait till next year." At long last, draft-day morning is here.
2. What to expect. Look for the Cincinnati Bengals to be one of those teams who will try to address virtually all of the positions outlined on the hypothetical lists above. As a team that returns a large share of its core foundation and nearly all of its starters, Cincinnati doesn't have many draft needs that will require players to play immediately. Still, the Bengals have needs at cornerback, offensive line, defensive line, outside linebacker, quarterback, receiver and running back that could help direct their immediate and long-term future. Expect the Bengals to address as many of those areas with the nine picks they currently have. Look for them to add offensive players who could be key pieces to offensive coordinator Hue Jackson's offense that will hinge upon physical, run-focused play. Possibly look for a speedy receiver who could be a good change of pace in reverses, screens and yards-after-the-catch plays that could be used in tandem with the run. Anticipate bigger corners and safeties who are equipped to play in a defensive scheme that might in the coming seasons ask them to blitz and play down regularly in run support. Likewise, look for fast and powerful rush ends and linebackers who can cover to be part of their draft plans. Oh, and keep your eyes peeled for the possible selection of a quarterback who might have game-management skills that could make him an adequate backup and perhaps an eventual starter one day.
3. Moch at D-end. Perhaps not a big surprise, but former Bengals draft pick and newly acquired defender Dontay Moch said earlier this week that he expected to be used at defensive end this season. After being claimed off waivers from Arizona back in March, Moch started getting his weight back up to near what it was when he was a defensive end during his last stint with the Bengals that lasted from 2011-12. With the Cardinals last season he was moved to outside linebacker. Since they ran a 3-4 defensive scheme, it only made sense to stand him up and use him as a rusher from the next level. He dropped more than 20 pounds in order to play lighter and faster at the position. In the last six weeks, he's gained 15 of those pounds back as he looks to take more of a bruising playing on the defensive line. How could Moch's addition at defensive end, as well as Sam Montgomery's, affect the Bengals' draft plans at end Thursday? We'll soon see, but it probably won't change things much if the Bengals have their eye on a good rush end who can compete with the other ends in training camp.
4. Remember the Day 4 and later players. The header to this blurb may change in coming years with the NFL reportedly looking at adding a fourth day to the draft, but until that happens, we're going to use the phrase "Day 4 player" to describe the bevy of undrafted free agents who sign right after the draft ends. Don't forget how the Bengals' scouting staff has done its homework on these possible diamonds in the rough. It was in the "Day 4" phase when the Bengals got linebacker Vontaze Burfict in 2012. They've gotten other contributors there in recent years and could do the same this year. Running back is one position where "Day 4 players" might be available.
5. Follow here. Draft-mania has already started on ESPN.com and it will continue until long after midnight. In addition to a live draft chat featuring reporters at Radio City Music Hall in New York that starts at noon ET, there also will be a Bengals-specific chat that will start right here at 6:30 p.m. ET. I'll be at Paul Brown Stadium for the Bengals' draft party, and I'll give my observations from there. You'll also get my rapid reaction to the night's pick and a few other thoughts throughout the day and night.
Not only will he be working out behind Carlos Dunlap, Robert Geathers, Wallace Gilberry and Margus Hunt, but he also will be practicing with Christo Bilukidi, a late-2013 addition, and offseason adds Sam Montgomery and Dontay Moch. Moch, who played outside linebacker in Arizona's 3-4 base defense last season, said earlier this week he was back in Cincinnati to play on the defensive line.
There will be no dearth of bodies at defensive end this fall for the Bengals.
What the team will be looking for though is quality talent and quality depth throughout the position group. As the team expects to mix in even more rotating fronts and 3-4 packages in its base 4-3 scheme, it will be looking for as many versatile rush ends as possible. That's why having linemen with an outside linebacker's understanding of the defense could give the Bengals even more of an edge when putting pressure on the opposition. That's among the reasons Moch and Montgomery could end up having key roles at end alongside the four already in the regular rotation.
One of the hallmarks of Cincinnati's defense under previous defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer was its ability to get to the quarterback. The Bengals' defensive line ranks eighth among all lines in sacks since 2008, the year Zimmer started. As an overall defense, they rank 18th in sacks collected since 2008. Like Dunlap said two weeks ago, though, a lot of the defense's blitz schemes were crafted by Paul Guenther, the former linebackers coach who was promoted to defensive coordinator in January. That's one reason why you shouldn't be surprised to see Moch and Montgomery rushing off the edge on occasion.
"A lot of our creative defenses came from Guenther," Dunlap said. "He brought Zim into the new era of football, I guess you could say."
Moch remembers how Guenther coached when he was on the roster before. He believes that Guenther's teaching methods can help him get on the field more this time around.
"He tries to break it down for anybody to understand," Moch said. "Any Joe Blow can come off the street and learn the system the way he teaches it. He tries to make sure he puts it out in a perspective for each person to learn because everyone learns differently. He'll draw it up and he'll tell you and he'll put it in football terms for you, whichever way you can learn."
From the moment in mid-March when head coach Marvin Lewis told Moch the Bengals wanted him back, the defender began reshaping his body to play defensive end. After playing at 260-plus pounds his first two seasons in the league with the Bengals, he slimmed down to 240 pounds last season to better fit Arizona's plans at outside linebacker. The lowered weight made him a little faster, and better able to rush from his deeper stand-up position. Upon his return to the Queen City two weeks ago, Moch began working his way back to his current 255.
"Once they told me I was coming back here, I just started putting the weight back on. Weight regimen, eating regimen," Moch said.
To gain the pounds so quickly, he ate 8-10 times a day and worked out two or three times a day.
Whether the eating and weightlifting is worth it remains to be seen. Moch is only on a one-year contract and will have to prove himself once camp opens. When it does, he doesn't care if he ends up getting moved back to outside linebacker or rotates between the line and the secondary. He just wants to play.
"My career has always been as a rush-end or a blitzer and I've always enjoyed it," Moch said. "No matter where I'm coming from -- the backfield or the sides or even from deep down safety -- you put me there, I'll get it done."
Outside linebackers lost: James Harrison, cut in March.
Outside linebackers added: Dontay Moch, signed off waivers from Arizona. Sam Montgomery, signed out of free agency.*
*The Bengals list both as linebackers, but they have been defensive ends previously.
Draft likelihood: Medium
Rounds drafted? Any
Analysis: The Bengals' plans at outside linebacker are beginning to make sense when you consider who they have added, who they have cut and who they have installed as their new defensive coordinator. This season, it's all about versatility and mobility among the Bengals' linebackers and defensive ends. With the additions of Moch and Montgomery, the defense will get a pair of second-level players who understand what it takes to beat a tight end or an offensive tackle off a block and to get to the quarterback. Both have played hybrid hand-in-dirt defensive end and standing up outside linebacker roles in the past, and it appears they will do the same in Cincinnati. It's also clear based on Paul Guenther's comments earlier this offseason that the Bengals hope to change defensive fronts often, moving their ends to the interior of the line, on occasion, and placing linebackers down there as well. You'll see a steady diet of 4-3 base fronts, but having players such as Moch and Montgomery could allow the Bengals to shift into 3-4 and nickel schemes with some regularity. Guenther was all about creativity in his previous role as linebackers coach, and it appears he'll keep that trait with this defense.
To that end, the Bengals have a draft weekend need -- not a great need, but one nonetheless -- for an outside linebacker who can be flexible enough to adapt to Cincinnati's constantly changing defense. The Bengals also seek an outside linebacker who can help cover in certain passing situations, and who can also be a special teams star, working well on punt and kickoff coverage teams. For weeks, the linebacker's name most connected to the Bengals has been Ohio State's Ryan Shazier. That is, of course, if the Bengals feel like spending their first-round pick on a linebacker. It's certainly possible the Bengals believe that is the best route to take, but it's also possible that they want to address other needs first and then circle back around to linebacker later in the draft. If that's the case, Shazier will, of course, be gone. The middle of this draft could hold hidden outside linebacker gems, though. One player who has shot up the draft boards in recent weeks and who could be a second- or third-round option is Georgia Tech's Jeremiah Attaochu. Noted for his on- and off-field smarts, he ranks as the fourth outside linebacker on ESPN's draft board. His biggest upside is causing disruption on third downs as an edge rusher. Along with Attaochu, Boise State's Demarcus Lawrence and Florida State's Telvin Smith and Christian Jones could be mid-round options.
I covered Attaochu, Smith and Jones in previous reporting gigs and see NFL potential in all three. I'm probably more a fan of Smith because he seems the most versatile and is better than the rest in coverage and special teams. His size, listed at 218 pounds, is his only real knock. Somehow he played Mike and Will linebacker at FSU at that weight. He's the same height and two pounds lighter than Bengals safety Taylor Mays, who has been used in nickel linebacker roles in the past.
Potential picks: Ryan Shazier (Ohio State), Jeremiah Attaochu (Georgia Tech), Demarcus Lawrence (Boise State), Telvin Smith (Florida State), Christian Jones (Florida State).
Defensive ends lost: Michael Johnson, signed with Tampa Bay in free agency.
Defensive ends added: None*
*Dontay Moch and Sam Montgomery were added in free agency. The Bengals list both as linebackers, but they have been defensive ends previously.
Draft likelihood: High
Rounds drafted? Any
Analysis: While the likelihood the Bengals will draft a defensive end is high, the position -- like most in this draft -- doesn't rank high on the list of immediate impact positions. They aren't looking for defensive ends who can contribute right away on defense because they're rather stacked at end with Margus Hunt, Wallace Gilberry and Robert Geathers all looking to get repetitions and contributions this season. Along with fellow end Carlos Dunlap, each of the ends could see time playing both edge-rushing positions as new defensive coordinator Paul Guenther's system calls for creative stunts and rushes featuring mixed-and-matched line packages. It's one reason why you shouldn't be too surprised the Bengals signed hybrid rushers in Montgomery and Moch. Guenther's defense could have linebackers rushing off the line, too.
Still, it stands to reason the Bengals ought to add an end to fill Johnson's old spot, as well as start preparing for a future without some of the veterans who occupy the position. Geathers is 30 and Gilberry will turn 30 during the season. While both may have several seasons left in them from an age standpoint, they may not necessarily have many more with the Bengals from a contract standpoint. Both are free agents after the 2015 season. In the event one or both aren't re-signed during the 2016 offseason, then the Bengals would like to have another end they have already groomed right into a contributing role. This could be the year that future defensive end arrives. Who that player is depends completely upon when the Bengals decide to select a defensive end. They could draft an end in the first round, the second or the sixth. Most draft insiders believe they'll try to pick an end earlier rather than later. If they go early, there is a slight chance Auburn's Dee Ford, one of the more heralded players in this draft, is available at No. 24 when the Bengals make their first-round pick. Missouri's Kony Ealy is another option who, despite being rated the No. 2 defensive end on the board by ESPN's draft team, could be available at 55th overall in the second round.
Along with Ford and Ealy, the Bengals might also have interest in Oregon's Taylor Hart and West Virginia's William Clarke. Both are listed at taller than 6-foot-6. While they could be mid-to-late-round picks, they best fit the body style the Bengals will be missing with Johnson's departure. As a 6-foot-7 end with great leaping ability, a large wingspan and large hands, Johnson was noted for batting down passes at the line of scrimmage. He tied for the league lead in batted passes last season. Part of replacing him will include getting players who can replicate some of that. Conventional wisdom says the taller the body and the longer the arms, the better for deflecting passes.
Potential picks: Dee Ford (Auburn), Kony Ealy (Missouri), Scott Crichton (Oregon State), Stephon Tuitt (Notre Dame), Taylor Hart (Oregon), William Clark (West Virginia).
I suppose this is a bit of a welcome back for yours truly. Even though we had a few items here on the Bengals blog the last couple of days, I was officially away since Thursday, taking a few days off before things start getting busier with players reporting back to Cincinnati next week.
Now that we're rested and recharged, we've got a new daily blog post that I'm going to be trotting out this week called "Bengal Quick Takes." A nod to ESPN.com colleague John Keim for inspiring the idea. These blogs are designed to help catch you up on the latest news revolving around the Bengals, and to analyze it in five brief bullet points each morning.
Since the Bengals signed defensive end Sam Montgomery on Friday and we didn't get a chance to address it at the time, we'll use this first "Quick Take" with some thoughts on what his signing means:
1. Adding Montgomery. Before arriving in the NFL three years ago, Montgomery was a key piece in LSU's intimidating defense as a defensive end and outside linebacker. He had relatively high upside and was drafted by Houston in the third round. Criticism followed, though, after he admitted to taking plays off and giving less effort in certain games than he did for others. Fast-forwarding to last October, Montgomery was one of three players released by Houston after they were allegedly caught smoking marijuana in a hotel before a road game. The players initially denounced the releases and talked about filing grievances. While those off-field events and admissions are prominent parts of Montgomery's background, the Bengals believe he has the potential to rise above it all and contribute on the field. They are positive that he can give them an additional defender with stand-up linebacker ability, and a defensive end foundation.
2. What Montgomery brings. Specifically, Montgomery brings a measure of versatility to the defensive end position that can help dictate what the Bengals decide to do from a personnel standpoint while in various front-line packages. New defensive coordinator Paul Guenther has indicated a desire for having multiple fronts and revolving fronts that might include linebackers dropping down to the line and rushing the quarterback. Guenther's plans for the defense will be based on situations. While the Bengals will have a base scheme, they will be moving bodies around so often that the lineups should change regularly, keeping players fresher and mixing the looks to offensive lines constantly. Montgomery's ability to drop down and stand up should help those plans.
3. More on a versatile defensive front. Montgomery isn't the only player the Bengals have signed this offseason with that type of positional versatility. They also added off waivers Dontay Moch, a former Bengals draft selection who has played both defensive end and outside linebacker. He's listed as a linebacker on Cincinnati's current roster (so is Montgomery). Both players were added in the wake of the departures of defensive end Michael Johnson (signed with Tampa Bay) and linebacker James Harrison (cut) earlier this offseason. With the possibility the Bengals might add an outside linebacker through the draft, it wouldn't be surprising to see Montgomery and Moch competing for a roster spot in training camp.
4. Quickly, on receiver. We'll get more on this later this week, but as Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson acutely pointed out over the weekend, Cobi Hamilton may have the most to prove among Cincinnati's receivers when training camp opens later this year. On paper, he's the last man in the rotation and doesn't have as much special-teams value as Brandon Tate or the game experience of Dane Sanzenbacher, who was re-signed as a restricted free agent last week.
5. Finally, on Andy Dalton. There will be more to come on this, too, but it sounds as if Dalton was encouraged by his weeklong session in California with throwing coach Tom House. A few tweaks were made to his throwing motion that ought to help him get more zip on certain shorter passes and possibly be more accurate on longer throws. Closed, squared up shoulders and hips ought to help tighten his delivery. That's the Bengals' hope, at least. We'll see this fall how much the tweaks pay off.
So, with exactly a month until the 2014 draft, we've been taking a look back at how those draft classes came together. Thirty-two players on the team were drafted by the Bengals in the past 10 drafts. Robert Geathers is the oldest homegrown product; he was selected in the fourth round in 2004.
We started this look at the Bengals' recent drafts last week with the 2006 class. Then followed it with reviews of the 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 drafts. Tuesday is all about the 2011 group headlined by A.J. Green and Andy Dalton.
We're using Pro Football Reference's Approximate Value statistic to help evaluate how valuable a pick each player has been. The AV statistic is a unique metric that assigns value to each season of a player's career, and averages it out. The higher the number, the better.
First-round pick: No. 4 overall (A.J. Green, WR, Georgia ... on roster)
Number of picks: 8
Highest player AV: Andy Dalton, AV of 36 (Dalton's career AV ranks fifth in the draft class; Panthers QB Cam Newton has has highest AV with a 49)
Best pick: Green was just declared Monday as one of the NFL's elite pass-catchers in this piece from ESPN insider Matt Williamson . There are few receivers who possess Green's combination of size and speed, and fewer who can simply dominate a game the way he can. Still, he has a few concerns, like his lack of running underneath a ball during a pivotal part of January's wild-card round playoff loss to San Diego. He and Dalton aren't always on the same page, as Green has cut routes shorter than Dalton anticipated, causing overthrows and interceptions. Those are problems new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson is confident will fade this season. Regardless, Green is the jewel of this Bengals draft class. His overall play has been that of a first-round pick. He already has more than 3,800 yards receiving and came close to setting some Bengals' single-season records last season.
Worst pick: It can be rare for a seventh-round pick to pan out for a team, so calling one the worst pick of a team's draft class is a stretch. But Finley had the shortest career, so he might fit the bill here. Some, angered by Dalton's inconsistency, might say him. Either way, we're still in the early days of these players' careers. With plenty of time left to play somewhere, it's tough to label any of them busts just yet.
Drafted by the Bengals in the third round in 2011, Moch spent his first two NFL seasons in Cincinnati before being released during the preseason last year. Arizona eventually signed him and he played four games for the Cardinals at the start of last season, picking up two defensive tackles.
Moch was released by Arizona earlier this offseason.
Although he played weakside linebacker in Arizona's 3-4 defense, Moch was claimed by the Bengals in order to provide depth at defensive end in their 4-3 scheme. Three days before Moch's signing, defensive end Michael Johnson left Cincinnati, signing with Tampa Bay.
Last season, Moch had a cap value of $395,294. His new contract holds a cap value of $570,000, making it comparable to the cap value he had while with Cincinnati in 2012. His cap value that year was $570,549.
Here's a look at Moch's new Bengals contract (specifics come from ESPN's Stats & Information):
Cap value: $570,000
Cash value: $570,000
Signing bonus: $0
Roster bonus: $0
Workout bonus: $0
Base salary: $570,000
This is normal for this organization. You won't hear many stories about the team going out and landing major, big-splash free agents during the first week of the signing period. Now that the first week is nearing the end, it certainly doesn't look like that will be the case. It's in the draft where the Bengals like to make their personnel noise, and anticipate doing so again this May.
The players who will be signed by the Bengals between now and the beginning of May will primarily be those who already had contracts with the team. Much like linebacker Vincent Rey, who re-signed with the club early Saturday morning.
To help you get caught up on where things stand with the Bengals at the start of Day 5, here's a scorecard:
OG/C Mike Pollak (re-signed last Saturday)
WR/PR/KR Brandon Tate (re-signed Tuesday)
DE Dontay Moch (signed off waivers from Arizona on Friday)
LB Vincent Rey (re-signed Saturday)
DE Michael Johnson (signed with Tampa Bay on Tuesday)
C Kyle Cook (cut Tuesday)
OT Anthony Collins (signed with Tampa Bay on Thursday after mulling offer from Cincinnati)
LB James Harrison (cut Thursday)
CB Brandon Ghee (signed with San Diego on Thursday)
Up in the air
S Taylor Mays (reportedly re-signed Tuesday, but Bengals still haven't announced)
WR Andrew Hawkins (signed Browns offer sheet of four years, $13.6 million; Bengals not expected to match)
Other remaining 2014 free agents
OT Dennis Roland (UFA)
LB Mike Boley (UFA)
S Chris Crocker (UFA)
P Zoltan Mesko (UFA)
TE Alex Smith (UFA)
WR Dane Sanzenbacher (RFA)
He reportedly agreed to a two-year deal.
Rey has been with the Bengals since entering the league as an undrafted free agent in 2010. The Duke product spent his first three seasons primarily playing special teams, but saw his overall role increase dramatically last season as he started on defense, too.
When starting "Mike" linebacker Rey Maualuga went down with a knee injury in the middle of last season, Rey replaced him, starting in three contests. Even when Maualuga returned, he shared more time at linebacker with him than he had at points before the injury.
Rey's 47 tackles, four sacks and two interceptions in 2013 were career highs. Three of those sacks and one of the interceptions came in the Week 10 overtime loss at Baltimore. He's the only player in franchise history to have that many sacks and an interception in a single game.
In addition to stepping up defensively, he also continued contributing on special teams, playing a key role on the various kick and punt coverage and return teams.
"Vinny is a tough guy and a pleasure to coach, and it's great to have him back in the fold," coach Marvin Lewis said in a news release. "He really helped us in winning the division title last year."
Rey joins receiver/return specialist Brandon Tate and offensive guard/center Mike Pollak in re-signing with the Bengals this offseason. Defensive back Taylor Mays also has reportedly signed, but the Bengals have not yet announced that news. Mays was reported to have signed Wednesday.
The news of Rey's re-signing also comes hours after the team announced that defensive end Dontay Moch, a 2011 third-round Bengals draft pick, was coming back to Cincinnati. After playing four games last season for the Cardinals, Moch cleared waivers late Friday afternoon.
Cincinnati's other two restricted free agents, receivers Andrew Hawkins and Dane Sanzenbacher, also were extended low-round tenders last week, but neither has signed elsewhere or with the Bengals yet. Hawkins has signed an offer sheet with the Cleveland Browns, but Cincinnati has until Tuesday to match it. The Bengals still have not made a decision about what they will do, although ESPN.com has reported that they likely won't match the four-year, $13.6 million offer.