Cincinnati Bengals: John Conner

Most significant move. The Bengals surprisingly cut John Conner and kept Orson Charles. This means the Bengals aren't going with a traditional fullback. The Bengals will use two tight ends in their primary formation with Jermaine Gresham and first-round pick Tyler Eifert. When the Bengals need a lead blocker, they'll go with Charles, who is more of an H-back. Conner worked with the starting offense in the preseason finale and was the lead blocker on Giovani Bernard's one-yard touchdown. He also played a part in the top rushing attack in the preseason.

Cincinnati also cut offensive tackle Dennis Roland, who joined the Bengals in 2008 and played in every game for the previous four seasons. Rookie fifth-round pick Tanner Hawkinson made Roland expendable. And, as expected, the Bengals parted ways with defensive end Dontay Moch, a disappointing third-round pick who never produced a tackle in two seasons with the team. The release of quarterback John Skelton means Josh Johnson is the backup to Andy Dalton.

Surplus at two spots. Most expected the Bengals to choose between Ryan Whalen and Dane Sanzenbacher. But they kept both. Sanzenbacher helped his cause by producing big plays as a receiver (averaged 20 yards on five catches) and punt returner (71-yard touchdown) in the preseason. The Bengals are carrying seven wide receivers for the second straight season. They did waive Cobi Hamilton but the rookie sixth-round pick is expected to go on the practice squad.

The Bengals decided to keep five safeties, the same amount as cornerbacks. George Iloka is listed as the starter with Reggie Nelson, but rookie third-round pick Shawn Williams will likely be the eventual starter. Like wide receiver, Cincinnati was expected to choose between Taylor Mays and Jeromy Miles for the fourth safety spot and it kept both. Miles survived because of his play on special teams.

What's next. The Bengals likely will put wide receiver Andrew Hawkins (ankle) on the injured reserve-designated to return list, but they can't make the move until after 4 p.m. Tuesday. Based on its numbers at linebacker, that's the position Cincinnati will look at on the waiver wire. The Bengals are currently carrying five: James Harrison, Vontaze Burfict, Rey Maualuga, Jayson DiManche and Vincent Rey. The Bengals will probably sign linebacker J.K. Schaffer, the leading tackler in the preseason, on the practice squad after waiving him Saturday. The Bengals may add a sixth cornerback.

Here are the moves made by the Bengals to get down to the league limit of 53:

Waived: FB John Conner, TE-LS Bryce Davis, S Tony Dye, OT Reid Fragel, WR Cobi Hamilton, RB Dan Herron, C T.J. Johnson, CB Chris Lewis-Harris, CB Onterio McCalebb, DE Dontay Moch, CB Shaun Prater, WR Taveon Rogers, WR Roy Roundtree, LB J.K. Schaffer, QB John Skelton, DT Terrence Stephens, G John Sullen, LB Bruce Taylor.

Contract terminated: OT Dennis Roland.

Physically Unable to Perform list: RB Bernard Scott.

Injured reserve: LB Emmanuel Lamur (shoulder).
Here is what they're saying about the Cincinnati Bengals' 27-10 win over the Indianapolis Colts in the preseason finale:
  • Fighting for a roster spot, linebacker J.K. Schaffer finished with six tackles, an interception and a sack. "I know I went out and played hard. I left it all out there," Schaffer told The Cincinnati Enquirer. "It's out of my hands from here. I think the preseason went pretty well for the most part. There are still some things I need to clean up and get better at but we will see what happens from here.”
  • Backup linebacker Emmanuel Lamur injured his shoulder in the first quarter and needed to be taken off on a cart. Trainers worked on his shoulder and as the pain got worse the cart was called out, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported. “It slipped out and they slipped it back into place,” coach Marvin Lewis said about Lamur's shoulder. “But that's about all we know, we'll have to see how he responds.”
  • The Bengals had more runs than passes for the third time this preseason, according to the team's website. Cincinnati won all three times, finishing with 175.8 rushing yards per game. John Conner, who is battling Orson Charles for the starting fullback job, was impressive as the lead blocker. "Obviously, we are two different kinds of players," Conner said. "He has done a great job of coming over from tight end. He is more of an H-back kind of guy, and I am more of a side fullback. It kind of goes by what this offense needs and what we need at the moment. I hope I did everything that I could to make this team.”

Observation deck: Bengals-Colts

August, 29, 2013

Fantasy alert: Giovani Bernard can score in the red zone.

In the Cincinnati Bengals' 27-10 victory Thursday over the Indianapolis Colts in the preseason finale, Bernard finished off the Bengals' first drive with a 1-yard touchdown. It marked the third 1-yard touchdown for the 5-foot-9, 208-pound Bernard. While starter BenJarvus Green-Ellis has been a touchdown machine (30 rushing touchdowns in the past three seasons), Bernard should get some chances to punch the ball in, if the preseason is any indication.

“To me, it’s all about determination and heart. How bad do you want that touchdown?" quarterback Andy Dalton said at halftime. "I really think anybody should be able to get 1 yard if you want it bad enough, no matter your size.”

Bernard showed toughness in the open field, too. After taking a dump-off pass from Josh Johnson, Bernard ran for 16 yards and delivered a hit on a Colts defensive back before going out of bounds. Bernard finished with 28 yards on five touches.

Overall, it was a crisp effort by the Bengals after a sloppy performance last week in Dallas. Cincinnati had one turnover (Cedric Peerman's fumble didn't lead to any points) and committed two penalties.

Here are my other thoughts on the final preseason game for the Bengals, who finished 3-1:
  • Dalton made a cameo appearance, leading the Bengals to a touchdown in his only drive of the night. He completed one pass for 18 yards, a short pass to Mohamed Sanu, who broke a tackle. Dalton's only other pass was an underthrown ball to receiver A.J. Green in the end zone, but Green drew a pass-interference penalty. The Bengals got the ball on the 1-yard line, where Bernard scored the game's first touchdown.
  • Linebacker Emmanuel Lamur was carted off the field in the first quarter with a right-shoulder injury. Lamur is one of the Bengals' top backups and plays in their nickel defense. If Lamur is lost for a significant amount of time, the player who could benefit the most is J.K. Schaffer, who had a mauling, third-down sack and an interception against the Colts.
  • Brandon Tate once again provided a spark on special teams. After scoring on a 75-yard punt return in his last preseason game, he set up the first touchdown with a 51-yard kickoff return. This latest big return happened because of great blocking by the Bengals, and Tate just had to hit the open lane.
  • It looks like John Conner will be the Bengals' starting fullback. He was the first fullback to play, and he was the lead blocker on Bernard's touchdown. Orson Charles, who has been battling Conner for the job, could still make the team because of his versatility. The Bengals may decide to keep Charles as the third fullback (behind Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert) and cut Alex Smith.
  • Backup quarterback Johnson still struggles with his accuracy, but he can make big plays with his feet. He led the Bengals in rushing in the first half with 38 yards on two scrambles. As far as his passing, he was 4-of-5 for 26 yards and one touchdown on his first two drives (both scoring drives). His touchdown pass, a 3-yard toss to Marvin Jones, was on the same fade route as the incompletion thrown by Dalton earlier in the game. For the rest of the first half, Johnson was 3-of-8 for 41 yards. John Skelton, the Bengals' other backup, was 6-of-10 for 99 yards, which probably won't be enough to leapfrog Johnson for the job.
  • The first-team defense got pressure on Colts backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. Linebacker James Harrison nailed Hasselbeck on an inside blitz to force an incompletion, and defensive tackle Geno Atkins pressured on third down to rush Hasselbeck into another incompletion.