Cincinnati Bengals: Predicting the Final 53-Man Roster and Depth Chart

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistMay 7, 2012

Cincinnati Bengals: Predicting the Final 53-Man Roster and Depth Chart

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    Now that the Cincinnati Bengals have completed the free agency period and the NFL draft, the final roster is beginning to shape up. The Bengals did a good job of bringing back their own players and adding talented youth in the draft.

    The Bengals are deep at a variety of positions, which will make offseason camps very interesting. The front office is going to face some very difficult decisions when cut days happen.

    Predicting the final roster is easy at some positions and insanely difficult at others. Here we’ll attempt to take into account team needs, how players could develop and what roles the team needs from each position.

    At the end we’ll look at notable players who failed to make the final roster and why.

    Let’s begin.

Quarterbacks (2)

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    Andy Dalton: This is the easiest position to figure out. Dalton isn’t in danger of losing his starting spot anytime soon.

    Bruce Gradkowski: Another easy prediction, Gradkowski is a seasoned veteran that now knows Jay Gruden’s offense well. He’s a great mentor to Dalton and can come in and win games if he has to.

Running Backs (4), Fullback (1)

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    BenJarvus Green-Ellis: “The Law Firm” will be the feature back for Cincinnati this year. He’s a solid every-down back that is exceptional at catching passes and pass protecting. He’ll split time with the others but see the majority of the carries.

    Bernard Scott: Scott is the spell back to Green-Ellis and will see the second-most carries. If he can stay healthy he’ll see a bigger role than he did last season.

    Brian Leonard: Leonard is the reliable third-down back that is shifty and can consistently get first downs in critical situations. He isn’t going anywhere.

    Cedric Peerman: Peerman is one of the team’s best special teams players defensively, which automatically earns him a spot. He can contribute as part of the running rotation should someone get hurt.

    Chris Pressley (FB): Pressley was an effective lead blocker last season and that won’t change this year. He’ll only improve with more experience in the system.

Tight Ends (3)

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    Jermaine Gresham: Gresham is a stud and an amazing red-zone threat. He catches anything thrown his way and is a major factor in Andy Dalton’s success.

    Orson Charles: Charles is a first-round prospect who fell to the Bengals in the fourth because of an off-the-field incident. He’s very similar to Gresham and an even better blocker, which makes him a perfect complement to Gresham.

    Donald Lee: Lee is an established veteran that will be a strong locker room presence and play some downs when the other ends are tired. He’s still a good blocker and can surprise in the passing game if given the opportunity.

Wide Receivers (6)

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    A.J. Green: Not much to say here. Green is a top-10 receiver in the NFL.

    Mohamed Sanu: Sanu is a very good possession receiver that can run any type of route and catches anything thrown his way. His spot here on the depth chart is essentially interchangeable with the next two guys.

    Jordan Shipley: Everything said above about Sanu applies to Shipley. He’s the perfect slot receiver that will be a crucial part of the offense.

    Marvin Jones: Jones has a ridiculous ability to adjust to any pass thrown his way. He’ll split time at all receiving spots throughout the course of the season.

    Armon Binns: Binns is loved by the coaching staff but has seen that falter with the arrival of two rookies. He’ll see limited playing time.

    Andrew Hawkins: Hawkins will likely be used on kick returns and gadget plays only. He’s a great weapon on special teams and could see a few passes thrown his way each game.

Offensive Line (9)

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    Andrew Whitworth: Whitworth is one of the most criminally underrated offensive tackles in the league. He’ll continue to guard Andy Dalton’s blind side.

    Anthony Collins: Collins is a versatile backup that can fill in virtually anywhere.

    Andre Smith: Smith is an outstanding run-blocker who will continue to pave the way as the starting right tackle.

    Kevin Zeitler: The rookie Zeitler will start immediately at right guard. He has the ability to play well at the next level from day one.

    Clint Boling: Boling has been passed up thanks to the addition of Zeitler, but he’s still a high-quality backup at guard.

    Travelle Wharton: Wharton is an impressive run-blocker that is a huge upgrade over Nate Livings at left guard.

    Jacob Bell: Bell is a veteran that will back up Wharton at left guard. He’s not incredible at any one thing but provides solid depth.

    Kyle Cook: Cook will once again be the starting center after a solid season last year.

    Otis Hudson: Hudson is an underrated prospect that finally makes the roster last year. He’ll back up Cook but can come in at guard as well.

Defensive Line (8)

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    Geno Atkins: Atkins was the best pass-rushing defensive tackle in the league a year ago. He won’t lose his spot to anyone on the roster.

    Domata Peko: Peko is still an efficient run-stuffing tackle. He was inconsistent last year but is a huge locker room leader and will play very efficiently in a rotation.

    Devon Still: Still is a ridiculous talent that will only make the defensive line more formidable. He’s a solid all-around tackle that will be a huge part of the rotation.

    Brandon Thompson: Everything said about Still applies to Thompson. He won’t see as many snaps but he’ll be an important part of a rotation and depth.

    Carlos Dunlap: If Dunlap can stay healthy he is one of the better pass-rushers the Bengals have had in recent memory.

    Michael Johnson: Johnson struggled last year, but he’s a very good rotational player that can blitz from a variety of positions and have an impact on special teams.

    Robert Geathers: Geathers has been a part of the Bengals’ organization for a while now and that won’t change this year. He’s an excellent run defender and can push the pocket if asked.

    Jamaal Anderson: Anderson is a former first-round bust that will see playing time as part of the defensive end rotation. With fewer expectations and playing time he could be a nice surprise.

Outside Linebackers (5)

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    Thomas Howard: Howard was the team’s best defensive player last season. He’s sound in all areas of the game and adds some stability to an inconsistent linebacking corps.

    Vincent Rey: Rey is a younger player with a lot of upside. He fills the Brandon Johnson role if Johnson doesn’t re-sign.

    Manny Lawson: Lawson will likely be used as more of a pass-rusher this year. He’s still the starter but could lose playing time to Dan Skuta and Dontay Moch if he doesn’t produce.

    Dontay Moch: Moch had injury issues last year but is an amazing talent that will be used in passing situations if healthy.

    DeQuin Evans: Evans is a solid rotational piece for the position that is still developing.

Inside Linebackers (3)

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    Rey Maualuga: Maulauga was very good last season before his ankle injury. If he doesn’t produce early he could lose playing time to either of the guys listed below him.

    Dan Skuta: Skuta is a versatile linebacker than can fill in at all spots. He also happens to be one of the best special teams players the Bengals have. When he filled in for Maulauga last year the defense didn’t experience a drop-off at all.

    Roddrick Muckelroy: Muckelroy unfortunately missed all of last season due to injury. He’s a very good middle linebacker that has now been overlooked. If he’s healthy he could make a strong push for playing time.

Cornerbacks (5)

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    Nate Clements: Clements is a stout run-defender and average in pass coverage. He played well last year while defending the pass and is a critical locker room presence.

    Jason Allen: Allen was a solid signing for the Bengals. He’s a similar player to Clements and will fill in nicely until Leon Hall can return.

    Dre Kirkpatrick: Kirkpatrick is an impressive young talent that could see more playing time as the season wears on. There’s no reason to throw him to the wolves immediately.

    Adam Jones: Jones performed great last year as Leon Hall’s replacement. He’s good in coverage and aggressive against the run. He’ll see a reduced role at corner this year and a bigger role returning kicks and punts.

    Terence Newman: Newman is nice veteran depth until Leon Hall can return. He was burnt consistently last year with Dallas but is experienced.


    * Leon Hall will likely start the season on the PUP list as he recovers from a torn Achilles. He will be eligible to join the roster after Week 6.

Safeties (4)

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    Reggie Nelson: The big name to re-sign with the Bengals this season, Nelson is a very good player at one of the worst positions in the NFL. He’s a playmaker that is well rounded in all areas of his position.

    George Iloka: Iloka is a perhaps a long shot to make the roster, but his versatility and athleticism are impressive. He can contribute a lot to the defense if given the chance.

    Taylor Mays: Mays will win the starting strong safety job because he fits what Mike Zimmer is looking for in a strong safety. He won’t be asked to cover a lot; he’ll be blitzing and blowing up running backs.

    Jeromy Miles: Miles is a lesser-known name that is a legitimate threat to take a starting spot away from Mays. He’ll beat out Robert Sands for the backup role with ease.

Specialists (3)

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    Mike Nugent: Not much to say here. Nugent is a reliable option no matter the conditions or pressure.

    Kevin Huber: This is a position that could have used an upgrade, but Huber is good enough.

    Clark Harris: You don’t know his name, but he’s been a consistent long-snapper for the Bengals for some time now.

Notable Cuts / Practice Squad Members

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    DT Pat Sims: Sims has struggled to stay healthy during his tenure in Cincinnati. He’s a solid run-stuffer but is the odd man out with the arrival of two rookies at the position.

    DE Derrick Harvey: Harvey ends up cut as there is simply not enough room on the roster.

    WR Brandon Tate: Now that the Bengals have enough depth at corner, Adam Jones can go back to being the primary kick and punt returner. Tate is cut as a result.

    LB Vontaze Burfict (PS): Burfict is known for his issues, but he’s a sound player. There are too many good linebackers on the roster already, but he’ll find a home on the practice squad until he gets his chance a few years from now.

    TE Colin Cochart (PS): Cochart played well in limited time last year. Unfortunately for him Orson Charles is better and Donald Lee hasn’t retired yet. He’ll land on the practice squad.

    WR Ryan Whalen (PS): Whalen won’t get a chance this year because of the arrival of two rookies but he’ll land softly on the practice squad and await his opportunity.

    QB Zac Robinson (PS): Robinson is a solid backup quarterback prospect who is a nice insurance policy for the Bengals.

    S Robert Sands (PS): Sands hasn’t developed to the point of being a backup on the roster just yet. He’s still a few years out, if at all.

    RB Dan Herron (PS): Unless Herron is amazing on special teams, he isn’t beating out Cedric Peerman for the fourth spot.  

    CB Shaun Prater (PS): Prater won’t make the roster this year thanks to all the veterans in front of him. He’ll be a huge contributor the year after.

    CB Brandon Ghee (PS): Ghee has shown flashes of ability but is now buried by veterans and rookies alike.

    PS = Practice Squad