Updated 53-Man Roster Projections for Cincinnati Bengals
Now that the Cincinnati Bengals' roster has been cut to 75 players, further reduction is going to become even more difficult over the coming days. There are still 22 more decisions that need to be made, so the Bengals can finalize their 53-man roster.
Going forward, some of the "easy" decisions that came this week won't be so simple. With a secondary full of young guys and veterans, which of them will be shown the door? How do injuries play into things?
I've been a huge fan of both James Wright and Trey Hopkins throughout the preseason, but both were carted off the field against the Arizona Cardinals. How will their injuries impact the makeup of the 53-man roster?
With plenty left to happen over the next few days, here is an updated look at how that roster might appear come Week 1.
Here is a quick look at the projections in their entirety:
|Position||Who's In||Who's Out|
AJ McCarron (R)*
Matt Scott (waived 8/26)
Ryan Hewitt (R;FB)
Orson Charles (FB/TE)
James Wilder Jr.
Nikita Whitlock (R;FB)
James Wright (R)*
Ryan Whalen (waived 8/25)
Jasper Collins (released 8/26)
|Kevin Brock (released 8/26)|
Russell Bodine (R)
Dan France (R)
Trey Hopkins (R)*
Will Clarke (R)
Larry Black (waived 8/25)
Marquis Flowers (R)
James Davidson (waived 8/26)
J.K. Schaffer (waived 8/26)
Darqueze Dennard (R)*
R.J. Stanford (released 8/25)
Clark Harris (LS)
Mike Nugent (K)
Kevin Huber (P)
|Quinn Sharp, K (cut 8/25)|
Who's In (3): Andy Dalton, Jason Campbell, AJ McCarron (R)
You can be a Dalton hater if you want, and you can even hate the preseason if you want, but there's no denying that Andy Dalton has looked pretty damn good in his limited showings so far. He is 24-of-34 for 373 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions.
Even so, you will still find the occasional Cincinnati fan calling for rookie AJ McCarron to be the starting quarterback for the Bengals. In case you still haven't noticed, he's yet to take a preseason snap due to his injured shoulder.
In the end, the Bengals' front office chose to extend Dalton, and because of the terms of his contract, he will be the starting quarterback for at least the next couple of seasons. Seasoned veteran Jason Campbell makes for a very competent backup, despite questionable preseason showings.
If the preseason is any indication, Hue Jackson has definitely brought out the best in Dalton.
It would likely only happen if McCarron's injury problems persists, but we could see Tyler Wilson dressed for Sundays. Even if McCarron remains sidelined, I'd be stunned to see the team waste a spot on Wilson.
Who's In (4): Giovani Bernard, Jeremy Hill, Cedric Peerman, Ryan Hewitt (FB)
At this point, it seems a foregone conclusion that Bernard and Hill will see the bulk of the action this season. They both have been working with the first-team and second-team units, while veteran BenJarvus Green-Ellis has seen very limited action throughout all of OTAs, training camp and the preseason.
The combination of Bernard's speed and Hill's power may finally give some life to a Bengals running game that has been on life support for what seems like a decade. Last year's starter, Green-Ellis, managed only 756 yards, which put extra pressure on Dalton to carry the offense.
With offensive coordinator Hue Jackson running the show, a man who loves the ground game, the running backs on this team should flourish. Bernard is on the brink of becoming a top-10 back, and Hill is going to prove to be an excellent complement in short-yardage situations.
What will also be interesting will be the development of UDFA Ryan Hewitt, who has been outplaying third-year H-back Orson Charles this offseason.
Green-Ellis, James Wilder Jr. or Rex Burkhead make the roster, which would likely take a spot from someone in the secondary.
Who's In (7): A.J. Green, Mohamed Sanu, Marvin Jones, Dane Sanzenbacher, Brandon Tate, James Wright, Cobi Hamilton
There will be no argument surrounding the top tier of the team's receivers. Everyone who knows anything about the NFL knows how good Green is, and had Jones stayed healthy, he and Sanu would be following him up as the No. 2 and No. 3 receivers.
Even before the Jones injury, which should keep him out until Week 5, as reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter below, the last three or four spots for the position were pretty up in the air. Following impressive training camp and preseason showings, it seemed that seventh-round pick Wright was on his way in with Sanzenbacher.
Bengals believe WR Marvin Jones, after weekend foot surgery, will miss first three games and should return Oct. 5 after bye vs. New England.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 12, 2014
Now, with Jones out, Sanzenbacher will likely be the lead slot man, and the injury has made it possible for Tate to continue to tread water on the main roster.
All seven receivers are talented enough to be on the roster, and it wouldn't be all that shocking to see that happen, especially if Trey Hopkins has been knocked out of contention for a spot with his recent injury.
This corps will likely be decided by the team's final preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts, so watch that game closely to see who sticks out.
The team decides to sign a veteran free agent like Jacoby Ford, likely kicking out Wright or Hamilton. Another potential surprise—minuscule though it may be—would be that the corps only carries six guys, likely leaving off Wright or Hamilton.
Who's In (3): Jermaine Gresham, Tyler Eifert, Alex Smith
After the Bengals drafted Eifert in the first round of the 2013 draft, it seemed that they had a solid tight end duo to terrorize defenses with. Unfortunately, Gresham, a veteran, set career lows in several categories, including touchdowns and yards, and Eifert underwhelmed in his rookie season, gathering 445 yards and two touchdowns.
Gresham is in a contract year, so he should be plenty motivated to up his game. His future in Cincinnati is uncertain, and with the younger Eifert ready to start, Gresham would be best served to get back to his 2012 form, when he finished with over 700 yards and five touchdowns.
Meanwhile, Eifert is set for a potential breakout season in 2014, especially coming off a mediocre rookie showing. You would think that the only way for him is up.
The team brought back Smith, a veteran, to be the No. 3 tight end, a good fit considering he knows the offense already.
With Kevin Brock having been cut, none really exist unless the team decides to give Ryan Hewitt or Nikita Whitlock a try at the position.
Who's In (8): Andrew Whitworth, Marshall Newhouse, Tanner Hawkinson, Clint Boling, Mike Pollak, Russell Bodine (R), Kevin Zeitler, Andre Smith
The Bengals have been experimenting with the offensive line all throughout OTAs, training camp and the preseason due to the unrelenting injury bug that is terrorizing the group. Pollak has an injured knee, Boling is still recovering from a torn ACL suffered last season and Whitworth and Andre Smith both missed some time during training camp.
Backup guard T.J. Johnson and UDFA Trey Hopkins, the latter likely to make the 53-man roster, were both injured Arizona earlier this week.
All that being said, the Bengals are still in stunningly good shape on the offensive line. Despite the rotations, it still appears that, from left to right, you'll see Whitworth, Boling, Bodine, Zeitler and Smith. Keep an eye on the rookie Bodine, who has had recent issues snapping the football to Dalton.
Also watch for second-year man Tanner Hawkinson to play more this season, as he is able to play both guard and tackle.
Hopkins' injury is not serious, and he winds up on the roster, either sending Pollak off the team or sending someone like Shawn Williams off.
Who's In (3): Kevin Huber (P), Mike Nugent (K), Clark Harris (LS)
With rookie kicker Quinn Sharp being given his walking papers, there really isn't a lot to analyze. Barring any worth of injury, these three will run the special teams.
It is also worth mentioning that with Brandon Tate's seeming ability to continue to save himself, he may continue to be the main guy on returns.
Who's In (9): Carlos Dunlap, Wallace Gilberry, Margus Hunt, Will Clarke (R), Devon Still, Brandon Thompson, Geno Atkins, Domata Peko, Christo Bilukidi
Assuming Atkins, who has been allowed to resume activities, is fully recovered and ready to go, the Bengals' starting front four should be a pretty formidable group. Dunlap, Peko and the aforementioned Atkins are all returning starters, while it is beginning to look like Gilberry will be the other starting defensive end.
Gilberry, who posted 7.5 sacks last season, has largely been outplaying Margus Hunt this preseason, though Hunt will still see plenty of snaps. Rookie Will Clarke will also rotate in, but his action will be limited.
In the middle, Atkins and Peko are going to be on the field most of the time, but Thompson and Still (injury pending) are both capable of contributing. Thompson saw ample time during his sophomore season in 2013 after the injuries to Atkins and Still.
Bilukidi, who played in a handful of games in Oakland last season, will be an interesting man to watch if he makes the roster. It helps his situation that Still is injured, and with the exception of some questionable run defense against the New York Jets, Bilukidi has had some good preseason showings.
His game against the Colts in the preseason finale will likely determine his fate.
Longtime Bengal Robert Geathers pushes his way onto the roster, likely knocking out Bilukidi.
Who's In (6): Emmanuel Lamur, Jayson DiManche, Vincent Rey, Rey Maualuga, Vontaze Burfict, Marquis Flowers
In all likelihood, Lamur will finally get his opportunity to start after being an undrafted free agent in 2012. He missed all of 2013 due to injury but is likely to be the team's starting strong-side linebacker this season.
Burfict will undoubtedly start on the weak side, and these two are going to be backed up by DiManche, whose specialty lies on special teams, and rookie Marquis Flowers, who has considerable upside with a build similar to that of a safety.
Then comes the curious case of the middle linebackers. With J.K. Schaffer being cut, that leaves two guys who can play in the middle, a fact that forced me to believe Maualuga would be kept. After Rey burst onto the scene in 2013, he's definitely going to see his fair share of action in 2014.
But the question remains—who will start? Rey seems to be the hot topic since his outbreak, and Maualuga has been under fire for the last year and a half following a dreadful 2012-13 season that saw his pass-defense performance completely diminish.
Keep an eye on this race over the coming week.
Maualuga, a five-year veteran, winds up getting cut to give Rey the brunt of the work. It's unlikely, but after Rey's performance in 2013, it certainly isn't impossible.
Who's In (10): Leon Hall, Terence Newman, Adam Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick, Darqueze Dennard, Taylor Mays, George Iloka, Reggie Nelson, Danieal Manning, Shawn Williams
Taking 10 guys in the secondary may seem like a lot for any team, especially one that has a lot of players with so much potential. However, that's exactly what makes me think the team will keep this many guys—there's a lot of potential. There are also a lot of questions.
Is Hall fully recovered from another Achilles injury? How beneficial will veterans Terence Newman, Adam Jones and Danieal Manning really be? Can Kirkpatrick finally breakout? What will you get from Dennard, Mays and Williams?
The only non-question mark is Nelson (there is no specific question regarding Iloka, but I still have concerns after just one season). There's certainly a lot of excitement to see rookie Darqueze Dennard make his debut, but he's struggling with a hip injury and isn't slated to start currently.
For the immediate future, expect to see a healthy dose of Hall and Newman on the outside, with plenty of action from Dennard and Kirkpatrick worked in. Jones will get his reps, but I'm thinking he could be getting edged out.
The safeties are locked in with Nelson and Iloka starting, but the rest of that crew has plenty to sweat about. Mays took a leap forward last year and can become quite an impact player if he continues. Manning makes for a good veteran mentor to the younger guys, and Williams, at this point, is insurance.
Hard to say anything could be a surprise, but Manning and/or Williams could possibly be left off the roster.