Every year we start formulating our roster locks. It's never a single posting, especially now with a preseason game remaining. We start by providing our view of roster locks, players that we believe are locks to make the 53-man roster, and then add to the list as preseason chugs along. This is an inherently cautious list, leaving players off that we'd normally add if we were doing a blanket 53-man roster prediction. But too much happens from now until August 31 and we want to factor that in as we go. We'll add players to compose a 53-man roster projection before it's released.
QUARTERBACK (2): Andy Dalton, Bruce Gradkowski
Since rookie Taylor Hanson has already been released, it would be justified to argue that Zac Robinson is locked into that No. 3 quarterback spot if the Bengals keep a third on the 53-man roster. If not, Robinson is a very strong candidate for the practice squad.
RUNNING BACK (5): BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bernard Scott, Brian Leonard, Cedric Peerman, Chris Pressley
It's likely that the Cincinnati Bengals keep five, with Chris Pressley being the team's fullback. Save for any additional injuries, or possible extensions to injuries already suffered, we believe that those five are already set.
WIDE RECEIVER (6): A.J. Green, Brandon Tate, Armon Binns, Andrew Hawkins, Mohamed Sanu, Marvin Jones
Before Jordan Shipley was shipped out of Cincinnati (see how I did that?), we were trying to argue him making the team despite reports that he was showing tremendous rust. Yet he wasn't far enough on the depth chart to see many snaps with players that are locks to make the team -- aka, playing with other bubble players. His knee appeared problematic still and rookies Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu have done enough to warrant the decision. Now that he's gone, we believe that, save for an injury, the wide receiver roster is set.
TIGHT END (2): Jermaine Gresham, Donald Lee
After his performance against the Atlanta Falcons, it's clear that the Bengals view Donald Lee as their backup tight end when Jermaine Gresham is unavailable. And it's also clear that Lee has enough in the tank to answer the call. We're this close labeling rookie Orson Charles as a lock, but not yet. We're not really sure why not. I think Colin Cochart argument for making the team is his role as a blocker and I haven't seen much in preseason to support the argument. Plus Charles was taking some first-team snaps against the Packers last weekend in two-tight formations.
OFFENSIVE LINE (6): Andrew Whitworth, Andre Smith, Kevin Zeitler, Clint Boling, Kyle Cook, Anthony Collins
We have our starters with Anthony Collins being the primary backup. That's it. Their Dennis Roland obsession probably gives him a nod and frankly he's better than some of the other backup offensive linemen. Projecting the 53-man roster right now, we'd give the call to Dennis Roland, Trevor Robinson and Otis Hudson. Why Robinson? He's been the team's primary second-team center over Reggie Stephens this preseason. And Roland is helping his cause by taking second-team snaps at guard.
DEFENSIVE END (3): Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson, Jamaal Anderson
Yep. I'm leaving Robert Geathers off the list. Perhaps that's a foundation of hesitation and caution on my part. There's more than a few examples of a Marvin Lewis' mind set suggesting that older players with injuries turning into surprising departures. Plus I don't think Dontay Moch makes the team as a linebacker, but maybe as a defensive end they can turn into a pass rushing specialist. You know. Kind of why they drafted him in the first place?
DEFENSIVE TACKLE (4): Domata Peko, Geno Atkins, Devon Still, Brandon Thompson
Another position that I believe is essentially solidified.
LINEBACKER (6): Rey Maualuga, Thomas Howard, Manny Lawson, Roddrick Muckelroy, Dan Skuta Vontaze Burfict
I really like Vincent Rey and he'll most likely make the team due to his special teams consideration. Plus they'll want a second outside linebacker to backup Thomas Howard on the weakside. Then again Dan Skuta has been a machine that plays all three linebacker spots.
CORNERBACK (4): Leon Hall, Nate Clements, Terence Newman, Dre Kirkpatrick
Here's where we stand at cornerback. Shaun Prater and Brandon Ghee are on Injured Reserve leaving Adam Jones and Jason Allen, neither of whom we've seen in the past three weeks. Do the Cincinnati Bengals go five corners and five safeties? Are do they go with the 6-4 cornerback-to-safety ratio (which I think is far more probable). If they do that then you might as well add Jones and Allen. Chris Lewis-Harris is another player I think is a high-probable practice squad player.
SAFETY (3): Reggie Nelson, Taylor Mays, Jeromy Miles
George Iloka, another rookie that's had a fine preseason, seems the most logical lock. Especially considering Tony Dye hasn't really done much to supplant him.
SPECIAL TEAMS (3): Mike Nugent, Kevin Huber, Clark Harris
Perhaps the most obvious locks of the roster. But then I haven't really paid attention to the rotations-per-second of Bryce Davis.