Over the years we've generated a list of players that we viewed as locks (which is usually a list roughly of 30 players) on the regular season roster. Then, as training camp meanders during the summer months, we add players based on reports, impressions, and probabilities culminating in our final 53-man roster prediction prior to final cuts.
We're not doing that yet.
Instead, we wanted to try something new this year and open with a mock 53-man roster. This isn't a projection based on what I think the roster should look like; rather a scenario, based on information that we know. In my opinion, if you get 10 Bengals fans together, you'll have ten different mock rosters. That's just how close some of these position battles have become.
Johnson still figures to be Jay Gruden's favored backup option. There is a chance that Cincinnati could go with three quarterbacks. In the past two years, the Bengals have had a quarterback on the practice squad, allowing the team to carry only two into the regular season. They've always had three signal callers at their disposal. However, no one on the current roster has any eligibility for the practice squad. This point likely becomes moot if the team signs a rookie quarterback heading into training camp.
Running Back (4)
Essentially the fourth running back position is a battle between Burkhead, Daniel Herron, and Bernard Scott. At this point, we see more versatility on offense and special teams with Burkhead.
Full Back (1)
We could see the team releasing Chris Pressley for an H-Back tight end like Orson Charles. It's a scenario and realistic. However, we're still going with Pressley. Maybe we just like having a full-time natural fullback on the roster. Don't forget that while Green-Ellis led the NFL with the most third and one conversions, it was Pressley with the lead block.
Wide Receiver (6)
Traditionally, Marvin Lewis has always favored known quantities. He's not a risk taker. That being said, Tate, despite owning multiple return franchise return records, is as far removed from being a lock as any player. As for Cobi Hamilton, he's been very impressive during the offseason training programs and the coaches have taken notice. And don't sleep on Ryan Whalen.
Tight Ends (3)
You have to remember that when teams are loaded with talent, promising players will be left behind. You can't keep everyone. However, if he's extremely impressive during training camp, there's no reason Orson Charles doesn't make the roster as either a fullback or fourth tight end. But he's not going to have the job given to him. He'll need to claim it on his own.
Offensive Line (9)
This one is difficult to determine and will be decided in the next two months. Reid Fragel could figure on the team's practice squad and Tanner Hawkinson appears to have shown enough versatility to backup... everyone. If he's healthy, Travelle Wharton stays as the first backup guard (unless Boling collapses) -- it doesn't make sense yet to have an offensive line over-balanced with tackles. More will be made clear in August.
Defensive Ends (5)
Dontay Moch's inability to stay on the field will end his career with the Bengals. Jamaal Anderson, who played only two games last season due to an injury, is a victim of circumstance at a talented position.
Defensive Tackle (4)
A solid rotation at defensive tackle that plays the run and pass well.
Linebacker is an engaging position to watch in training camp this year, largely because of the number of undrafted linebackers; somehow the Bengals have figured out how to find the best picks in those litters. So we're not counting out guys like Jayson DiManche. Players like Brandon Joiner and J.K. Schaffer could prove to make an impact. Porter and Rey figure to be prominently featured on special teams while Mike Zimmer will exploit every reason to get Lamur on the field.
One of the reasons I'm always hesitant with adding Brandon Ghee are the questions about his durability. He's talented enough and the Bengals continue to show favoritism with him. When Hall, Kirkpatrick and Jones were out with injuries earlier during the offseason training program, Ghee played with the first-team defense.
We went short on safeties in our first mock because the talent level at cornerback tips the scales. Guys like Tony Dye could always turn heads and easily remove a corner (like Prater) from the bottom of the pile. But we need to see more.
Special Teams (3)