QB (2): Andy Dalton, Josh Johnson
We featured our perspective in an earlier posting. Needless to say, we'd be shocked if the Bengals kept John Skelton over Josh Johnson at this point.
RB (4): BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Giovani Bernard, Cedric Peerman, Rex Burkhead
This is the hot-topic position battle right now. We're not talking about the top two running back positions, nor the third depending on your personal perspective. Either way, Rex Burkhead and Daniel Herron may have to reserve time at the local laser tag to settle this one, considering neither really separated himself from the other. Through four preseason games, Burkhead held a two-yard edge in yards from scrimmage.
Many of us believe that the edge for the 53-man roster will go to the better special teams performer and the player least likely to clear waivers, which figures to be Burkhead, allowing Herron to sign on the team's practice squad. And that's not a bad deal for Herron. If he's actually improving (he was awful last year on offense), then the Bengals have a decent contingency if another is lost to injury. Plus, it negates the need to keep Bernard Scott (in-season PUP and eventual contingency if there's an injury), which is a relief to some.
FB (2): John Conner, Orson Charles
TE (2): Jermaine Gresham, Tyler Eifert
The only dispute here is whether or not Alex Smith remains as the third tight end. If Cincinnati wants to establish the running game, I believe that the Bengals need a full-time fullback in John Conner. Charles, Hue Jackson's pet project, won't be a significant contributor out of the gate but he should be relatively safe for now.
WR (6): A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Andrew Hawkins, Cobi Hamilton, Brandon Tate
I'm still on the Cobi Hamilton bandwagon and I realize that's dangerous. Hamilton, in my opinion, has the upside but if we're factoring players as immediate contributors, then any combination of Dane Sanzenbacher or Ryan Whalen would likely apply. All three are vying for the sixth spot on the wide receiver roster and the player with the special teams cred will have the greatest factor. Sanzenbacher was a good returner, but a return man isn't what the team needs. They need guys to cover on punt and kickoff, and block on returns. You weren't expecting someone other than Tate and Adam Jones returning kicks, were you?
One factor to point out; the Bengals kept seven last year because they couldn't find it within themselves to release Whalen. Also, if Hawkins goes on Injured Reserve with a designation to return, he has to be on the roster at 4 p.m. (ET) on Tuesday, three days after final cuts. He makes the roster.
OT (4): Andrew Whitworth, Andre Smith, Anthony Collins, Dennis Roland
OG (3): Kevin Zeitler, Clint Boling, Tanner Hawkinson
Center (2): Kyle Cook, Trevor Robinson
Dave Lapham brought up an interesting perspective during the team's preseason finale Thursday night, saying that Trevor Robinson isn't safe. Robinson hasn't had a strong camp and most accounts suggest that Mike Pollak has been the better interior offensive lineman.
However, Pollak suffered a knee injury against the Colts Thursday night but it doesn't appear serious. Reid Fragel, who also suffered a knee, will easily clear waivers for the practice squad if the team makes that move -- and it's not entirely certain that they will. In the end, I see the Bengals (and Paul Alexander) electing to work with Robinson who had a good rookie season.
DE (5): Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson, Wallace Gilberry, Robert Geathers, Margus Hunt
DT (4): Geno Atkins, Domata Peko, Devon Still, Brandon Thompson
We haven't changed this projection since May and we're not doing it now. It's still interesting that the team is looking to find trade partners for defensive end Dontay Moch. If none exist and he clears waivers, the Bengals will likely bring him back on the practice squad.
LB (6): Rey Maualuga, Vontaze Burfict, James Harrison, Vinnie Rey, Emmanuel Lamur, Jayson DiManche
When Sean Porter was placed on season-ending Injured Reserve, we promoted outside linebacker Jayson DiManche. J.K. Schaffer figures to be the first man in if the Bengals make a move in response to the injured Emmanuel Lamur. However, unless he goes on IR, Lamur will be named to the 53-man roster. What happens on Sunday is beyond the scope of this prediction.
One additional perspective is that the Bengals keep seven with Schaffer, but they'll need to reduce the number at another position.
CB (5): Leon Hall, Terence Newman, Adam Jones, Brandon Ghee, Dre Kirkpatrick
S (5): Reggie Nelson, George Iloka, Taylor Mays, Shawn Williams, Jeromy Miles
If the Bengals keep Lamur on the 53-man roster and decide to keep Schaffer for a seventh linebacker, they'll need to pull from the defensive backs and that's where Taylor Mays and Brandon Ghee should worry. Mays isn't the play-maker everyone had hoped for and Ghee simply can't stay healthy. That argument could be made for Dre Kirkpatrick, but if you believe that the Bengals will give up on a former first-round pick after only one year, you need to enroll in NFL 101. Ghee or Taylor will be gone if the team keeps a seventh linebacker and I'm not sure if that's not the better solution.
Special teams (3): Mike Nugent, Kevin Huber, Clark Harris
Same as defensive ends. No change since all three signed deals during the offseason.