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Cincinnati Bengals 53-Man Roster Prediction and Analysis

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David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals will once again be one of the deeper teams in the NFL. That was put to the test last year, as several key players went down, only to have their backups help carry Cincinnati to 11 wins and an AFC North crown.

Like last year, the Bengals will have many touch decisions to make as the final roster cuts are made. Here is my pre-training Camp 53-man roster projection:

Quarterbacks (3)

Andy Dalton

Jason Campbell

A.J. McCarron

Analysis: Just three QBs will be on the roster this year. Matt Scott might make it onto the practice squad. McCarron will sit and develop.

Potential Surprise: None

Running Backs (4)

Giovani Bernard

Jeremy Hill

Cedric Peerman

James Wilder Jr.

Analysis: The Bengals cut or trade BenJarvus Green-Ellis prior to the second wave of cuts, giving him time to get acclimated with a team during their final preseason week.

As for Rex Burkhead, he just barely misses out after the up and coming James Wilder Jr. has a great showing in the preseason, and the Bengals just can't let him go for another team to snatch up.

Potential Surprise: Burkhead vs. Wilder Jr. will come down to the wire into the final preseason game. Whoever gets waived will get signed to another team's 53-man roster.

Tight Ends (4) and Fullback (0)

Jermaine Gresham

Tyler Eifert

Alex Smith

Orson Charles

Analysis: The Bengals want to use a true fullback, but Nikita Whitock isn't ready quite yet. He gets placed on the practice squad, while the Bengals go with the same four TEs they had last year.

Potential Surprise: Whitlock manages to make the roster, costing either Smith or Charles their jobs.

Wide Receivers (6)

A.J. Green

Marvin Jones

Mohamed Sanu

Dane Sanzenbacher

James Wright

Cobi Hamilton

Analysis: Cobi Hamilton had a good preseason last year, and by all indications, did really good on the practice squad. He earns a spot on the roster as an added receiving target, whereas James Wright makes it strictly on his special teams impact.

Brandon Tate finally gets cut now that Adam Jones can play returner more.

Potential Surprise: Tate manages to make the roster, which really isn't a surprise anymore.

Offensive Line (8)

Mike Pollak (C/G)

Russell Bodine (C)

Kevin Zeitler (G)

Clint Boling (G)

Marshall Newhouse (G/T)

Andrew Whitworth (T/G)

Andre Smith (T)

Tanner Hawkinson (G/T)

Analysis: Versatility allows the Bengals to go with just 8 lineman and still have plenty of depth at every position. None of the guys who make it are really a surprise.

Potential Surprise: Undrafted free agent guard Trey Hopkins manages to make the roster. He turned some head with his performance in OTAs, but he'll have to keep that up playing full speed with the pads on now.

Defensive Ends (5)

Carlos Dunlap

Wallace Gilberry

Margus Hunt

Robert Geathers

Will Clarke

Analysis: Dunlap and Hunt open the year as the starters with Gilberry and Geathers being their primary backups. Clarke is a work in progress. Dontay Moch just barely misses out on making the roster, as the Bengals like Geathers more for the veteran leadership he provides.

Potential Surprise: Geathers is cut and either Moch or Sam Montgomery makes the roster.

Linebackers (5)

Vontaze Burfict

Emmanuel Lamur

Rey Maualuga

Vincent Rey

Sean Porter

Analysis: This is the hardest position to project. Jayson DiManche and JK Schaffer can't make the roster this year after making it last year. Marquise Flowers gets waived during final cuts and is signed to the 53-man roster. Having Taylor Mays to play both S and LB helps the Bengals keep just 5 true backers.

Potential Surprise: Flowers cracks the roster as a rookie, beating out last year's 4th-rounder in Sean Porter for his spot.

Defensive Tackles (4)

Geno Atkins

Domata Peko

Devon Still

Brandon Thompson

Analysis: Preferably, the Bengals would like to keep 5 DTs with Geno coming off a torn ACL, but there's no one worthy of a roster spot, leaving the Bengals with just four DTs.

Potential Surprise: The Bengals sign or trade for another guy who makes the roster. I can;t see Zach Minter, Larry Black or Christo Bilukidi making the roster.

Cornerback (6)

Leon Hall

Terence Newman

Adam Jones

Dre Kirkpatrick

Darqueze Dennard

Victor Hampton

Analysis: The top 5 are locked in. All that's left is to figure out if LaVelle Westbrooks, Chris Lewis-Harris or Victor Hampton are worthy of a sixth spot.

Ultimately, Hampton is able to make the 53-man roster, while Westbrooks is signed to the practice squad.

Potential Surprise: Onterio McCalebb makes the roster because of his return ability.

Safety (5)

Reggie Nelson

George Iloka

Shawn Williams

Daniel Manning

Taylor Mays

Analysis: Nelson and Iloka are the starters with Manning and Williams being the two primary backups. Mays gets seldom snaps here and at LB.

Potential Surprise: Undrafted free agent Isiah Lewis makes the roster and costs Mays' his spot.

Special Teams (3)

Mike Nugent

Kevin Huber

Clark Harris

Analysis: The Bengals special teams trio was solid last year, but Nugent is in a battle for Quinn Sharp for the kicking duties. Ultimately, I see Nugent retaining his role.

Potential Surprise: Sharp makes the roster and gives the Bengals a dual punter/kicker.