The preseason is finally over. Just like the end of the NFL draft season means no more mock drafts, the end of the preseason means no more 53-man roster guessing.
We've seen four full games of the majority of the Bengals roster on the field, and once the coaches break down all of the tape, here's how I see the final roster turning out.
Analysis: Dalton has started every game since his rookie year, and there's no reason to keep a third QB so long as he's on the roster.
I still can't see Tyler Wilson making the team, but he does make it onto the practice squad.. AJ McCarron will start the year on PUP, and possibly see his season end in 6-8 weeks if/when he's placed on IR.
Potential Surprise: None
Running Backs (4)
BenJarvus Green-Ellis Analysis: Rex Burkhead's injury severity is still unknown, and if he's able to return to action within the next few weeks, I could see Cincinnati keeping him instead of Green-Ellis. As of now though, I think the Bengals waive him and sneak him onto the practice squad. Peerman has gotten the bulk of backup carries behind Hill and Bernard, and it looks like Cincinnati is sneaking James Wilder onto the practice squad after giving him virtually no touches in the first three games. Wilder's 11-carry, 49-yard performance against the Colts could lead a team to taking a risk on him if Cincinnati waives him. There's a lot of talent there and we saw a glimpse of it in the fourth preseason game. Potential Surprise: The Bengals cut or trade Green-Ellis to keep either Wilder or Burkhead.
The Bengals cut Green-Ellis, so that means Peerman, Burkhead and Wilder are vying for those final two spots. I'll go with Peerman an Burkhead.
Tight Ends (3) and Fullback (1)
Analysis: Hewitt has been the gem of the offseason. He gives the Bengals the H-back they've longed for Orson Charles to become. Hewitt is a better blocker, and he's been more of a factor in the passing game in four preseason games than it seems like Charles has been in his 2-year NFL career.
The third TE spot comes down to either Smith or Orson Charles. The Bengals love having either an extra blocking TE, and Smith is a superior blocker to that of Charles.
Potential Surprise: Charles beats Smith out for the third TE spot.
Wide Receivers (6)
Analysis: James Wright's knee injury in Week 3 ultimately cots him a roster spot, but Cincinnati is able to sneak him onto the practice squad.
That allows the enigma that is Cobi Hamilton to make the roster. his performance vs. the Colts was huge in terms of getting that spot, as Hamilton caught a 50-yard TD pass while also making tackles on special teams. The fact that he showed he can contribute on special teams
Brandon Tate makes the roster and splits time with Adam Jones as the punt returner. Tate also likely is the full-time kickoff returner.
Potential Surprise: Wright makes the roster over Hamilton, or as a seventh WR
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)
Will Svitek (T)
The final lineman spot comes down to Will Svitek ro Tanner Hawkinson. Because the team hopes neither of them has to play but would also like to keep both, they keep Svitek on the 53-man roster and sign Hawkinson to the practice squad.
Undrafted free agent guard Trey Hopkins would have made the roster if not for his Week 3 injury that will likely end his season, or at the very least, lead to him being waived and signed to the practice squad.
Potential Surprise: Hawkinson makes it over Svitek.
Defensive Ends (6)
Analysis: The on man who's seemed to get left at the alter every time during final cuts is Dontay Moch. He's been one of the Bengals' best preseason pass-rushers for three straight years now, for whatever that's worth. This year, he finally breaks through and helps provide depth along a talented but unproven line.
Will Clarke is likely in for a redshirt year. Margus Hunt is oozing talent, but does he hold up as a full-time starter?
Does Carlos Dunlap stay healthy for another full season after being injury-prone in his first three years?
Potential Surprise: Geathers is cut and/or Sam Montgomery makes the roster.
Analysis: The final two spots comes down to Sean Porter, Marquis Flowers and Jayson DiManche. Flowers and DiManche win out. Porter's hamstring injury suffered vs. the Colts was ultimately the final blow to his roster chances. He just can't stay healthy, but a year on the practice squad could help.
Potential Surprise: Porter makes it.
Defensive Tackles (4)
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.
Because Wallace Gilberry, Robert Geathers and even Margus Hunt will line up occasionally at DT, that essentially gives the Bengals 5-6 guys at DT.
Potential Surprise: Christo Bilukidi makes the roster.
Analysis: The top 5 are locked in. All that's left is to figure is if Victor Hampton is worthy of a sixth spot. Chris Lewis-Harris is suspended for the first 2 games, meaning he doesn't count against the roster.
Ultimately, Hampton is signed to the practice squad and the Bengals go with 5 CBs to start the season.
Potential Surprise: Hampton make the cut and the Bengals go with 6 CBs to start the season.
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: Manning is cut to carry an extra player at another position.
Special Teams (3)
Analysis: The Bengals special teams trio was solid last year, and they'll return many of the same faces in 2014. Nugent outlasted Quinn Sharp for the kicking job. Huber is the only punter on the roster.
Potential Surprise: None