If you've read the comments on any of our articles lately, you've probably seen BALCO Blue Bombers making his case for the roster and practice squad. We're both obsessed with the roster, so we decided to put our heads together.
Quarterback (2): Andy Dalton, Jason Campbell
Brennen: AJ McCarron will head to either PUP or season-ending Injured Reserve. If he goes on PUP, that reduces Tyler Wilson's chances of landing on the practice squad.
Practice Squad Candidate: Tyler Wilson
Running Back (4): Giovani Bernard, Jeremy Hill, Cedric Peerman, and Rex Burkhead
Brennen: We argued a bit about the coaches possibly wanting to keep BenJarvus Green-Elllis. However, with the report from Jason LaCanfora that Green-Ellis has been cut, the top four running backs are now set. Rex Burkhead showed explosiveness and versatility until he got hit with a low blow from Calvin Pryor on August 16th. There was no official word on his injury, but Geoff Hobson speculated that it might be an MCL sprain, with a recovery time of about 6-8 weeks. That would put him on track to make his return in week 5 (October 5th against the Patriots). The Bengals usually keep one running back inactive anyway. They'll just have to roll with three running backs for three weeks.
Practice Squad Candidate: James Wilder Jr.
Wide Receiver (6): A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Dane Sanzenbacher, Brandon Tate, James Wright
Balco: If Wright gets healthy, I predict he will make the roster over Hamilton, who has been too inconsistent overall despite his good final preseason game. If Wright is not healthy, I have Hamilton as the 6th WR. Whoever loses this battle will make the PS.
Brennen: The Bengals have a lot of preseason tape on Cobi Hamilton. They know what they have - a physical talent who doesn't catch the ball cleanly. Wright has had two preseason injuries that have kept him from showing what he can do. He played well enough in camp and his limited snaps that I think they go with Wright due to his special teams value. Paul Dehner Jr. of the Enquirer also said "Hamilton is out, Wright will be the last WR in" today.
Practice Squad Candidate: Cobi Hamilton
Tight End (3): Jermaine Gresham, Tyler Eifert, Alex Smith
Brennen: Alex Smith is a solid blocking tight end and he plays on most of the special teams units.
H-Back/Fullback (1): Ryan Hewitt
Brennen: This guy is going to catch a few touchdown this year off play-cation.
Practice Squad Candiate: Orson Charles
Offensive Line (9): Andrew Whitworth, Clint Boling, Russell Bodine, Kevin Zeitler, Andre Smith, Marshall Newhouse, Mike Pollak, Trevor Robinson, Tanner Hawkinson
Balco: We both want Hawkinson to make it over Svitek. However, with Svitek getting plenty of first- and second-team reps at both LT and RT throughout training camp and preseason, not to mention he is one of those classic veterans that Marvin loves, Svitek might make it as the 4th and final OT. Plus, Hawkinson is PS-eligible under any circumstances. We won't carry both Svitek and Hawkinson, because 4 OT and 5 G/C is much more likely than 5 OT and just 4 G/C.
Because of Hopkins' injury and Robinson's effective play in preseason, we have Robinson beating out T.J. Johnson for the final OL spot. Plus, Johnson is eligible for the PS under any circumstances, while Robinson is PS-eligible only under the new special exemption which allows for a maximum of two players with two (but no more) accrued NFL seasons.
Brennen: Trey Hopkins' shin injury makes the back end hard to project. Hobson recently said that if Hopkins has a broken bone, he'll either go on season ending IR, or IR designated-to-return. I don't think they'll use the designated-to-return tag on a backup lineman. We are guessing Hopkins ends up on season-ending IR, and Trevor Robinson takes his spot as a backup interior lineman. TJ Johnson might get this spot instead. Hawkinson's versatility as a guard/tackle gives him the edge over Svitek.
Practice Squad Candidates: TJ Johnson
Injured Reserve: Trey Hopkins
Defensive End (5): Carlos Dunlap, Wallace Gilberry, Margus Hunt, Robert Geathers, Will Clarke
Brennen: This group has been set since the start of camp.
Balco: Dontay Moch has been too inconsistent.
Practice Squad Candidates: Dontay Moch, Sam Montgomery
Defensive Tackle (4): Geno Atkins, Domata Peko, Brandon Thompson, Devon Still
Balco: We think the team is more likely to go 9 OL and 9 DL than 8 OL and 10 DL. In the unlikely case they do keep 10 DL, we think the last guy will be Bilukidi, due to question marks throughout the DT group.
Brennen: Compared to Devon Still, Christo Bilukidi has certainly been the better football player this August. But, this is just a tough situation. I think Still has shown enough potential in the past two years to hang around as the 4th defensive tackle. Still and Bilukidi are both eligible for the practice squad under the new rules. It's a tossup. We went with Still.
Practice Squad Candidates: Christo Bilukidi, LaKendrick Ross
Linebacker (6): Vontaze Burfict, Rey Maualuga, Emmanuel Lamur, Vincent Rey, Jayson DiManche, Marquis Flowers
Balco: With Porter's hamstring injury paired with DiManche's and Flowers' effective play, we have Porter headed to the PS.
Brennen: Tough break for Porter. Hamstring injury didn't look good.
Practice Squad Candidates: Sean Porter, Brandon Joiner
Cornerback (5): Leon Hall, Terence Newman, Adam Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick, Darqueze Dennard
Balco: With Stanford cut, Lewis-Harris suspended (though he is still PS-eligible), and McCalebb and Hampton not NFL-caliber yet, we predict that the team will not keep a 6th CB. It's better to keep an extra LB or S instead.
Brennen: The bigger question is, will someone get cut when Lewis-Harris comes off suspension in week 3? Lewis-Harris definitely makes the practice squad until then.
Practice Squad Candidates: Chris-Lewis Harris, Onterio McCalebb
Safety: (4): Reggie Nelson, George Iloka, Danieal Manning, Shawn Williams
Brennen: Manning's pick six ensured that he wasn't going anywhere. Williams has emerged as one of the better special teams players on the team.
Safety/Linebacker hybrid (1): Taylor Mays
Balco: Hewitt and Mays are true hybrids and thus have their own positions. Listing Mays at S is inaccurate, because he has actually gotten more time as a nickel LB than as a S.
Brennen: Mays bounced back from a bad game against the Jets and played better in games three and four. He has versatility and plays well on special teams. Exactly what you are looking for on the back end of the roster.
Practice Squad (8): RB James Wilder Jr., G/C T.J. Johnson, QB Tyler Wilson, WR Cobi Hamilton, DT LaKendrick Ross, DE Sam Montgomery, LB Sean Porter, CB Chris Lewis-Harris
New Practice Squad Eligible Selections (2): DT Christo Bilukidi, TE Orson Charles
Balco: We've decided to use the two special exemptions on Orson Charles and Christo Bilukidi. Charles seems to be somewhat of a Hue Jackson pet project, and it's a good idea to keep Charles around considering Gresham and Alex Smith might not be Bengals after 2014.
And the DT group has question marks all over, with Atkins recovering from injury, Peko somewhat declining, Still and Thompson's inconsistency, and Still's unfortunate real-life family situation. We will likely keep several defensive lineman on the practice squad. Sam Montgomery has had a surprisingly strong preseason. With Charles and Bilukidi already in, Moch is no longer PS-eligible in our projection. DT David King has had a quietly productive preseason, but not as good as Montgomery's. Nose tackle LaKendrick Ross has physical upside, but the coaches have given him very little playing time.
Wilder, Johnson, Porter, and Lewis-Harris are obvious choices. The Bengals have always kept a QB on the PS since 2011, the first year that the NFL got rid of the special rule allowing a third QB on the active 46-man roster. Thus, we predict Tyler Wilson will claim a PS spot, preventing the team from keeping a second cornerback on the PS.
If they decide to not keep a QB, then we predict the open spot to go to Onterio McCalebb. Due to his return ability and physical upside, he would beat out Victor Hampton. But looking at past history, the team usually keeps just one CB on the PS. And in 2010 and 2012, they didn't even keep any CB on the PS.
*Only about 20 out of 704 players get claimed in the entire NFL each year during cut-to-53 day, less than 3%, so there's little worry about anyone being claimed. Our PS prediction is assuming that no one will get claimed.*
Brennen: It really is a tough choice between Bilukidi, Charles, and Dontay Moch for the two new practice squad spots. I love LaKendrick Ross's potential as a double-team-devouring, run-stopping weapon, so I have included him on the practice squad. Perhaps if Ross makes the practice squad, the team could move on from Bilukidi and take Moch instead.
Of all the practice squad candidates, I think James Wilder Jr. is the most likely to be claimed by another team. TJ Johnson is essentially the team's tenth offensive lineman. Tyler Wilson looked much better once he learned the playbook. Montgomery has flashed ability as a playmaker and plays with a lot of energy and passion.
Sean Porter is an obvious pick. Once Chris-Lewis Harris' suspension is over and he possibly gets promoted to the 53-man roster, Onterio McCalebb could take his spot on the practice squad.
Of course, the Bengals may claim some players on waivers and some these practice squad candidates may get claimed, which would blow up our logic for a few of these picks. Until then, feel free to debate in the comments below.