For all of my bubble watch articles, I am not covering those who are guaranteed locks, nor those who have no realistic shot at the roster. I'm covering those who are not guaranteed but most likely in, those who are on the bubble, and even those who are off the bubble but still have a faintly realistic chance.
Then I predict who I think the coaches and front office will decide to keep, and then I allow you to choose which one you personally want. I don't include the guys with virtually no chance (those who are way off the bubble) because it'd make the poll too long, plus it goes without saying that it wouldn't be a good choice anyway.
We will carry 3 QB, 4 FB/TE, 4 halfbacks, 9 DL, 16 combined LB and DB (7 and 9, or 6 and 10), and 3 specialists on the roster. That adds to 39. If McCarron ends up remaining on PUP to start the year, then that leaves 15 spots left and we'll keep 6 WR and 9 OL, case closed. But if it doesn't happen, there are only 14 spots left.
Initially, I thought we'd keep 6 WR and 8 OL. Jason Marcum and Patrick Lyons agreed with me on this. I was looking at the back-end WR depth of Tate, Sanzenbacher, Whalen, Wright, Hamilton, and others, and thinking that we have to carry 3 more WR besides Green, Jones, and Sanu. Unlike OL, the extra WR can play special teams. Plus, I was looking at the versatility of our backup OL locks. Pollak plays C and G, Newhouse plays T and G, and Hawkinson plays T and G. So I thought 8 OL would make total sense.
However, there is now an increasing chance we may go with 5 WR and 9 OL. Coley Harvey believes we will do this, as do jdpeterson34 and messjunk in the comments.
First, we'll be running the ball more, so it might not be so bad to carry just 5 true WR.
Second, Gresham, Eifert, and Gio will moonlight at WR at times, whether outside or in the slot. So we'd probably be okay in terms of depth at WR.
Third, our offensive line has had injury problems, such that for a while, Zeitler and Bodine were the only projected opening-day starters playing on the actual starting O-line in camp, with Newhouse, Svitek, and Hopkins rounding out the rest of the first-string OL. Yesterday, Boling and Whitworth returned, and Hopkins and Newhouse were demoted, so this may be getting better.
Fourth, Bodine has struggled mightily, with at least 5 bad snaps over the QB's head. And that doesn't count other bad snaps that Dalton did a good job of bobbling and securing.
So there you have it: if McCarron goes off PUP, should we carry a 9th OL, or a 6th WR?
Our projected starting OL is Whitworth, Boling, Bodine, Zeitler, and Smith. Those are locks, of course. There are 3 more locks. Our two backup tackles are Newhouse and Hawkinson, and they provide guard depth as well. Pollak is also a lock, and he provides depth at G and C. Dan France and Chandler Burden are longshots even for the practice squad. Some may have doubts about Hawkinson, but he's realistically in.
Trevor Robinson was a UDFA from Notre Dame in 2012. He never played C in college, only G. But we converted him to center. According to PFF, he had a solid 2012, starting seven games at C, and then a poor 2013. Robinson offers versatility and has played guard at the pro level too. Some people thought he might be Kyle Cook's successor, until we drafted Bodine. Robinson is 6'5", 300 pounds with a 5.23 40 time.
He has been our second-string C in camp behind Bodine. Some have called for Robinson to get more reps, with Bodine not doing well. It might make the most sense to carry Robinson as the 9th OL. Brennen Warner has this to say about Mr. 4th-Round Workout Warrior:
We do know that the Bengals are determined to plant rookie 4th rounder Russell Bodine into the starting lineup. He didn't look very impressive on tape at UNC and he has had more than five bad snaps at camp, usually high above Dalton's head. This is unacceptable. He must show improvement in the preseason. If not, Mike Pollak or Trevor Robinson need to be given a proper shot at the starting center job.
Trey Hopkins was a UDFA from Texas in 2014. He probably should have been drafted; he was a first-team All-Big-12 selection in 2012. He was a guard/tackle hybrid in college, playing dozens of games at both LG and RT. With the injuries ahead of him, he has been moved up to first-string LG in camp. Again, Boling is back, so Hopkins has been demoted. He is 6'4", 310 pounds with a 5.26 40 time.
Will Svitek again at RT, Zeitler at RG, Bodine at C, Trey Hopkins at LG, Marshall Newhouse at LT— Brennen Warner (@JustBeWarned) August 2, 2014
Brennen has this to say about Hopkins:
Undrafted rookie Trey Hopkins has even gotten reps with the first team at left guard and has looked fairly strong.
Geoff Hobson has this to say about Hopkins:
Trey Hopkins of Texas, one of the four or so undrafted rookies that have a shot at making the roster, took his turn at starting left guard with the No.1 s Thursday and continued to flash a nice brand of athleticism.
Will Svitek was signed as a free agent in June. He was a 6th-round pick in 2005 out of Stanford, and has played for 3 other teams. He has experience, with 74 games and 18 career starts. But he is 32 years old, and probably past his prime. He's been our first-string RT in camp, with Smith out. He is 6'6", 305 pounds with an impressive 4.95 40 time.
Svitek has been pretty bad so far. On Saturday, I watched him get beaten like a drum, particularly on inside moves.
Brennen had this to say about Svitek:
Will Svitek has taken Smith's vacated reps at right tackle and has looked like a rookie.
T.J. Johnson was a 7th-round pick in 2013 out of South Carolina. He was second-team All-SEC. He spent last year on the practice squad.
Last year, he was just a pure center. But now, he is a hybrid for us, offering versatility at the pro level. He plays mainly at G, though. He is our fourth-string C behind Bodine, Robinson, and Pollak. He is also our second-string RG behind Zeitler. He mixed it up with Cobi Hamilton:
Johnson doesn't have too much of a chance, but at least he is realistically competing for a roster spot, unlike France and Burden.
I'd say that if the top 8 locks can get back to general health, then our coaching staff and front office will decide to carry just 8 OL, and keep 6 WR, because the extra WR can contribute on special teams. They will roll with Bodine and Pollak at C.
But if they cannot, and if injuries continue to be a problem, then I predict they will keep a 9th OL and only 5 WR. If Pollak continues to be one of the injured, then they will keep Trevor Robinson, because it would be a bad idea to enter the season with Bodine at C with no backup. If Pollak gets better and we still want to keep 9 OL, then there is a chance for Hopkins. I think T.J. Johnson will go to the practice squad, and Hopkins will too if he can't make the roster.
Our previous poll indicated that we want to keep Sanzenbacher, Wright, and Hamilton at WR, and designating Sanzenbacher as our KR. Therefore, I'll add in Wright and Hamilton in this poll as the options to be potentially cut.
I understand that there is a chance that McCarron may be on PUP to start the year. But if he isn't, I'm interested to see what Cincy Jungle values more- a 9th OL or a 6th WR. And McCarron will come off at some point, so this decision would have to be made eventually.