With the start of training camp now two weeks away, it's time for another stab at what the Bengals' final 53-man roster will look like in 2015.
QUARTERBACK (2): Andy Dalton, AJ McCarron
No surprises here. The only question is if Keith Wenning makes the practice squad as a developmental QB. He's not making the final roster barring Andy Dalton getting injured in the preseason.
As long as AJ McCarron keeps impressing the coaching staff like he did in OTAs, he'll continue to lead for the backup job behind Andy Dalton. If McCarron falters, however, Josh Johnson is right behind him ready to make a push for the backup spot. He's already got one season of backing up Dalton under his belt (2013), so it wouldn't be a big surprise to see him do it again in 2015.
RUNNING BACK/H-BACK (5): Jeremy Hill, Giovani Bernard, Cedric Peerman, Rex Burkhead, Ryan Hewitt (H-back)
There's a lot of competition here for the final two spots between Peerman, Burkhead, James Wilder Jr. and even Terrell Watson. In the end, the Bengals stick with the familiarity they have with Peerman and Burkhead while also getting Wilder and Watson on the practice squad. One of those two could be replacing Peerman soon, who's signed through 2016, but doesn't have enough money committed to him that he needs to remain on the team in the future.
WIDE RECEIVER (6): A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Brandon Tate, James Wright, Denarius Moore
The final spots at receiver come down to James Wright, Brandon Tate, Denarius Moore, seventh-round pick Mario Alford and former sixth-round pick Cobi Hamilton. Moore is at a slight disadvantage because he's yet to show he can be a solid contributor on special teams, which is what a 4th/5th receiver needs to do. However, he's good enough to make an impact on offense, which earns him a spot on the final roster.
Wright and Tate manage to grab spots due to their impact on special teams while also knowing the offense in case they need to play there. Alford may have promise as a returner, but not knowing the offense as well leads to him being sent to the practice squad to open the year.
TIGHT END (3): Tyler Eifert, Tyler Kroft, C.J. Uzomah
The only question here is if Jake Murphy is able to make it as a fourth tight end. He made a good impression in OTAs, and with Tyler Kroft and C.J. Uzomah both being rookies, Murphy could very well end up the No. 2 tight end to open the year.
In the end, Kroft and Uzomah should do enough to outshine Murphy in camp and win the top two spots. Murphy will get sent to the practice squad, but he's bound to get called up this year, so long as Cincinnati doesn't sign another tight end.
OFFENSIVE LINEMAN (8):
Tackle (4)*: Andrew Whitworth, Andre Smith, Jake Fisher, Eric Winston
Guard (2): Kevin Zeitler, Clint Boling
Center (2): Russell Bodine, T.J. Johnson*
As crowded as the offensive line is, figuring out who makes it is actually pretty easy. Eric Winston was brought back as insurance behind Andre Smith and Andrew Whitworth while also helping mentor rookies Jake Fisher and Cedric Ogbuehi.
With Ogbuehi opening the year on PUP, that's one less spot they have to worry about and it helps Winston keep his spot. That leaves Trey Hopkins, T.J. Johnson, Tanner Hawkinson and Chris Jasperse fighting for the final interior lineman spots. Johnson's ability to play both guard and center helps him get the final spot while Hopkins, Hawkinson and Jasperse are signed to the practice squad. Having Ogbuehi late in the year and Whit able to play guard also helps lead to Cincinnati keeping just two guards.
*Cedric Ogbuehi opens the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list and doesn't count toward the 53-man roster for first six games. Once he's brought up, Johnson is waived to make room.
DEFENSIVE LINE (9)
Defensive End: Michael Johnson, Carlos Dunlap, Wallace Gilberry, Will Clarke
Defensive Tackle: Geno Atkins, Domata Peko, Brandon Thompson, Pat Sims, Marcus Hardison
The Bengals will be able to keep just four defensive ends because of Marcus Hardison doubling as a tackle and end. Margus Hunt will likely be waived during final roster cuts after failing to show anything in his first two seasons outside of a few nice preseason performances (Dontay Moch 2.0).
At tackle, the final spots come down to Pat Sims, Devon Still and Kwame Geathers, which Sims should win fairly easily. Sam Montgomery is the only defensive lineman signed to the practice squad.
LINEBACKER (7)*: Rey Maualuga, Emmanuel Lamur, A.J. Hawk, P.J. Dawson, Vincent Rey, Marquise Flowers, *Nico Johnson
With Burfict opening the year on PUP, the Bengals should look to keep seven backers. Lamur and Maualuga combining to miss 25 games over the past two years also helps lead to keeping that many on the roster.
Nico Johnson played well in limited snaps last year after being signed from the Chiefs practice squad. He earns one of the final spots on the 53-man roster because of his impact on defense and special teams as well.
*Vontaze Burfict opens season on PUP and doesn't count toward the 53-man roster for first six games. Once Burfict is called up, Johnson is waived and signed to the practice squad.
DEFENSIVE BACKS (10)
Cornerbacks: Leon Hall, Adam Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick, Darqueze Dennard, Josh Shaw, Chris Lewis-Harris
Safety: Reggie Nelson, George Iloka, Shawn Williams, Derron Smith
This is the hardest group to project with so many quality players fighting for roster spots. At cornerback, the top five spots are locked in though, including fourth-round pick Josh Shaw as the No. 5 corner. That leaves Chris Lewis-Harris, Troy Hill and Brandon Ghee to duke it out for the final corner spot, which CLH should win and leave Hill to go to the practice squad.
Shawn Williams likely won't do enough to hold on to the No. 3 safety spot behind Reggie Nelson and George Iloka. That leaves sixth-round pick Derron Smith to battle Erick Dargan and Shiloh Keo for the final safety spot, which we can look to see Smith win with Dargan going to the practice squad.
SPECIAL TEAMS (3)
Placekicker: Mike Nugent
Punter: Kevin Huber
Long-snapper: Clark Harris
No real competition here. The only question is if undrafted free agent kicker Tom Obarski makes the practice squad to give the Bengals a little security if Mike Nugent gets hurt.
PUP (Doesn't count against 53-man roster)