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Bengals' toughest 53-man roster decisions on offense

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We examine which offensive roster decisions will be the toughest for the Bengals to make this year.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It seems like the Bengals typically have some of the best roster battles of any NFL team.

When you have as much depth as they do, that should be the case, and this year will be no different. Our own Josh Kirkendall recently did a 53-man roster prediction for the Bengals. For the most part, I agree with his projections, so I'm basing this article off them.

Here's a look at the four offensive players who figure to be right on the edge of the 53-man roster and whether or not they'll make it onto the roster or practice squad.

Denarius Moore

Entering this offseason, the Bengals desperately needed to find another pass-catcher to complement A.J. Green. The best they could come up with was Denarius Moore, who offensive coordinator Hue Jackson coached in Oakland for one year (2011).

Talent wise, I do think Moore is the third-best receiver on the roster. The problem is injuries and work ethic concerns have led to Moore falling off a cliff in production over the past two years. Moore registered 136 catches for 1,872 yards and 16 scores over his first 36 games. However, he has just 26 catches for 297 yards and one score over his past 15 games in addition to being inactive for the final six games of 2014.

If he brings his A-game, he'll make the final 53-man roster. Health and motivation are the key to him making it though. The Bengals need help at receiver, and Moore has the ability to give them that.

Prediction: Makes the cut

James Wilder Jr.

There was a time when James Wilder Jr. was one of the more talented running backs in college football. However, injuries and off-the-field concerns led to Wilder falling down the depth chart and ultimately going undrafted in 2014.

Cincinnati signed Wilder as a college free agent following the 2014 NFL draft. He spent the entire season on the Bengals practice squad before re-joining them on the 90-man offseason roster. Cody Tewmey and I were high on Wilder as an NFL prospect because of runs like this:


Wilder has since began taking reps at fullback in hopes of cracking the final roster as something more than 'just' an RB. With Rex Burkhead, Cedric Peerman, Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill in Cincinnati, there's little chance Wilder makes the 53-man roster as a RB without someone ahead of him getting injured.

Still, I think he'll make a strong push for a roster spot, if not, a spot on the practice squad. He's got the talent to do so. Like Moore, Wilder keeping his head on straight and staying healthy will be key.

Prediction: Signed to practice squad

Tanner Hawkinson

A fifth-round pick out of Kansas in 2013, Tanner Hawkinson has quietly made the final 53-man roster in each of the past two offseasons. In college, Hawkinson notched 48 consecutive starts across the offensive line (primarily at tackle), and finished his college career as the KU record-holder for games started, as well as consecutive games started.

In Cincinnati, Hawkinson got a lot of run with the starters during OTAs in 2013 when Andrew Whitworth underwent knee surgery and Andre Smith sat out with 'personal' issues. He drew good reviews from the coaches, and it helped springboard him onto the final roster. He ended up making it again in 2014, but has been active for just four career games, making him eligible for the practice squad.

Now in his third year with the team, Hawkinson will once again be in a dogfight for a roster spot, especially after Jake Fisher and Cedric Ogbuehi were drafted in addition to Trey Hopkins being healthy. Hopkins probably would have made the 53-man roster over Hawkinson last year, but a knee injury sent Hopkins to Injured Reserve in the preseason.

Hawkinson's versatility and ability to play all five o-line spots raise his value, but it's not enough to overcome Eric Winston and T.J. Johnson for the final OL spots.

Prediction: Signed to practice squad

C.J. Uzomah

With the 157th pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the Bengals selected Auburn tight end C.J. Uzomah. It was a bit of an odd pick, as not many foresaw Uzomah being drafted this year, and he was also the second TE Cincinnati drafted after selecting Tyler Kroft in Round 3.

Uzomah was primarily a blocking tight end in Auburn's offense, but did catch six touchdowns during the past two seasons. In 2014, he caught 11 passes for 145 yards (13.2 avg.) and three scores. This came after a junior campaign in which he caught 11 balls for 154 yards (14.0 avg.) and three scores.

It initially looked like Uzomah was drafted to be a developmental TE on the practice squad. However, he lit it up in OTAs to the point where he now looks like he'll have a good shot at making the final roster.

Still, don't be surprised if the Bengals opt to bring in a veteran TE before the regular season opens to push Uzomah for his spot. Second-year TE Jake Murphy has also impressed in OTAs, and it may come down to he and Uzomah for that final TE spot.

Prediction: Makes the cut

Other Players on the Bubble

WR Mario Alford

OG/C T.J. Johnson

WR Brandon Tate

OG Dan France