Although it's only the preseason, it's always nice to see the Bengals get a win, and even nicer to see the team scores 13 more points than the opposition. Although the only touchdowns scored on the night occurred in the first half, there was still plenty to take away from the players who were battling for spots on the roster. With the first wave of cuts still yet to have been made, and the final wave of cuts still weeks away, it's still pretty early to be making absolute predictions on the fate of various players competing for roster spots. But, we have a much clearer picture now after seeing the players in action, rather than merely guessing based on training camp performances.
Projected depth chart: 1) Andy Dalton 2) AJ McCarron
Practice squad: Keith Wenning
Let's go ahead and get this out of the way so we don't have to spend an entire section debating something that doesn't need to be debated: Andy Dalton is the starting quarterback in 2015. After a relatively solid training camp, Dalton came out and did everything right against the Giants. Although he only played for one drive, he completed all three of his passes for 31 yards and a touchdown. Also he reminded us that he's not afraid to scramble; going for 6 yards deep in Giants' territory. That was good for a Quarterback Rating of 149.3. Too bad that doesn't count toward his numbers during the season, but it is enough to encourage confidence from his teammates and the coaching staff.
Furthermore, let's just go ahead and assume that the Bengals will only be carrying two quarterbacks on the roster this season. They haven't kept three quarterbacks on the roster since 2010, when Carson Palmer, Jordan Palmer, and J.T. O'Sullivan all entered the season on the roster. Given that assumption, the job seems like McCarron's to lose, despite not playing against the Giants. Other than Dalton, McCarron is the only quarterback on the Bengals' roster to whom they have shown any legitimate interest (drafted in the 5th round in 2014). Hopefully McCarron can make his NFL debut and show the team what he brings to the table in Tampa.
Top 5 videos from Bengals training camp
George Iloka's big hit and Derron Smith's sick catch are just a few of the best highlights in Bengals training camp to this point.
The other quarterbacks on the roster? Josh Johnson displayed the same poor accuracy that he has through training camp (11/21 completions), and Keith Wenning just didn't give the Bengals any reason to think that he's worth more than a guy they drafted (2/5 completions, 11 yards, one INT). Don't be surprised to see the Bengals' find a place on the practice squad for Wenning, but it would be extremely surprising to see him oust McCarron for the roster spot.
Projected depth chart: 1) Jeremy Hill 2) Giovani Bernard 3) Rex Burkhead 4) Cedric Peerman
Projected cuts: James Wilder Jr.
Practice squad: Terrell Watson
Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard are safe, don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Rex Burkhead also seems to be safe, as Hue Jackson likes to use him on gadget plays and he possesses versatility by contributing as a receiver. Then, there's Cedric Peerman. Peerman provides a steady, reliable backup option should something happen to Hill or Bernard, and also provides a veteran special teams presence with a far more valuable set of skills for the final roster than Wilder or Watson.
Wilder and Watson both seem to possess the ability to run well enough, but don't have that secondary skill set that Burkhead or Peerman have, which make them valuable when final cuts come around at the end of preseason. Therefore, expect both Wilder and Watson to not make the final-53 man roster. However, the team is likely to want to carry a running back on the practice squad as an emergency fifth option in case injuries surface at some point in the season. There has been talk of Wilder being used at fullback, but Watson averaged 7.4 yards per carry against the Giants, compared to Wilder's 3.8. That's not necessarily a decisive factor, but it's a great accomplishment to have at the beginning of the preseason.
Projected depth chart: 1) Ryan Hewitt
Projected cuts: Mark Weisman
There's not really much debate to be had on this front. Ryan Hewitt was a diamond in the rough for the Bengals last year after not being drafted, providing a blocking presence for Jeremy Hill to put up an exciting rookie season and an alternative fallback option for Andy Dalton in the backfield when under pressure. Not to mention, Hewitt's blocking appeared to already be in mid-season form against the Giants. There's not any reason to think his job is in jeopardy.
Mark Weisman was brought in after the draft this year from Iowa to provide an extra look at fullback, and even got in a few good blocks against the Giants. Unfortunately, Weisman is likely to suffer from the Bengals not having enough room on the roster due to Hewitt's experience and reliability. The Bengals don't need a fullback on the practice squad, so don't expect to see much of Weisman for too much longer.
Projected depth chart: 1) A.J. Green 2) Marvin Jones 3) Mohamed Sanu 4) Brandon Tate 5) Greg Little 6) Mario Alford
Projected cuts: Denarius Moore, Onterio McCalebb, Tevin Reese, Desmond Lawrence, Michael Bennett
Practice squad: Jake Kumerow
A.J. Green will be the starting wide receiver.
Alright, now that we've got that shockingly bold prediction out of the way, let's talk about the rest of the roster. It could be argued that Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones are battling for the second receiver spot on the roster, the compliment to the aforementioned all-star receiver who is looking to return to the ranks of elite wide receivers in 2015. Here's the deal: Sanu has been unable to play consistently well during his tenure with the team and, aside from recurring injury problems, Marvin Jones hasn't. For all intents and purposes, that's enough of a reason to predict that Marvin Jones will be the primary compliment to Green and Mohamed Sanu will remain more of a gadget and change-of-pace player. That's not a knock on Sanu, just an analysis of his role on the team.
As far as the final three spots are concerned, things get much more foggy. Mario Alford has routinely impressed in training camp, and grabbed an impressive 23 yard catch against the Giants on Friday. Combined with his 21 yard kickoff return, and an 8 yard punt return, Alford's value to the team is undeniable. Seventh round picks are never guaranteed a roster spot, but Alford has put forth his argument to go ahead and be penciled in rather well. That leaves two roster spots that Brandon Tate, Greg Little, and Denarius Moore are likely to be fighting for. Bengals fans might groan at the mention of Little's name, but he has actually been impressing with his ability to get open and not drop balls. In addition, Tate provides an admittedly unexciting, but reliable option at fifth/sixth wide receiver and backup returner. Although Denarius Moore has not performed poorly so far, the Bengals typically favor experience with the team above most other things, leaving Moore the odd-man-out as far as receivers with a legitimate shot to make the roster are concerned.
Don't forget about the practice squad! Undrafted wide receiver, Jake Kumerow, was an early star in training camp, and managed to catch a short pass against the Giants. With Tevin Reese, Desmond Lawrence, and Onterio McCalebb being his competition for the practice squad, it's pretty much a no-brainer to keep the guy who has actually shown something worth watching.
Projected depth chart: 1) Tyler Eifert 2) Tyler Kroft 3) C.J. Uzomah
Projected cuts: Matt Lengel, John Peters
It would be incredibly surprising to see Tyler Eifert lose the starting tight end position to someone else on the roster, especially after having such an impressive training camp and two catches for 10+ yards against the Giants. It would also be pretty surprising to see the Bengals' two 2015 tight end draft picks not make the roster.
Kroft and Uzomah both impressed with timely blocks that resulted in a touchdown and a 26-yard run during the Bengals game. Although neither of them got much of a chance to showcase their receiving abilities, Uzomah did get a chance to dance around on the field for a bit after a reception, leading to a cool seven yards and proof that he has the ability to move. Matt Lengel and John Peters haven't had much of an opportunity to show the team they are worth keeping around. The two aren't likely to even make a legitimate bid for a practice squad spot.