With the end of training camp here, it's time for another stab at what the Bengals' final 53-man roster and practice squad 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 unless Andy Dalton gets hurt 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 Dalton. If McCarron falters though, Josh Johnson is right behind him ready to make a push for the backup spot.
Johnson has not looked good in camp or the preseason opener, but does already have one season of backing up Dalton (2013), so it wouldn't be a big surprise to see him do it again in 2015. Still, McCarron would have to play pretty poorly during the next two weeks to lose the backup spot.
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 Terrell Watson. In the end, the Bengals will most likely stick with the familiarity they have with Peerman and Burkhead while getting Watson on the practice squad.
Watson 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. Watson showed some nice promise in the first preseason game.
Wilder will likely end up getting claimed by another team when he's waived, or else he too could be on the practice squad.
WIDE RECEIVER (6): A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Brandon Tate, Mario Alford, Greg Little
The final spots at receiver come down to Brandon Tate, Denarius Moore, seventh-round pick Mario Alford, and Greg Little. 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/6th receiver needs to do. However, he's good enough to make an impact on offense, which should earn him a spot on the final roster.
Little and Tate should manage to grab spots due to their impact on special teams while also knowing the offense in case they need to play there. Little has had a good camp to this point and simply deserves a spot on the final roster, despite his history of coming up small in regular-season games. Alford may have promise as a returner and has been getting a lot of run at returner, but has also impressed as a pass-catcher.
TIGHT END (3): Tyler Eifert, Tyler Kroft, C.J. Uzomah
There's no real surprise here with Tyler Kroft and C.J. Uzomah being the lone backups behind Tyler Eifert. Those two rookies have done enough in camp to show they're capable backups behind Eifert, who had a great camp and could be in for a big year. Don't be surprised though if another tight end is added during final cuts from another team or if they sign one during the regular season.
OFFENSIVE LINEMAN (9):
Tackle (4)*: Andrew Whitworth, Andre Smith, Jake Fisher, Eric Winston
Guard (3): Kevin Zeitler, Clint Boling, Dan France*
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 should be returning 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 Dan France, Trey Hopkins, T.J. Johnson, Tanner Hawkinson and Chris Jasperse fighting for the final lineman spots.
Johnson's ability to play both guard and center should help him get the final spot, while France is likely to earn a spot based on his ability to play guard and tackle. Hopkins, Hawkinson Jasperse are signed to the practice squad.
*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, Dan France 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.
At tackle, the final spots come down to Pat Sims, Devon Still and Kwame Geathers, which Sims should win fairly easily. Sam Montgomery is likely the only defensive lineman who will be 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 possibly 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. His performance through camp and in the preseason opener helps him earn one of the final spots on the 53-man roster. Marquis Flowers should also make it because of his pass-coverage ability and ability to play special teams while also playing in every game as a rookie last year.
*Vontaze Burfict opens season on PUP and doesn't count toward the 53-man roster for first six games. Once Burfict is called up, Nico Johnson is waived and signed to the practice squad.
DEFENSIVE BACKS (9)
Cornerbacks: Leon Hall, Adam Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick, Darqueze Dennard, Josh Shaw
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 battle for the sixth corner spot if the Bengals keep that many. In this projection, I have Cincinnati keeping just five and sending Hill to the practice squad.
Shawn Williams has shown enough to hold onto the third 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 Smith should win, sending Dargan goes to the practice squad.
SPECIAL TEAMS (3)
Kicker: 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)