The Bengals didn't have a great game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers - that's putting it lightly. Luckily, it's the preseason and we have the luxury of taking losses lightly right now. The important part is that the team got some valuable warm up experience and study material in the film room.
That said, cuts are coming, and some people are going to have to fall prey to this most awkward time of the year. Josh Johnson, Kalifonti Pole, and Erick Dargan have already felt the icy sting of cut day as the team whittled the roster down to 87, but plenty of position battles are still ongoing. Here's a look at the depth at the defensive back positions heading into the third preseason game.
Projected depth chart: 1) Dre Kirkpatrick 2) Adam Jones 3) Darqueze Dennard 4) Leon Hall 5) Brandon Ghee 6) Josh Shaw
Projected cuts: Chris Lewis-Harris
Practice squad: Troy Hill
Josh Shaw and Troy Hill performed very well against the Giants, combining for 10 tackles, three deflected passes, and some very impressive coverage. Both also performed moderately well against Tampa Bay, accounting for eight tackles and a quarterback hit. Unfortunately, there's probably only room for one of them on the roster. Dre Kirkpatrick has been noted as having a very impressive camp, displaying a bit of good coverage against the Giants and Bucs during his short period of play. Aside from him, Adam Jones, Darqueze Dennard, and Leon Hall are virtual locks to not just make the team but also round out all four major cornerback positions.
The final two spots are currently being fought over by veterans Brandon Ghee and Chris Lewis-Harris, fourth round draft pick Josh Shaw, and undrafted rookie Troy Hill. Ghee proved to be a reliable substitute for injured players last season, and spent time with the Bengals previously from 2010-2013. Shaw has the versatility and size that the Bengals' coaching staff really values, and his fourth round status, despite severe character concerns leading up to the draft, show the Bengals' staff see something special in him. Lewis-Harris simply doesn't show as many physical or mental strengths to edge out Ghee's experience and Shaw's versatility, and Hill is still pretty rough around the edges. The nice thing for Hill is, he's eligible for the practice squad and has turned a few heads so far, so he might stick around in some aspect.
Projected depth chart: 1) Reggie Nelson 2) George Iloka 3) Shawn Williams 4) Derron Smith
Projected cuts: Shiloh Keo, Floyd Raven Sr.
This is one of the few positions in which I am not projecting the Bengals' coaching staff to pick experience over potential talent. Yes, Shiloh Keo has had starting experience before with the Houston Texans, but that wasn't enough by itself for Danieal Manning to make the final roster last year. To be fair, experienced veterans Reggie Nelson and George Iloka will be the first names on this part of the depth chart, but that has more to do with the fact that they're both very talented and adept starters already.
Shawn Williams was drafted by the Bengals last year in the third round, and has displayed a knack for being the kind of hard-hitting player who would thrive in the AFC North. You've got to like his chances to stick on the roster based on that alone. Derron Smith? He performed well in training camp, had a few tackles against the Giants and Bucs, and was widely considered a draft steal by the Bengals in the sixth round of the 2015 draft. He's an exciting prospect that has been putting forth enough tape and evidence to give him a significant edge for the final spot on this part of the depth chart. Not to disregard Floyd Raven Sr, but he just hasn't impressed enough to have much of an argument to make the team or the practice squad. Keo will likely be one of the last names cut, but he will probably be cut none the less.