A perennial playoff team doesn't need a large roster turnover in a given year. It's why the Cincinnati Bengals' 2015 final roster was largely predictable and has been over the past couple of seasons. In it, we see the coaching staff's penchant for keeping trusted veterans over some promising youngsters.
"Final roster" also has an interesting asterisk with it, as teams can scour the waiver wire for talent from rookies to veterans who could contribute immediately. The Bengals have added players at the last minute in recent history (Brandon Tate, anyone?), and with certain position groups looking a little thin, they might be combing through the available names.
Bengals roster cuts: Bengals 53-man roster 2015
The Bengals have cut down their roster to 53 players. Here they are. Expect this list to evolve during the next week heading up to the season opener in Oakland.
Regardless of the above-mentioned topics, the Bengals had a couple of surprises for their fans when the roster was revealed. Let's have a look at some of the names of both the departures and those who made the team and surprised us on Saturday.
Guys Who Made It:
Chris Lewis-Harris: When the team added Josh Shaw via the fourth round of the draft and with undrafted corner Troy Hill getting a lot of playing time (and using it well), Lewis-Harris seemed like he'd be the odd man out. But, as he has done during the past few years with the club, Lewis-Harris proved his worth and hung on to the roster. He especially did so with the final game of the preseason against the Colts, where he was one of the best players on the field.
If the team decides to pluck someone off of the waiver wire, Lewis-Harris might be one of the guys whose seat would be warm, but he can still contribute to the Bengals if he stays. He is a valued special teams guy and does all that is asked of him from the coaching staff. Still not convinced he should have made it over Hill? Take a look at this chart of comparable preseason stats from our own Josh Kirkendall:
Margus Hunt: It appears the experiment isn't over quite yet. With Michael Johnson still recovering from a training camp knee injury and the team looking for any viable options to help the deplorable pass rush from last season, Hunt hung on to the surprise of some, but probably not all fans. He had one sack in the preseason, but looked lost and/or to be giving less-than-full effort at times.
Like Lewis-Harris, Hunt's roster spot might be up in the air a little bit. On last week's Inside the Jungle Bengals podcast, Scott Bantel predicted Hunt to be shown the door once Vontaze Burfict comes off the PUP List. We'll see, but for now, he's here.
Shawn Williams: Marvin Lewis likes his safeties to be able run-stoppers. While Williams definitely is such, he is still learning the nuances of pass defense. In the preseason opener, Williams was trucked by a running back at the goal line to allow a touchdown, gave up a couple of completions and hurt his hand. He didn't do much else the rest of the preseason, either.
Still, most believed he was likely to make it. Here's where the surprise come in, though: the coaches like Shaw and Derron Smith a lot and kept both. The former has the versatility to play both corner and safety and add in that they kept Lewis-Harris, thus going deep at corner. Going with just three safeties is risky, but with Shaw's skill set, it might have made sense.
Who Didn't Make It:
Any True Backup Guards: Any longtime Bengals fan knows offensive line coach Paul Alexander covets versatility in his linemen. The preference is obvious in the offensive line group. Alexander is using backup tackles Jake Fisher and Eric Winston as swing guards to back up starters Clint Boling and Kevin Zeitler.
They apparently like Dan France on some level, as the team wants him back on the practice squad, but he just didn't please them enough to bring him up. Last year, the coaches fell in love with Trey Hopkins, but he suffered a season-ending injury. He didn't show the same progress this year, as he was also shown the door.
DeShawn Williams: Few Bengals defenders were as productive and active as Williams in the preseason, and some believed he outperformed other veterans who were kept at the position. To keep perspective, Williams was often going up against offensive linemen, some of whom are in the same employment predicament, but he was a guy fans hoped would latch on to the squad. He might sneak through waivers to the Practice Squad for development this year.
James Wilder, Jr.: He was so close this year and the coaching staff even attempted to add bulk to him for a fullback-like role. One school of thought is that Wilder is too up-and-down--he's either providing a couple of big plays or has continual minimal gains. The other notion lies in the team simply loving Cedric Peerman and what he brings to the team as a special teams ace and locker room glue stick.