Training camp kicks off today and in just a few weeks the Bengals will need to cut their roster down to 75 men and then 53. Heading into camp, the Bengals only have 87 men on the roster and could add three additional players at any point over the next few weeks. Before training camp begins and we see the players get to work, here’s our 53-man roster projection.
Quarterbacks (2): Andy Dalton, AJ McCarron.
Nothing to see here, there is no quarterback battle. Andy Dalton is the starter, AJ McCarron is the backup and Keith Wenning and Joe Licata will fight for a spot on the practice squad.
Cut: Keith Wenning, Joe Licata
Running backs (4): Jeremy Hill, Giovani Bernard, Rex Burkhead, Cedric Peerman.
This is another position where the players who will make the roster are pretty much set. The only way an undrafted rookie breaks into the position group is if there’s an injury during camp. It’s likely either Tra Carson or Bronson Hill make the practice squad.
Cut: Tra Carson, Bronson Hill
Wide receivers (7): A.J. Green, Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd, Jake Kumerow, Brandon Tate, Mario Alford, Cody Core
This will be the position to watch over the next four weeks as 13 players battle it out for six or seven roster spots. I’d call A.J. Green, Brandon LaFell and Tyler Boyd locks while Cody Core, Jake Kumerow, Brandon Tate and Mario Alford are my four pre-training camp picks to make the backend of the roster. I would have considered James Wright more strongly, but since he’s starting training camp on the PUP list, he is at a disadvantage as the young receivers need every rep possible this summer. I’m not sure the Bengals will actually take seven players here, it will more likely be six, but I’m going seven for now. I’d strongly consider Rashaun Simonise for the practice squad.
Cut: James Wright, Alonzo Russell, Antwane Grant, Alex Erickson, Michael Bennett, Rashaun Simonise
Tight ends (4): Tyler Eifert, Tyler Kroft, C.J. Uzomah, Ryan Hewitt (H-back)
Matt Lengel and John Peters would need to prove a lot to unseat any of last year’s tight ends, and they’ve done nothing to make me think they can do that. The Bengals will role with last year’s group again in 2016, even with Eifert potentially sidelined to start the year.
Cut: Matt Lengel, John Peters, Andrew Bonnet (H-back)
Offensive linemen (9): Andrew Whitworth, Cedric Ogbuehi, Eric Winston, Jake Fisher, Clint Boling, Kevin Zeitler, Russell Bodine, T.J. Johnson, Christian Westerman
I’d be surprised if this wasn’t the group the Bengals chose on the 53-man roster. All of last year’s starters are safe, their two 2015 draft picks are safe and their 2016 draft pick is safe, that accounts for seven players with room for two more, assuming the Bengals have nine offensive lineman on the 53-man roster. Last year, the Bengals had eight offensive lineman to start the season but once Cedric Ogbuehi joined the roster after coming off the NFI list, they kept nine. It’s possible Trey Hopkins or an undrafted rookie pushes for Eric Winston’s role, but I think the Bengals will stick with his veteran leadership and experience.
Cut: Alex Cooper, Alex Redmond, Trey Hopkins, Trip Thurman, John Weidenaar, Aaron Epps
Defensive linemen (9): Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson, Margus Hunt, Will Clarke, Geno Atkins, Domata Peko, Andrew Billings, Pat Sims, Marcus Hardison
Geno Atkins, Andrew Billings and Domata Peko are locks to make the roster. 2015 fourth round draft pick Marcus Hardison didn’t play at all last season, but, when do the Bengals cut second year players they spent a fourth round pick on? With that being considered, I think he’s very safe as his potential is sky high. I really want to say DeShawn Williams will make the roster, but I’m not yet convinced the Bengals will be able to find room to keep him. His only hope is if he’s able to push Pat Sims out and prove that his youth is more beneficial to the Bengals than Sims’ experience. If Sims beats out Williams I’d say there’s a good chance another team swoops in and signs him. After what we saw last year in the preseason, if the Bengals attempt to get him to the practice squad, I just don’t think it will happen. Sims vs Williams will be a battle to keep an eye on.
At defensive end, the depth is much less impressive. Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson are the obvious starters, but what happens if they get hurt? Margus Hunt and Will Clarke are the next in line and they’ve done nothing to prove they really deserve their places on the Bengals’ roster. Still, I expect them both to be in Cincinnati this year.
Brandon Thompson tore his ACL in Week 17 of the 2015 season and is starting the offseason on the PUP list. I expect the Bengals will keep him there to start the regular season and thus he won’t count on the 53-man roster until at least Week 7. At that point, the Bengals could add him to the roster or keep him on the PUP list, depending on how he’s doing and the health of the position group.
PUP: Brandon Thompson
Cut: DeShawn Williams, David Dean, Ryan Brown, Jack Gangwish
Linebackers (6): Vincent Rey, Rey Maualuga, Karlos Dansby, Nick Vigil, Marquis Flowers, P.J. Dawson
Vontaze Burfict is suspended for the first three weeks of the season and will be added to the 53-man roster on Monday of Week 4. It’s likely a linebacker will be cut once he’s added to the roster, though, the Bengals could drop a player from another position instead.
As for the linebackers who will start the season on the roster, Vinny Rey, Rey Maualuga, Karlos Dansby, Nick Vigil and P.J. Dawson are locks. Marquis Flowers will battle the rest of the depth at the position for the final spot, but I think it’s his to lose. This will be another good roster battle for the final spot while Burfict is out.
Suspended: Vontaze Burfict
Cut: Jayson DiManche, Darien Harris, Trevor Roach, Jeff Luc
Defensive backs (9): Adam Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick, Darqueze Dennard, William Jackson III, Josh Shaw, George Iloka, Shawn Williams, Derron Smith, Clayton Fejedelem
Is this the year Chris Lewis-Harris gets cut? I’m going to say yes. The Bengals have too many other young players with high potential and serious talent. The Bengals haven’t cut a rookie draft pick in three years so I’m not ready to say Clayton Fejedelem is going to get cut at safety. Plus, are any of their options behind him really better? Floyd Raven spent last year on the practice squad, save for the Wild Card game, during which he was active. He does have a year of experience, but he could also spend another year on the practice squad. I feel pretty solid about this group both in terms of these being the names on the 53-man roster and in terms of their ability to excel in 2016.
Cut: Chris Lewis-Harris, Chykie Brown, Darius Hillary, Floyd Raven, Jimmy Wilson
Specialists (3): Mike Nugent, Clark Harris, Kevin Huber.
It’s nearly impossible to see this group changing. The gang will be back together on special teams in 2016.
Cut: Zach Hocker