The Cincinnati Bengals have wrapped up training camp this week, which means it’s time for a new projection of the opening day 53-man roster.
During the course of the next four weeks, the current 90-man roster will slowly be trimmed down to just 53 players on the 2017 Bengals roster. Those who don’t make it will look to either score a spot on the Bengals’ practice squad or find work elsewhere.
Here is our latest projection on what the Bengals 53-man roster will look like in Week 1:
Andy Dalton, AJ McCarron
This remains the easiest position on the roster to project with the top two guys having their spots locked up. Depending on how well he does in the preseason, third-stringer Jeff Driskel could make the roster as a developmental quarterback, especially with AJ McCarron having his contract expire next year (pending arbitration, as he could be a restricted free agent).
Most likely, Driskel sneaks onto the practice squad if another team doesn’t claim him off waivers.
Cut: Jeff Driskel
RUNNING BACK/H-BACK (5)
Jeremy Hill, Giovani Bernard, Cedric Peerman, Joe Mixon, Ryan Hewitt (h-back)
Coming into camp, there was almost no hope here for anyone outside the top five guys earning roster spots. However, Cedric Peerman has been on the NFI list and hasn’t practiced, which has allowed guys like Tra Carson and Boom Williams to push the veteran for his roster spot.
Even so, Peerman is a quality, experienced backup who makes a big impact on special teams. The Bengals will stick with that familiarity.
Cut: Tra Carson, Boom Williams, Jarveon Williams, Darrin Laufasa
WIDE RECEIVER (7)
A.J. Green, John Ross, Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd, Cody Core, Josh Malone, Alex Erickson
The Bengals made it clear they want to keep seven receivers, which is good news for the fringe guys like Alex Erickson and Cody Core. Core has been having a great camp though and is nearly a lock at the position.
Fourth-round rookie Josh Malone was likely locked into his spot by default, but a great showing in camp made it no doubt he’s making the team. At least one of the guys cut here should land on the practice squad.
Cut: Chris Brown, Kermit Whitfield, Karel Hamilton, Alonzo Russell
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. However, Uzomah is dealing with an ankle sprain that will sideline him for an unknown amount of time.
Don't be surprised if another tight end is added during final cuts from another team if Uzomah misses time in the regular season.
The team did spend a seventh-round pick on Mason Schreck, but he’s a developmental guy who probably lands on the practice squad, unless something unforeseen happens. The Bengals also have Ryan Hewitt to work at tight end, which makes it even more unlikely Schreck makes the cut.
Cut: Mason Schreck, Cethan Carter
OFFENSIVE LINE (9)
Tackle (3): Cedric Ogbuehi, Jake Fisher, Eric Winston
Guard (3): Andre Smith, Clint Boling, Trey Hopkins
Center (3): Russell Bodine, T.J. Johnson, J.J. Dielman
As thin as the offensive line is, figuring out who wins the top six spots is easy. Eric Winston should be returning as insurance at both tackle spots while also playing some backup guard. Jake Fisher and Cedric Ogbuehi are also locks for the roster as the projected starting tackles, even though Ogbuehi has been struggling in camp thus far.
T.J. Johnson should be locked into his spot after signing a two-year extension this offseason. However, Trey Hopkins has made a surprising push that could put Johnson’s roster spot in jeopardy. Paul Alexander has said Hopkins will at least be his sixth lineman, making it appear Hopkins is already on the roster.
That means Johnson has to hold off 2016 fifth-round pick Christian Westerman, fifth-round rookie J.J. Dielman and Alex Redmond for the final lineman spot. Johnson’s experience and ability to play both guard and center make him attractive, but would the Bengals actually cut a fifth-round pick this soon?
They’re ultimately forced to, and it’s Westerman who gets axed. Don’t be surprised if it’s Winston who gets cut. He’s looked bad in camp, so he’ll need a good preseason to lock up his spot.
Cut: Christian Westerman, Landon Lechler, Kent Perkins, Cameron Lee, Alex Redmond, Dustin Stanton
Total on offense: 26
DEFENSIVE LINE (8)
Defensive End: Michael Johnson, Carlos Dunlap, Jordan Willis, Wallace Gilberry
Defensive Tackle: Geno Atkins, Andrew Billings, Ryan Glasgow, Marcus Hardison
This remains one of, if not the hardest area to project on the roster due to the number of quality bodies here, as well as seemingly every lineman’s ability to play multiple positions.
Former third-round pick Will Clarke ends up being an easy cut since he’s behind Wallace Gilberry (whose ability to play both tackle and end help him win a spot), as well as rookie Jordan Willis, who is a lock as a third-round rookie.
It also hurts Clarke and other fringe defensive ends’ chances of making the roster with linebacker Carl Lawson lining up at end a lot on passing downs, a role he’s been thriving in through training camp.
At defensive tackle, the final spots come down to Marcus Hardison, Pat Sims and Brandon Thompson. Fourth-round rookie Ryan Glasgow is likely locked into his roster spot.
While the Bengals would like to keep Sims, he’s a rotational lineman who plays mainly at the nose, whereas Hardison can play end and tackle. Hardison is currently listed as a defensive end on the depth chart, but I think he makes it as a fourth tackle.
Sims may be first on the depth chart right now at nose tackle, but I think he’ll lose his roster spot over the course of the preseason to Billings.
Cut: Pat Sims, Brandon Thompson, David Dean, Will Clarke, Chris Smith, Ryan Brown, DeShawn Williams, Josh Tupou
Vontaze Burfict, Kevin Minter, Nick Vigil, Jordan Evans, Vincent Rey, Carl Lawson
Linebacker is pretty much set with Vontaze Burfict, Kevin Minter, Vincent Rey, Nick Vigil and fourth-round rookie Carl Lawson having their spots secured. That leaves room for or or two more true backers to make the roster.
The battle will likely come down to P.J. Dawson, Hardy Nickerson, Brandon Bell, Marquis Flowers and sixth-round rookie Jordan Evans to duke it out. I have Evans for now, but Nickerson and Bell both had a good camp and could earn that final spot. If Bell and Nickerson don’t make the roster, expect them on the practice squad.
Cut: Hardy Nickerson, Brandon Bell, P.J. Dawson, Bryson Albright, Marquis Flowers
DEFENSIVE BACKS (10)
Cornerback: *Adam Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick, William Jackson III, Darqueze Dennard, Josh Shaw, **KeiVarae Russell
Safety: George Iloka, Shawn Williams, Derron Smith, Clayton Fejedelem, Brandon Wilson
This loaded group is hard to crack with Dre Kirkpatrick, Darqueze Dennard, William Jackson III, Adam Jones and Joshua Shaw having their spots secured. That leaves KeiVarae Russell, Tony McRae and Bene Benwikere to battle for those final one or two spots if the Bengals keep more than five.
But for now, I’m keeping the Bengals at just five corners since Brandon Wilson can play corner and safety, though the rookie has yet to practice after opening camp on NFI. I still think his spot is secure after the Bengals traded up to draft him in the sixth round of this year’s draft.
However, one of these fringe corners should sneak onto the roster for Week 1 with Jones being suspended for one game. He won’t count toward the 53-man roster for that one game, so that helps a guy like Russell or Benwikere make the final roster for at least a week.
For this projection, I’m going with the young talent in Russell over the veteran Benwikere.
The safety spots are pretty much finalized with George Iloka, Shawn Williams, Derron Smith and Clayton Fejedelem making it.
Cut: Bene Benwikere, Cedric Thompson, Tony McRae, Demetrious Cox
Total on defense: 24
SPECIAL TEAMS (3)
Kicker: Jake Elliott
Punter: Kevin Huber
Long-snapper: Clark Harris
Jake Elliott has had a shaky camp, but he’s come on strong during the last week to keep his spot fairly secured heading into the preseason. The four preseason games will ultimately determine who makes the final roster between him and Randy Bullock.
Cut: Randy Bullock
Total on special teams: 3