Back in May, I did a “ridiculously early” Bengals 53-man roster projection. Well, it’s now July and it’s still way-too-early for roster projections, but I’m back with a pre-training camp roster prediction. What’s changed between then and now?
The team signed its undrafted free agents (who were not included in the first go around), there were more OTAs, minicamp and a long vacation for the team during which we sat and pondered how the 2018 season may go. FINALLY, football is back today as the Bengals take the fields adjacent to Paul Brown Stadium for the first training camp practice of the year.
There will be injuries. There will be surprises. Players will disappoint and players will dazzle. It will all impact the 53-man roster. But for now, here’s my best guess at who will make the cut when rosters are formed on September 1.
Andy Dalton, Jeff Driskel
I initially had three quarterbacks on the roster with Logan Woodside and Matt Barkley in and Driskel out at quarterback. But, that’s changed in a big way during the last few months, which included Woodside being arrested earlier this offseason. He doesn’t seem mature enough for the Bengals to rely on him and his destiny may be the practice squad in his rookie year. I’m also not confident Barkley makes the team as he was uninspiring in spring workouts. The Bengals have kept Driskel on the roster for a reason during the last few years and it’s time for their patience with the young quarterback to be rewarded as he steps into the No. 2 QB job.
Cut: Logan Woodside, Matt Barkley (2)
RUNNING BACK/H-BACK (5)
Joe Mixon, Giovani Bernard, Ryan Hewitt, Mark Walton, Quinton Flowers
Hewitt may actually be on the roster bubble this year as the Bengals keep decreasing his workload. Will Bill Lazor use him more this year than he did last year? That will need to be worked out in training camp and if the answer is no, Hewitt probably will be on the outside looking in. Flowers’ spot on the roster is also uncertain, but Marvin Lewis told Flowers the team would do everything it could to keep him and for that reason, I have him making it. But, he has an up-hill climb while competing with a player who he’s known nearly all his life in Walton. (Read Walton and Flowers’ stories here, which are pretty amazing — and incredibly similar!)
Cut: Brian Hill, Tra Carson, Jarveon Williams, Ray Lawry (4)
WIDE RECEIVER (6)
A.J. Green, Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd, John Ross, Josh Malone, Auden Tate
I got a lot of criticism for the selection of these six receivers in my first projection, but I’m not changing a thing. I believe Alex Erickson will be unseated as the team’s return man and Tate is receiving all the hype in the world heading into training camp. And oh yeah, Cody Core caught zero passes last season. One thing that would surprise me in a great way is if Core and/or other players I have on the cut list shine in camp, so much so that the team feels comfortable cutting LaFell. There’s almost no chance of it happening, but maybe...
Cut: Alex Erickson, Kermit Whitfield, Cody Core, Devonte Boyd, Ka’Raun White, Jared Murphy (6)
TIGHT END (3)
Tyler Eifert, Tyler Kroft, C.J. Uzomah
Once again, Eifert’s health is already in question heading into training camp. Let’s just imagine he gets healthy and stays healthy though (I know; it’s hard to do). Will this be the group of tight ends again this season? Will Uzomah find himself as the odd man out if Mason Schreck or another young guy can rise to the training camp challenge? My best guess is the tight end group consists of the two Tylers and Uzomah with Schreck going to the practice squad.
Cut: Mason Schreck, Cethan Carter, Jordan Franks (3)
(Automatic) practice squad: Moritz Böhringer (1)
OFFENSIVE LINE (10)
Offensive tackles: Cordy Glenn, Jake Fisher, Cedric Ogbuehi, Bobby Hart
Offensive guards: Clint Boling, Trey Hopkins, Christian Westerman, Alex Redmond
Centers: Billy Price, T.J. Johnson
My initial projection had just nine offensive linemen and I’ve bumped that to 10 upon considering how scary the Bengals’ offensive tackle situation would be if Cordy Glenn were to get injured. Even with Hart added on as depth, it’s still scary. The Bengals surely addressed the offensive line this offseason, but the additions may not be enough. With that said, I’ve cut rookie seventh round pick Rod Taylor.
Cut: Justin Murray, Kent Perkins, Rod Taylor, Austin Fleer, Brad Lundblade (5)
Total on offense: 26
Total players cut on offense: 21
DEFENSIVE LINE (10)
Defensive ends: Carlos Dunlap, Jordan Willis, Michael Johnson, Sam Hubbard, Carl Lawson
Defensive tackles: Geno Atkins, Chris Baker, Andrew Billings, Ryan Glasgow, Andrew Brown
There’s hardly a battle at defensive end, where I don’t expect any surprises and believe all five of the above-listed players will make the roster. The competition will be at tackle. Do the Bengals need five tackles with Johnson able to pop over there, too? I could see Andrew Billings, Ryan Glasgow and Andrew Brown competing for two spots and the loser ending up cut in September. For now, I’m keeping all three. There’s a chance Ja’Von Rolland-Jones makes some noise at defensive end, but it’s more likely he lands on the practice squad in his rookie year after being signed in undrafted free agency. There’s also a slight chance Johnson ends up cut, but I wouldn’t count on the Bengals doing that.
Cut: Josh Tupou, Ja’Von Rolland-Jones, Chris Okoye (3)
Preston Brown, Nick Vigil, Vincent Rey, Jordan Evans, Malik Jefferson
I’m going with just five linebackers during Vontaze Burfict’s suspension and expecting that when Burfict returns it’s actually a defensive lineman who is cut at his expense. Let’s say Andrew Brown, for now... I think five is plausible as the team wants to play Lawson at linebacker a bit, too. The expectation is Evans will be stepping up in Burfict’s absence so it would be Brown at middle linebacker, Vigil as the strongside backer and Evans at weakside.
Cut: Hardy Nickerson Jr., Brandon Bell, Junior Joseph, Chris Worley (4)
Suspended: Vontaze Burfict* (1)
DEFENSIVE BACKS (9)
Safeties: George Iloka, Shawn Williams, Jessie Bates III, Clayton Fejedelem
Cornerbacks: William Jackson, Dre Kirkpatrick, Darqueze Dennard, Darius Phillips, Davontae Harris
The safety position is more or less on lock, with a slight chance for Brandon Wilson to make a run at the roster. In a more likely scenario, he goes to the practice squad and the Bengals go with four safeties and five cornerbacks, while still making tough cuts. Will both of the rookie fifth round rookie corners make it? I see Phillips getting return duties, which is part of the reason why the team will part ways with Erickson, and Harris impressing in his own regard. But, Josh Shaw could be the guy swapped in for one of those rookies, especially considering his ability to play cornerback and safety. The defensive back battles will be great to watch in training camp as there’s considerable depth and watching them go up against the wide receivers (who also have a lot to prove) should be entertaining.
Cut: Brandon Wilson, KeiVarae Russell, Tony McRae, Sojourn Shelton, Josh Shaw, Trayvon Henderson, Tyrice Beverette (7)
Total on defense: 24
Total players cut on defense: 14
Total players suspended: 1
SPECIAL TEAMS (3)
Kicker: Randy Bullock
Punter: Kevin Huber
Long-snapper: Clark Harris
A guy with zero field goal attempts in a football game — college or NFL — is not beating out Randy Bullock for the Bengals’ kicking job. Jake Elliott couldn’t do it and Jon Brown certainly won’t be doing it.
Cut: Jon Brown