Through the tumultuous turnover of the Bengals’ coaching staff this offseason, the vast majority of last year’s starters remain on the players roster. Notable long-time veterans Michael Johnson, Vincent Rey and Andre Smith seem to have given their final farewells to Cincinnati, but it’s clear that Zac Taylor’s staff plan is to see what use they have for the roster that Marvin Lewis left behind.
The later Lewis years made predicting the final roster relatively easy, and obvious attachment to veterans and young players alike that fit his “type” sometimes prohibited the team from being as good as it could’ve been. But with any coach, you take the bad with the good.
Those years are behind us, and what we think represents a roster lock in Cincinnati may not apply anymore.
Still several weeks away from training camp, let us examine who on the Bengals’ roster should be considered locks to remain on it by the time the regular season comes around.
Quarterbacks (2): Andy Dalton, Ryan Finley
It would take a miraculous training camp and preseason for Jeff Driskel to keep his role as Dalton’s backup over Finley, whom the Bengals traded up for to be just that. Driskel could stay on as the team’s third quarterback, but it’s more likely that he’ll be cut.
Running backs (3): Joe Mixon, Giovani Bernard, Trayveon Williams
Adding Rodney Anderson is tempting here, but for the sake of keeping the final number as low as possible, we’re leaving him out. Anderson could be placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list and he could be 100% ready for the season. Both are equally possible.
Wide receivers (4): A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, John Ross, Alex Erickson
Erickson’s contract doesn’t make him untouchable, but there is noise regarding the new regime’s confidence in his ability. He’s the only one outside of last year’s starters that should be considered safe.
Tight ends (3): C.J. Uzomah, Tyler Eifert, Drew Sample
There’s a future where the Bengals don’t have Eifert because of another devastating injury, but we’re going to assume the best when it comes to health. These three will be the core of the position, with Eifert acting more as a receiver than a blocker.
Offensive tackles (2): Jonah Williams, Bobby Hart
Before Cordy Glenn was officially moved inside to left guard, Hart could’ve been listed as the starting right tackle or the backup tackle. Now he appears to be the former. The question is, who will be Williams and Hart’s backup?
Interior offensive linemen (4): Cordy Glenn, Billy Price, John Miller, Michael Jordan
Clint Boling’s fate has all but been sealed with Glenn taking over the spot he manned for the last seven seasons. Christian Westerman (or even Alex Redmond!) can snag the sixth spot, if they keep that many, but Jordan will surely have priority. Jordan also has experience at center, which could make Trey Hopkins expendable in their eyes.
Edge defenders (3): Carlos Dunlap, Sam Hubbard, Carl Lawson
It’s a safe bet that both Jordan Willis and Kerry Wynn will make it through final cuts, but Wynn’s one-year deal doesn’t mean much in terms of security. They could also go with just four if they decide to keep five interior players. Willis and Wynn would presumably be battling for that fourth spot.
Interior defensive linemen (4): Geno Atkins, Andrew Billings, Ryan Glasgow, Renell Wren
These four might be the four to make up the position group, as there won’t be much competition below them on the depth chart.
Linebackers (3): Nick Vigil, Preston Brown, Germaine Pratt
Malik Jefferson (and Deshaun Davis as well) can most definitely be argued here, but like with Anderson, he was kept off for the sake of keeping the final number low. The only thing we can be somewhat certain about is that these three will be the starters in their base defense, with one of them coming off the field when they deploy their nickel defense for most of the game.
Cornerbacks (4): William Jackson, Dre Kirkpatrick, Darqueze Dennard, B.W. Webb
It was tempting to leave Kirkpatrick and Dennard out of here, but it’s *far* more likely they will be kept on than they won’t. Webb was signed in the event that Dennard would leave, but now both will be key contributors in the Bengals’ secondary.
Safeties (3): Jessie Bates, Shawn Williams, Clayton Fejedelem
Two starters and the new special teams captain. Brandon Wilson’s value on special teams will help him in his attempt to keep his spot, but Trayvon Henderson could very well push him for it.
Specialists (3): Clark Harris, Kevin Huber, Randy Bullock
Second-year kicker Tristan Vizcaino isn’t likely to be much competition for Bullock.
Total locks: 37