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Playing Duke Tobin: Piecing together the Bengals’ 53-man roster

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Free agency has been over. The NFL Draft is finished. How should the Bengals roster look like for Week 1? Let’s give it a shot.

NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

With rookie minicamp set to begin later this week, the Bengals’ roster is set to temporarily feature a number north of 90. In about four months’ time, that number is permitted to be no larger than 53.

And what a long four months it will be.

To begin passing the time, let’s assume control of the roster and whittle it down to that magic number. Nothing based on rumors, speculation or scuttlebutt of any kind. Nothing based on reason, precedent or for the sake of future accuracy. We’re not predicting here, we’re having fun with it. It may not be summertime, but it finally feels like it.

Let loose with us and let’s go through this position group by position group.

Quarterbacks (2): Andy Dalton, Ryan Finley

These two are locks, the only question for the real thing will be if Jeff Driskel stays on. Finley should prove to be the better overall passer and I’d trust him to handle Dalton’s clipboard. Driskel’s potential spot goes to some other more deserving player.

Running backs (4): Joe Mixon, Giovani Bernard, Trayveon Williams, Rodney Anderson

What a talented quartet. No need to deviate from what should become the final foursome in September.

Wide receivers (6): A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, John Ross, Josh Malone, Alex Erickson, Stanley Morgan Jr.

Morgan isn’t even officially on the team yet and he’s one of their five best receivers already, you can put that in your pipe and smoke it. I’m not ready to give up on Malone and if it’s between him, Cody Core and Auden Tate, then it’s really just between him and Tate. I’d imagine my final decision won’t win me any brownie points with any of you.

Tight ends (4): C.J. Uzomah, Tyler Eifert, Drew Sample, Mason Schreck

My first real stumper was eventually keeping Schreck. As long as Eifert remains a part of the team and is one of their two-best tight ends, the health of the position cannot be counted on. Schreck could be stashed on the practice squad, but let’s just confirm some depth.

Offensive tackles (3): Cordy Glenn, Jonah Williams, Bobby Hart

Glenn wasn’t great last season but the best plan would be to keep him at left tackle and start Williams at right tackle. I hope to hear news of another tackle signing on as an undrafted free agent because this is about all they got.

Interior offensive linemen (5): Christian Westerman, Billy Price, John Miller, Michael Jordan, Trey Hopkins

Cutting Clint Boling to me is like throwing Gamora off the edge on Vormir. Thinking long-term, I want Westerman starting at left guard now in order to establish future continuity at the position (the actual plan likely involves Jordan taking over for Boling in 2020). If Westerman rides the bench again in 2019, he’s pretty much good as gone in 2020. Signing Boling to a third contract is likely putting more investment into a depreciating asset. If I could trade him to a good team, I would.

““The hardest choices require the strongest wills.” - Thanos” - John Sheeran

Edge defenders (5): Sam Hubbard, Carlos Dunlap, Carl Lawson, Kerry Wynn, Jordan Willis

I personally think the lack of investment at this position will cost them in some degree, but if Lawson returns to form it shouldn’t be too bad. Lawson rebounding and Willis’ development are the two big keys here, and unfortunately neither are guarantees.

Interior defensive linemen (5): Geno Atkins, Andrew Billings, Ryan Glasgow, Renell Wren, Andrew Brown

I believe the four besides Brown are essentially locks, but I’m willing to give Brown a real chance at making an impact. A pass rusher that can complement Atkins inside is still needed and I’m not sure if Glasgow is that or if Wren can be that yet. Brown was arguably my favorite pick from the 2018 class, let me have this one.

Linebackers (6): Germaine Pratt, Preston Brown, Nick Vigil, Malik Jefferson, Deshaun Davis, Jordan Evans

The Davis pick pretty much sealed how this group will end up being. It’ll be interesting to see which reserves back up which starters, but they’ll have options. For now, just look at it with Brown and Davis inside and the four others outside.

Cornerbacks (6): William Jackson, Darqueze Dennard, Dre Kirkpatrick, B.W. Webb, Darius Phillips, Jordan Brown

Picking Brown over Davontae Harris was essentially flipping a coin but you can convince me to flip it again. Either one could likely be stashed on the practice squad but for the sake of keeping a Zac Taylor draft pick, Brown gets the nod.

Safeties (4): Jessie Bates, Shawn Williams, Brandon Wilson, Clayton Fejedelem

Similar to the running backs, no need to tamper with this group of four.

Specialists (3): Clark Harris, Kevin Huber, Randy Bullock

Nothing new to see here.


53 up. 53 down. Talk to me in a few months about the practice squad.

As my co-host on the Orange and Black Insider Anthony Cosenza said during last week’s show (right around the 46:00 mark), the depth on this roster appears to be much more competent than it was last year. If injuries once again occur, like they always have an always will, the Bengals should be slightly better equipped to handle them in most positions. The improvement and better utilization (and of course health) of their starters is going to be the key to rejoining the top of the AFC North.

So, where do you agree, or most likely disagree, with all of this? How would you build your ideal 53-man roster?