We made it through Summer, folks. It’s football season...basically.
The Cincinnati Bengals were one of six teams whose veterans reported for training camp today, and now every franchise is set to begin the final phase of the offseason. Per usual, player holdouts and potential coaching controversies are taking place anywhere but Cincinnati, but the road to training camp wasn’t completely smooth for Zac Taylor’s squad.
The team announced this week that first-round pick Jonah Williams, along with a handful of other notable players, will be starting on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. Williams is likely destined for the Injured Reserve list, and his shoulder injury along with Clint Boling’s retirement represent the main shakeups to an otherwise fully constructed roster.
Aside from Boling’s departure, the projected final roster hasn’t changed much since we last took a swing at it in June.
Quarterbacks (2): Andy Dalton, Ryan Finley
When you feel uncomfortable about leaving Jeff Driskel off of the roster, that’s a bad sign. Finley needs to perform considerably better in training camp so we can put than how he looked in OTAs and minicamp behind us. Carrying just two quarterbacks will allow them flexibility elsewhere, and Jake Dolegala remains a promising option for the practice squad.
Running backs (3): Joe Mixon, Giovani Bernard, Trayveon Williams, Rodney Anderson (NFI)
Anderson doesn’t count as he was officially placed on the Non-Football Injury list yesterday and figures to essentially be a redshirt this season. Mixon and Bernard are obvious locks and Williams is the best option behind them. Quinton Flowers could be battling for a practice squad spot or even the fourth roster spot if the Bengals decide to go that deep.
Wide receivers (6): A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, John Ross, Alex Erickson, Josh Malone, Auden Tate
The competition for fifth and sixth spots should be one of the more intriguing storylines as camp develops into the preseason. There’s hope for Malone and Tate, but they need to show out if they want to boot Cody Core off the roster and keep undrafted receivers Stanley Morgan Jr. and Damion Willis at bay.
Tight ends (4): Tyler Eifert, C.J. Uzomah, Drew Sample, Mason Schreck
Seeing who has the edge for the fourth tight end spot should prove to be interesting, but for now, let’s put Schreck at the top. Cethan Carter and Jordan Franks can’t be counted out yet.
Offensive tackles (3): Cordy Glenn, Bobby Hart, Andre Smith
Smith was the club’s answer to Williams’ injury, and it kind of feels like a Marvin Lewis-era move but we’re going to put that aside. Smith becomes the clear third tackle in this group and—God forbid that another injury further decimates this position—these are almost certainly going to the three.
Interior offensive linemen (6): Billy Price, John Miller, Christian Westerman, Trey Hopkins, John Jerry, Michael Jordan
Undrafted linemen Keaton Sutherland and O’Shea Dugas may be forced to play tackle more than guard, but that duo along with Alex Redmond are going to need fantastic camps to break this group apart. Redmond was also placed on the PUP list along with Jonah Williams, so his future continues to appear bleak. Price hopefully won’t be on the NFI list for too long.
Edge defenders (5): Carlos Dunlap, Sam Hubbard, Carl Lawson, Jordan Willis, Kerry Wynn
The defensive grouping that probably has the least to worry about from a competition standpoint, it’s tough to see a different five come September. Maybe they go light and keep only four, but five is the safe bet.
Interior defensive linemen (5): Geno Atkins, Andrew Billings, Ryan Glasgow, Renell Wren, Josh Tupou
Back in May when I made my own personal projection, I opted to go with Andrew Brown instead of Tupou, but if I’m trying to predict what will actually happen, Tupou is the more probable winner in that battle. They could easily go with just the first four, but if there’s an extra spot, this is a plausible option. Don’t forget about Christian Ringo or Niles Scott, either.
Linebackers (6): Nick Vigil, Preston Brown, Germaine Pratt, Malik Jefferson, Jordan Evans, Deshaun Davis
I’m still rolling with these six, but I’m more than open to seeing how the undrafted guys (Sterling Sheffield, Curtis Akins and Noah Dawkins once he returns from the NFI list) look. Any new blood is welcome in this position group and no alternative plans should be dismissed. Chris Worley is also still around and might have the best chance to shake things up here.
Cornerbacks (6): William Jackson III, Dre Kirkpatrick, Darqueze Dennard, B.W. Webb, Darius Phillips, Davontae Harris
Dennard and Phillips were the other two names placed on the PUP list but hopefully they can return quickly, the integrity of the group depends on it. Seventh-round pick Jordan Brown along with veterans Tony McRae and KeiVarae Russell will look to take advantage of Dennard and Phillips’ absence.
Safeties (4): Jessie Bates, Shawn Williams, Clayton Fejedelem, Brandon Wilson
It was tempting to place Trayvon Henderson in for Wilson, but I need to see him in action coming off the knee injury that ended his season before it even began last year. Demetrious Cox was making a name for himself last offseason and returns without a lot of competition as well.
Specialists (3): Clark Harris, Kevin Huber, Randy Bullock
The signing of long snapper Dan Godsil was made before Harris was added to the NFI list, but we’re hoping that he’s just a temporary fix. Tristan Vizcaino figures to be around for most of the preseason but like it was for Jon Brown before him, beating out Bullock will be a tall task.