We’re halfway through the preseason and only a few weeks away from seeing what the Bengals’ final roster will look like.
Our last roster projection came out about three weeks ago, so some things have changed since then. Primarily, the Bengals have played in two preseason games, but there has also been a rash of retirements on the offensive line.
The roster has more or less remained the same since our last projection, but a few fringe players have risen into or fallen out of the final lineup.
Quarterbacks (2): Andy Dalton, Ryan Finley
This is what many predicted early on, but Finley’s preseason performance has confirmed all doubts. Finley’s 75% completion percentage and his rating of 102.4 after the first two exhibitions is the writing on the wall for the now former No. 2 Jeff Driskel.
The only way Driskel can make the team now is if Zac Taylor and the offense commits to using him primarily as a receiver/special teamer. Jake Dolegala will be probably be added to the practice squad.
Running Backs (4): Joe Mixon, Giovani Bernard, Trayveon Williams, Rodney Anderson
There is an additional running back on this list because Anderson has been activated off the NFI list. While we haven’t seen any action out of him yet, he will get a chance to make his case this week when he makes his debut. His only real competition is Jordan Ellis, who has done well but is unfortunately on the outside looking in. He may be a valuable addition to the practice squad as well.
Wide Receivers: (7): A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, John Ross III, Alex Erickson, Josh Malone, Auden Tate, Damion Willis
Willis is added to the group because of Christian Westerman’s retirement (which we will talk about more later). Our last projection only had six receivers, but the Bengals carried seven last year, so they could roll with that number again to start the year with Green being out for the first few games.
Willis, an undrafted rookie, leads the team in receiving yards this preseason and has been putting in great effort on special teams. The last two spots will come down to Josh Malone, Cody Core, Stanley Morgan, and Willis, but as it stands, Malone and Willis are in the best position to make the roster. Morgan would be a great practice squad candidate.
Tight Ends (4): C.J. Uzomah, Tyler Eifert, Drew Sample, Mason Schreck
Normally, the Bengals could want to only carry three tight ends. But with Eifert’s injury history, adding Schreck for the second year in a row would be wise. The group looks exactly the same from last year with Drew Sample replacing Tyler Kroft.
Offense Tackles (3): Cordy Glenn, Bobby Hart, Andre Smith
As dilapidated as this group might be, this is the one position group in the roster with the least amount of competition. The only one who could have broken into this group was Kent Perkins, but he just retired, so there went that idea.
Interior Offensive Line (5): Michael Jordan, Trey Hopkins, John Miller, John Jerry, Billy Price
The only change here from our last projection is Westerman, who was placed on the Exempt/Left Squad list. His future is is uncertain at this point, but it looks like he’ll hang up the cleats pretty soon here.
If the Bengals were going to replace him, they would add Alex Redmond. But between injury and an upcoming suspension, he has done little to impress the new coaching staff. The Bengals only carried five interior linemen last year, so they might go that direction again.
Edge Defenders (5): Carlos Dunlap, Sam Hubbard, Carl Lawson, Jordan Willis, Kerry Wynn
Nothing here has changed pretty much since the offseason. Having both Willis and Wynn playing well this preseason makes cutting either of them tough.
Interior Defensive Line (4): Geno Atkins, Andrew Billings, Ryan Glasgow, Andrew Brown
We only went with four this time around, and put Brown in the mix in favor of Josh Tupou. Brown’s versatility gives him the edge over Tupou, an addition to a superior preseason performance.
The 53rd spot on the roster might come down to an undrafted receiver and Renell Wren, but for this projection there just weren’t enough spots on the roster. Wren is far from off the roster though, especially after playing 81% of the defense’s snaps last week.
Linebackers (5): Preston Brown, Nick Vigil, Jordan Evans, Germaine Pratt, Malik Jefferson
Last year, the Bengals basically carried seven linebackers because of Burfict’s suspension. However, the problems at the position won’t be solved by throwing more underwhelming players in the mix. Plus, with defenses being forced to go into the nickel more and more, and with a sheer lack of options, these five could be it. If five is the number, that last spot would likely come down to either Jefferson or Hardy Nickerson.
Cornerbacks (6): William Jackson III, Dre Kirkpatrick, B.W. Webb, Darqueze Dennard, Darius Phillips, Davontae Harris
Webb has quickly risen through the ranks here in Cincinnati, so this group looks set. Phillips has done great defensively this preseason, and it looks like he will be used in the return game pretty heavily.
The only variable here is what they do with Dennard. If they think he can return to practice long before Week 6, they’ll take him off the Physically Unable to Perform list. Harris and Tony McRae could both make it if Dennard is kept on the PUP, but if one has to go, McRae is the safer bet.
Safeties (4): Jessie Bates III, Shawn Williams, Clayton Fejedelem, Brandon Wilson
This should remain unchanged from last year, as no new additions look threatening. Fejedelem and Wilson’s special teams contributions make them some of the most valuable backups on the team.
Specialists (3): Randy Bullock, Kevin Huber, Clark Harris
Tristian Vizcaino was the only threat to change the balance of this group. He has been disappointing though, so it looks like the same crew will roll out for the third year in a row.