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Biggest surprises of the Bengals’ 53-man roster

Though it’s probably not a finished product right now, there were some roster moves made under Zac Taylor that provided differing levels of shock.

New York Giants v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

It’s a bittersweet day around the league, as teams form their final rosters. Many young men’s NFL dreams are crushed, even if temporarily, as all 32 squads gear up for Week 1 of the regular season.

The Cincinnati Bengals announced their 53-man roster on Saturday afternoon, giving us a few surprises. Regardless of your feelings on the current construction of it, there is little doubt that the current roster has Zac Taylor’s thumbprint upon it.

It’s worth noting that the way the roster is currently constructed (as of Sunday morning) will probably be altered once the team combs through the waiver wire. They are relatively high up on the pecking order, in terms of making a waiver claim, and the prevailing thought is that they will scoop up one or two players—likely at linebacker or on the offensive line. The deadline for those claims is 12:00 pm ET today.

Here are some of the most surprising moves by the club on final cutdown day.

Surprising roster makes

Josh Malone: The third-year wide receiver has a skill set that coaches covet, to be sure. However, he didn’t overly-impress in the preseason, but did show some versatility as a kick return specialist.

Really, the surprise here is that many believed Darrin Simmons would pound the table for more special teams help in the form of Cody Core. Regardless, Malone will get the chance to develop under Taylor’s tutelage, though we’re not certain what takes place in this position group once A.J. Green is deemed healthy.

O’Shea Dugas: When he lined up at left tackle in the Week 3 preseason clash against the Giants, it led to disaster. Dugas went up against backups and allowed two sacks, while also being part of a line unit that struggled to open up running lanes for backs.

Common sense tells us that Dugas is probably one of the first guys to go if/when the Bengals make a waiver claim. Still, his appearance on the final roster is a direct indictment of how thin the offensive tackle group is on the team this year.

Jake Dolegala: Well, about 33 percent of you are probably unhappy at this decision. Regardless, Taylor and Brian Callahan saw enough from the big-armed rookie to think he wouldn’t make it through waivers this year.

Dolegala ended the preseason very well, combining to go 37-of-53 (70 percent) for 347 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions against the Giants and Colts. Taylor clearly believes he can use his quarterback whispering skills to turn the Dolegala project into something special.

Cethan Carter: This one may be a mild surprise, but there was a split camp between those who wanted Carter and those who wanted the team to keep the athleticism of Mason Schreck. Carter makes it, probably in part for special teams prowess, but there is an interesting facet here.

Carter was known more as an H-Back last year, which really isn’t a positional staple in the Taylor/Sean McVay style of offense. We’re curious to see how he will be used on offense going forward—especially if injuries hit the position group again.

Josh Tupou: As far as reserve interior defensive linemen go, Tupou had one of the better preseason performances this year. He’s turned things around since an arrest in the spring of 2018 and is known as a solid run-stuffer.

Like some others, his spot may not be overly-secure, as the team went heavy on the defensive line (11 players), but he does have a frame built for the AFC North.

Hardy Nickerson: The choice came down to Nickerson and rookie Deshaun Davis, but the new staff didn’t keep the guy they picked. While the staff largely went with players who played well throughout the spring and summer, despite their draft designation and/or ties to the previous regime, Nickerson making it bucks that trend.

Surprising roster cuts

John Jerry: The veteran was a late addition and while he wasn’t overly-impressive in the preseason, his departure is surprising in that he was the first-team left guard when training camp opened. On top of that, Jerry has ties with offensive line coach Jim Turner, but a poor performance at left tackle against the Colts apparently sealed his fate.

Cody Core: As mentioned above, common knowledge told us that the team wanted Core to stick around because of his ability on special teams, but his departure was the antithesis of a Marvin Lewis move. Core had 13 receptions for 160 yards in the four preseason games, with five catches for 75 of those yards coming in the finale.

Mason Schreck: The third-year tight end got some extensive action as a reserve in the preseason, but the team went with Carter. Maybe they felt that had enough players with Schreck’s type of skill set and preferred the versatility of Carter?

Malik Jefferson: In a lot of ways, this move wasn’t surprising because the young linebacker continued to look lost on the field. However, the team giving up on a third-round pick just a year later and when the guy is just 22 years old is a bit shocking.

Deshaun Davis: Again, it’s not like Davis wowed throughout the preseason, it’s more in the fact that given the choice between Nickerson and the rookie, the staff would have preferred the guy they selected. It’s possible they try to stash him on the practice squad.

Keaton Sutherland: The former Texas A&M lineman has size and versatility, which some thought would have led to him sneaking on to the roster. He’s also a Jim Turner guy, so we figured a little bit of nepotism (a traditional Bengals staple) would have shined through. Regardless, the team is going to try and let him develop on the practice squad.