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Bengals 53-man roster projection: Reporting for testing edition

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Training camp will have to come after COVID-19 testing and an acclimation period, but roster projections don’t wait for anything.

Cincinnati Bengals Training Camp Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

2020 could be the easiest year to predict a Week 1 NFL roster, or it could be the hardest.

Without a preseason to judge the progress and development of lesser-known players, fans and media alike will be subjected to more guesswork than both are traditionally accustomed to. Granted, all of it is guesswork when dealing with this topic, so maybe nothing changes(?)

Since our last projection, NFL practice squads can now roster 16 players. This could heavily impact how teams finalize their rosters before Week 1 begins, and we didn’t even get to the fact that teams are beginning to find out which of their players tested positive for COVID-19.

With all players now reported to “training camp” amidst these changing developments, it’s as good a time as any to get another Bengals roster projection in.

FYI: players are ordered by number of seasons they will have accrued after 2020

Quarterbacks: 3

  • Ryan Finley (2)
  • Jake Dolegala (2)
  • Joe Burrow (R)

The expanded practice squad could make the coaching staff inclined to stash Dolegala there, but that would be the only shake up to this threesome.

Running backs: 4

  • Giovani Bernard (8)
  • Joe Mixon (4)
  • Trayveon Williams (2)
  • Rodney Anderson (2)

Seven running backs is a lot on one roster for a team that primarily uses just one of their running backs. With Anderson and his electric elusiveness set to return fully healthy, Williams might be the guy with the least amount of job security. But we’re not close to being confident in one of Samaje Perine, Jacques Patrick, or Devwah Whaley taking his spot.

Wide receivers: 7

  • A.J. Green (10)
  • Tyler Boyd (5)
  • Alex Erickson (5)
  • John Ross III (4)
  • Auden Tate (3)
  • Stanley Morgan (2)
  • Tee Higgins (R)

The return of Green really brightens the outlook of this group, and it’ll be hard to go with less than seven. Erickson and Morgan may provide the least amounts of value as actual receivers but have special teams to fall back on. We could go back and forth on whether or not Erickson stays on as the team’s punt returner. For now, with no in-game reps to see other options, he stays.

Tight ends: 3

  • C.J. Uzomah (6)
  • Cethan Carter (4)
  • Drew Sample (2)

An emphasis on getting Sample more involved is to be expected, but Uzomah will still have a prominent role in the offense. You’d figure four tight ends is one too many for an offense that uses only one over 80% of the time, and Carter is a known asset on special teams.

Offensive linemen: 9

  • Xavier Su’a-Filo (7)
  • Bobby Hart (6)
  • Trey Hopkins (5)
  • Alex Redmond (4)
  • Billy Price (3)
  • Michael Jordan (2)
  • Fred Johnson (2)
  • Jonah Williams (2)
  • Hakeem Adeniji (R)

Despite growing support for his termination, Hart’s roster spot doesn’t appear to be in any kind of jeopardy. His starting spot may be lost by camp’s end, but that would be the extent of it if the status quo remains the same. It’d be nice to see one of the undrafted guards—Clay Cordasco or Josh Knipfel—beat out Redmond, but it’s currently a see it to believe situation. Perhaps two linemen who didn’t make the cut will join the practice squad.

Defensive linemen: 9

  • Geno Atkins (11)
  • Carlos Dunlap (11)
  • D.J. Reader (5)
  • Josh Tupou (4)
  • Carl Lawson (4)
  • Ryan Glasgow (4)
  • Sam Hubbard (3)
  • Renell Wren (2)
  • Khalid Kareem (R)

Like the offensive line, eight spots seem to be locked in here. The competition will most likely occur along the interior with guys like Glasgow and Andrew Brown fending off undrafted names such as Tyler Clark and Trey Dishon. Fellow undrafted edge defender Kendrall Futrell was recently placed on the COVID-19-reserve list, which may or may not impact his ability to scrap for a roster or practice squad spot.

Linebackers: 5

  • Josh Bynes (10)
  • Germaine Pratt (2)
  • Logan Wilson (R)
  • Akeem Davis-Gaither (R)
  • Markus Bailey (R)

Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo has to love seeing Jordan Evans show up to camp legitimately in the best shape of his life, but that may not be enough to secure a spot. You have to think the team has wanted Austin Calitro since the beginning of last year and finally got him once they were at the top of the waiver order earlier this offseason, but is he worth keeping around and carrying six linebackers? No matter what this position group looks like in early September, it’ll look different than how it did last year.

Cornerbacks: 6

  • Trae Waynes (6)
  • William Jackson III (5)
  • Mackensie Alexander (5)
  • LeShaun Sims (5)
  • Greg Mabin (4)
  • Darius Phillips (3)

Tony Brown, Torry McTyer, or Winston Rose could take Mabin or Sims’ spot when the time comes. The process of weeding this group down could prove to be difficult considering there’s not much that separates them all from one another, which is what makes the release of Isiah Swann even more disappointing. We’ll just stick with Mabin and Sims for now. Remember, Sims was signed this offseason even before Vonn Bell.

Safeties: 4

  • Shawn Williams (8)
  • Vonn Bell (5)
  • Brandon Wilson (4)
  • Jessie Bates III (3)

Replacing Williams with Trayvon Henderson would be advantageous from a salary cap perspective, but Williams presumably still has a role in this defense. Wilson went from an expendable piece to a special teams asset last year; he’ll stay and continue to be a speed demon on kickoff returns.

Specialists: 3

  • Clark Harris (12)
  • Kevin Huber (12)
  • Randy Bullock (9)

You think Dan Godsil clicks on these articles?