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Bengals 53-player roster projection 3.0

Developments at wide receiver and defensive line have made things interesting in Cincinnati.

NFL: AUG 12 Preseason - Cardinals at Bengals Photo by Jeff Moreland/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We’re in the thick of it now. Three weeks of training camp and one preseason game are in the books, and the Cincinnati Bengals have already began cutting down to an initial 53-player roster.

The season drawing nearer and nearer leads to greater clarity when looking at the roster and depth chart. Players who practice as well as they play usually make it to September with their name on a locker. There are still crucial practices to come and two more exhibitions to play, but the full picture becomes easier to decipher as the days pass by.

Here’s our latest projection at the Week 1 roster.

Quarterbacks (2)

  • Joe Burrow
  • Brandon Allen

Jake Browning and Drew Plitt gave us some nice moments against Arizona, but Allen is still the guy they trust behind Burrow. Allen’s concussion won’t be enough for Browning to get the edge over him. The real battle is between Browning and Plitt for a practice squad spot, and even that heavily favors Browning.

Running backs (3)

  • Joe Mixon
  • Samaje Perine
  • Chris Evans

Not only has Evans shown more than enough to challenge Perine for snaps, there’s nothing a fourth back can do that either of them can’t. So long as Mixon remains healthy, he really only needs two behind him. Special teams help can be found at other spots.

Wide receivers (7)

  • Ja’Marr Chase
  • Tee Higgins
  • Tyler Boyd
  • Mike Thomas
  • Stanley Morgan Jr.
  • Trent Taylor
  • Kendric Pryor

Pryor’s work from minicamp to training camp is paying off. It’s always great to see the practice warriors show up on game days and make lasting impressions. Pryor showed his value as a downfield receiver, and, more importantly, as a gunner on punt teams.

But the only way Pryor makes it through final cuts is if they decide to go with seven. Thomas not playing at all is a clear sign that he’s not being pushed and is safe. Taylor putting together a great receiving performance only boosts his case to stick around, and Morgan doesn’t feel like he’s on the bubble either. We’ll see if Pryor continues to increase his momentum.

Tight ends (3)

  • Hayden Hurst
  • Drew Sample
  • Thaddeus Moss

Mitchell Wilcox’s injury is anything but ideal as Moss becomes the clear beneficiary of his absence. Wilcox’s recovery will have to be quick before Moss can solidify himself as a worthy third tight end. We know he’s good enough as a receiver, it’s the blocking that needs work. Lucky for him, the competition isn’t too fierce.

Offensive linemen (9)

  • La’el Collins
  • Jonah Williams
  • Alex Cappa
  • Ted Karras
  • Cordell Volson
  • Isaiah Prince
  • D’Ante Smith
  • Trey Hill
  • Jackson Carman

Everyone’s eyes were on Carman last week, and Hakeem Adeniji should be grateful considering he played even worse in the preseason opener. It’s gotten to the point where the team should feel comfortable about cutting him with the intent of stashing him on the practice squad. The odds of him clearing waivers have to be high at this point, regardless of his experience. Smith returning to practice gives the line a solid depth at tackle with Prince as his second-string bookend. Hill might be the first interior lineman off the bench as well, unless a waiver wire pickup is incoming.

Defensive linemen (10)

  • Trey Hendrickson
  • Sam Hubbard
  • D.J. Reader
  • B.J. Hill
  • Joseph Ossai
  • Josh Tupou
  • Zach Carter
  • Khalid Kareem
  • Cam Sample
  • Jeff Gunter

Perhaps the most puzzling observation from last Friday was the lack of Tyler Shelvin. There’s been no news of the former fourth-round pick being injured, and he’s certainly not at a point where he needs to be preserved from preseason reps. So why was he out on the field for a grand total of one (1) snap? The signs point to him just not being high in the defensive tackle rotation. And with Gunter proving he belongs every single day, he completes a strong 10-deep group.

Linebackers (5)

  • Logan Wilson
  • Germaine Pratt
  • Akeem Davis-Gaither
  • Markus Bailey
  • Clay Johnston

Johnston keeps doing the right things. He’s been getting ample reps with Joe Bachie still on the PUP list, and having only five backers means the fifth will be active and counted on for special teams. Johnston played the seventh-most special teams snaps and recorded two tackles in the process. Cincinnati native Tegray Scales seems to be in the hunt as well.

Cornerbacks (6)

  • Chidobe Awuzie
  • Mike Hilton
  • Eli Apple
  • Cam Taylor-Britt
  • Tre Flowers
  • Jalen Davis

Taylor-Britt’s core injury comes at a bad time for the second-round pick, but the situation would be a lot worse if Apple wasn’t playing well. The injury shouldn’t put Taylor-Britt on the PUP list when the season rolls around, but he might be inactive for a week or two. As long as the other five are healthy, they’ll be alright in the meantime.

Safeties (5)

  • Jessie Bates III
  • Vonn Bell
  • Dax Hill
  • Michael Thomas
  • Tycen Anderson

There’s also a trickle-down effect to Taylor-Britt’s absence. It should allow Hill to see the field as a do-it-all defensive back to give them added depth at cornerback. He probably won’t see many deep safety snaps once Bates is back in the picture, but he’ll have a role out of the gate. Wilson still isn’t cleared for practice, so Thomas sticks around for his leadership and special teams ability.

Specialists (3)

  • Clark Harris
  • Kevin Huber
  • Evan McPherson

It’s really been an equal competition at long snapper and punter/holder. Harris and Cal Adomitis split reps as equally as Huber and Drue Chrisman. It still feels too early to say if the younger guys have gained any ground on the rugged vets, so for now, we’ll roll with the classic duo. The first sign of weakness shown from either of them, specifically Huber, might be enough to flip the switch.