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Tuesday Trenches: Popping the Bubble

Which Bengals players are on the roster bubble, and what could they bring to the table if they make the team?

Tennessee Titans v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The NFL cutdown day isn’t until August 29th, which is when all teams need to trim their rosters from 90 to 53.

Entering the summer, there are probably around 45ish players on the Cincinnati Bengals’ roster who are locks to make the team. There is no reason to discuss guys like Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, DJ Reader, or Trey Hendrickson. Those guys are safe and don’t need to worry at all about their place on the team’s final roster.

So let’s talk about the other guys. There are going to be around eight or nine roster spots that could be filled with several guys. These players are on what we call the bubble. Let’s try to guess who they are and what they could bring to the team should they make it through to August 30.


Hakeem Adeniji, OL

Ajeniji, drafted out of Kansas in the sixth round of the 2020 NFL Draft, has played multiple positions in his time with the Bengals. He started four games at right left tackle and one game at right tackle in 2020, 13 games at right guard in 2021, including the Super Bowl, and started the last four games of the 2022 season at right tackle, including the AFC Championship game. Before his second stint as the starting right tackle in 2022, he took snaps at left and right tackle as a backup.

In 2022, Adeniji finished the season with a run-block grade of 58.9 and a pass-blocking grade of 36.2, per Pro Football Focus.

Why he may make the team:

He’s versatile. He can play right or left tackle or right or left guard. He can’t play any of those positions as well as the starters on the team can, but one guy who can play four of the five positions on the offensive line does have value. If there’s a reason for him to make the team, that’s it.

Why he may be cut:

He can play four of the five offensive line positions, but he hasn’t shown he can do it well. Injuries happen, and having a guy who can step in and play so there isn’t a huge drop in quality is extremely valuable. Unfortunately, Adeniji hasn’t shown he can play at the same level as the starting linemen.

Chris Evans, RB

What is going on with Evans? He was selected out of Michigan in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft. He has shown the ability to be explosive, especially in the passing game. In his two years, he has carried the ball for 77 yards, averaging 4.5 yards per carry. He has 189 receiving yards and three touchdowns. However, he lost his kick return job to Trayveon Williams and was a healthy scratch during the 2022 playoff run.

Why he may make the team:

He’s talented. I don’t think anybody is questioning his talent. He is kind of like an extra receiver on the field when he’s out there. The problem is, he’s never out there, and we haven’t really gotten a clear answer as to why.

Why he may be cut:

Chase Brown is coming in to replace Samaje Perine, and I expect Williams to have an expanded role this season as well. Where does that leave a running back who can’t seem to get on the field? Probably on the outside looking in..... but again, he is talented.

Cody Ford, OL

Ford was signed this offseason to a one-year deal worth $1.08 million. He was selected out of Oklahoma in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft. He was traded to the Arizona Cardinals for a fifth-round pick in August and almost immediately was placed on IR with an ankle injury suffered in practice. He was activated in October and played in eight games, starting three at left guard. He also played right tackle. He was released following the season.

Why he may make the team:

He may make the team for the same reason Adeniji may, he’s versatile. He was brought in to compete for the right tackle position, likely as a backup, but he can also play guard. That gives him value.

Why he may be cut:

He had better run and pass-blocking grades in 2022 than Adeniji did, but he’s still not great. He would be a depth guy if he were to make the team, but he’ll be on the outside looking in if someone else in camp and in the preseason steps up. He’s likely already on the outside looking in.

Trent Taylor, WR

Taylor was selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. He was signed as a free agent by the Bengals before the 2021 season, was waived, and then re-signed to the team’s practice squad. He caught some big passes from Burrow in 2021, including the game-tying two-point conversion in the team’s victory over the Chiefs in the AFC Championship game. In 2022 he caught six passes for 62 yards.

Why he may make the team:

Taylor knows the offense. He is a good route runner and a decent punt returner. He’s smart and has done a good job when called upon for the Bengals.

Why he may be cut:

He was the primary backup for Tyler Boyd in the slot, but that job likely goes to rookie Charlie Jones. He didn’t produce as much as fellow Trent (Trenton Irwin). Taylor is probably going to need a great camp to make the team in 2023.

D’Ante Smith, OT

Smith was selected in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft out of Eastern Carolina. He has barely been able to get on the field in his two years. In 2022 he played six snaps during the regular season, playing only against the Cowboys. He was inactive for every game other than that. He struggled with injuries throughout his rookie season.

Why he may make the team:

He can be versatile, and he knows the offense, and a fourth-round pick is a different thing than a sixth or seventh-round pick or an undrafted free agent. They obviously saw something they liked in Smith when they drafted him. However, he hasn’t been able to show it on the field.

Why he may be cut:

There is no such thing as a “sure thing” when it comes to day three picks in the draft. Smith wasn’t able to get on the field in 2022 for more than a handful of snaps. Adeniji didn’t have a great season, but he was on the active roster and dressed for games. That’s more than Smith has done.

Stanley Morgan Jr., WR/ST

Morgan is technically a wide receiver, but he has only caught five passes for 29 yards in his three-year career. He was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Nebraska in 2019, and while he hasn’t done much as a receiver, he has been solid on special teams.

Why he may make the team:

You just read why. He’s a good special teams player. He made 11 special teams tackles in 2021 and 2022. He has 853 special teams snaps in 48 career games with the Bengals. There is a ton of value there. Special teams are incredibly important, and every team needs guys like Morgan Jr.

Why he may be cut:

The Bengals have brought in both Charlie Jones and Andrei Iosivas in the draft this year, and if they, especially Iosivas, show they can produce not only as a wide receiver but on special teams, then Morgan Jr. is probably on the outside looking in.


Tycen Anderson, S

The Bengals lost both Jessie Bates III and Vonn Bell in free agency. They drafted Dax Hill in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft and signed Nick Scott in free agency. Most believe Hill will take over for Bates at free safety, and Scott will take over the strong safety position for Bell. Anderson was selected in the fifth round in 2022 but spent the vast majority of his rookie season on IR with a hamstring injury. He’s extremely athletic, running a 4.36 40-yard dash at the combine.

Why he may make the team:

With Hill and Scott set to take over the safety position, it would be smart for the Bengals to keep as many safeties as they can for insurance in case the new starters don’t pan out or get injured. Anderson is an athletic safety, and the Bengals obviously have a thing for guys with high RAS scores (Anderson’s is 9.64).

Why he may be cut:

The Bengals selected Alabama safety Jordan Battle in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Battle isn’t the athlete that Anderson is, but he started three years as a strong safety in Nick Saban’s system, and that does mean something. The Bengals aren’t cutting Hill or Scott, and with so many fresh faces at the position, they will value the veteran leadership of Michael Thomas. If they keep only four safeties, that means Anderson is likely gone.

Allan George, CB

George was an undrafted free agent coming into the 2022 season. He spent most of the season on the practice squad but was activated in the second half of the season, and he played in all three playoff games. He took 36 defensive snaps and 20 special teams snaps and recorded two tackles.

Why he may make the team:

This is the last season of Chidobe Awuzie’s contract, and Mike Hilton only has two more seasons left. There was a depth problem at the cornerback position heading into this year’s offseason, and the Bengals place a lot of value on the cornerback position. George is familiar with Lou Anarumo’s system and is a valued special teams contributor as well.

Why he may be cut:

The Bengals signed Sidney Jones IV as a free agent, and they also drafted DJ Turner in the second round and DJ Ivey in the seventh. There isn’t nearly as much of a depth problem as there used to be, and George will be battling with some of the other backups for a roster spot.

Cam Sample, DE

This one is tough because I like Cam Sample. He was a fourth-round pick out of Tulane in 2021, and over the past two seasons, he played in 30 games as a rotational defensive end. He has 3.5 sacks and five tackles for loss on defense, and he played on special teams as well. In the 2022 AFC Championship game, he had a sack on Patrick Mahomes and a tackle for loss on Jerick McKinnon.

Why he may make the team:

Sample has shown he has what it takes to at least be a backup and rotational defensive end in Anarumo’s system. He isn’t going to take anyone’s job, but he can step in and give starters a breather, keeping them fresh and healthier deep in the season.

Why he may get cut:

There’s a lot of talent at the defensive end position, and the addition of Myles Murphy in the first round of the draft doesn’t help. Murphy will be the first defensive end to rotate in. While I do think Sample will make the team, that will depend on how the Bengals structure their active defensive line and how many defensive ends they decide to keep on the roster.

Jeff Gunter, DE

Gunter was selected in the seventh round of the 2022 draft out of Coastal Carolina. He earned a roster spot coming out of camp and played in 10 games his rookie year, He played in 37 snaps on defense, making one tackle, and played 78 snaps on special teams.

Why he may make the team:

He’s familiar with Anarumo’s system, and he’s shown flashes in the few snaps he’s had. He’s also a very good athlete with an RAS of 9.75. The Bengals like to have a lot of defensive linemen so they can keep everyone fresh and healthy.

Why he may get cut:

Gunter’s reason he may get cut are the same as Sample’s... mostly because of Murphy. I do believe that Sample would make the cut before Gunter does, and if I had to pick one, Sample would be the pick. The Bengals could be forced to choose between Sample and Gunter as well.

Jay Tufele, DT

Tufele was drafted in the fourth round in 2021 by the Jaguars. After his rookie season, he was waived and picked up off waivers by the Bengals for the 2022 season. Last year he played in seven games, with two starts. He finished the season with 16 tackles, two of which were for a loss. He filled in for DJ Reader at the nose tackle position. Tufele finished the 2022 season with a PFF overall defensive score of 52.6, including a solid pass-rush score of 68.9.

Why he may make the team:

The Bengals have two really good defensive tackles in Reader and B.J. Hill, but there wasn’t a ton of solid depth behind them heading into this offseason. Tufele will compete with guys like Josh Tupou and Zach Carter for a chance to make the final roster at the end of August, but if the Bengals decide to keep more than their usual interior defensive linemen to help keep Reader and Hill fresh, Tufele could make the team.

Why he may get cut:

The Bengals can only keep so many guys on the roster. Even though he had a pretty solid pass-rushing grade from PFF from the interior of the defensive line, with the addition of Murphy, the Bengals may like the idea of sliding Sample, or even Sam Hubbard inside in obvious passing situations. If that’s the case, there isn’t much need for Tufele unless there is a camp injury.

Joe Bachie, LB

Bachie is a key special teams player. He was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Saints and was added to their practice squad. He was then signed and waived by the Eagles before he landed with the Bengals. He suffered a knee injury late in 2021 and spent the first few weeks of the 2022 season on PUP. He only played in 14 snaps on defense in the 2022 season, but he was very good on special teams, earning a 67.9 grade from PFF.

Why he may make the team:

The Bengals place a lot of value on the defensive line and in the secondary, but outside of re-signing Germaine Pratt, they haven’t done a ton at the linebacker position. Bachie isn’t likely going to be on the field very often on defense if he makes the team in 2023, but the Bengals value his work on special teams, where he’s done well for himself.

Why he may get cut:

The Bengals re-signed Germaine Pratt, and it’s unclear as to whether they’ll extend Logan Wilson, but either way, Pratt and Wilson will be the team’s primary linebackers in 2023. Behind them is Akeem Davis-Gaither and Markus Bailey. ADG is the next man up for the linebacker position, and Bailey, another special teams contributor, took snaps on defense in 10 games compared to Bachie’s three games. If they need to cut a linebacker, Bachie could be on the chopping block.

Who did I miss? Which players on this list do you think are safe? Which players that weren’t mentioned above do you think are on the bubble?

Who Dey!