Without further ado, here is our final Cincinnati Bengals 53-man roster prediction.
Quarterback (2) - Joe Burrow and Jake Browning
Practice squad potential: Trevor Siemian, Reid Sinnett, and outside acquisitions
The only competition here was between Jake Browning and Trevor Siemian for the backup role. Neither has been particularly impressive, but Browning appears to have won the job.
Given the rule change creating added value to having a third quarterback on the active roster and Joe Burrow’s camp injury, there was a chance that the team would keep three, but I don’t think Siemian’s play this preseason justifies that. The Bengals will need to keep another quarterback around in some capacity, which could land Siemian or Reid Sinnett on the practice squad unless they find an intriguing prospect on waivers.
Running Back (4) - Joe Mixon, Trayveon Williams, Chris Evans, and Chase Brown
Practice squad potential: Jacob Saylors
Joe Mixon is this team’s primary running back, and Chase Brown was cut from a similar clothe, but the rookie Brown is presumably safe after the team selected him in Round 5 this season.
Chris Evans and Trayveon Williams are both former 6th-round picks. Both are in the mold of a passing-down back, and both have proven value on special teams. If the team only keeps three running backs it is likely one of them who is out. Williams had the upper hand coming into camp, but his injury opened the door for Evans, who ran through it like it was a gap between Orlando Brown Jr. and Cordell Volson.
I think the team will keep all four. Brown may end up being a healthy scratch on game day if everyone else is healthy, but if Mixon misses a week at some point, he could not only be active but carry the load.
Wide Receiver (7) - Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, Trenton Irwin, Charlie Jones, Andrei Iosivas, and Stanley Morgan Jr.
Practice Squad Potential: Kwamie Lassiter, Shedrick Jackson, and Trent Taylor
I know, seven seems like a lot, but who are you going to cut?
Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd are obvious locks. Trenton Irwin is the trusted versatile backup. Stanley Morgan Jr. is not only a special teams savant, but coaches also call him the Energizer Bunny. Even Morgan’s spot could be in jeopardy if the team believes their rookie receivers and defensive backs can fill his special teams roles. Charlie Jones already has one role on special teams locked up. He will be the team’s starting punt returner, with Trent Taylor likely going to the practice squad in case Jones gets the yips. Andrei Iosivas has definitely impressed enough to make this team, and his athleticism projects him very well to a variety of special teams roles. Still, it’s difficult to see them cutting Morgan.
Kwamie Lassiter is going to be the hardest cut. He has looked good in a lot of different capacities, from receiving to blocking to special teams. I just don’t know how he can make this club in such a stacked wide receiver room.
Tight End (3) - Irv Smith, Mitchell Wilcox, and Tanner Hudson
Practice Squad Potential: Drew Sample, Devin Asiasi, and outside acquisitions
Irv Smith could be poised for a breakout year in 2023. He brings a more dynamic receiving threat than Hayden Hurst and C.J. Uzomah did and is a wildly underrated blocker. Sample and Wilcox were both brought back on one-year deals. We know what they are, and so do the Bengals coaches. The unknown here is Tanner Hudson, who has had an impressive preseason.
Hot take alert!
I’m going with Wilcox and Hudson to make the cut with Sample as a potential practice squad add. It also seems likely that some intriguing tight ends could pop up on the waiver wire, so don’t be surprised if another tight end comes into the building.
Offensive Line (9) - Orlando Brown Jr, Cordell Volson, Ted Karras, Alex Cappa, Jonah Williams, Max Scharping, Hakeem Adeniji, D’Ante Smith, and Jackson Carman (and La’el Collins on PUP)
Practice Squad Potential: Cody Ford, Ben Brown, and Nate Gilliam
The acquisition of Orlando Brown Jr, the Year 2 improvement of Cordell Volson, and the redemption song of Jonah Williams will combine with Ted Karras and Alex Cappa to make this the best starting unit the Bengals have fielded in years.
And, oh yeah, at some point, they’ll get La’el Collins back too.
The right tackle, which pundits have waxed poetic about all offseason, looks strong. The interesting competitions have been for backup roles.
Although Ben Brown has had some nice flashes at center, it is neither he nor Trey Hill nor Nate Gilliam who will be Karras’s backup. It is the surprise addition to the competition, Max Scharping. Sharping appears to be the first person off the bench at all three interior offensive line positions.
Swing tackle is also an interesting debate. D’Ante Smith has seen a lot of action and looked impressive, but Hakeem Adeniji has been trusted to play in some big games. Jackson Carman has failed to establish himself as anything more than a run blocker. I think all three make the team.
Carman could be dealt if the right offer comes in, but they may also hold on to him and use him as the sixth lineman in running situations. If Collins returns prior to the trade deadline, that is when I would expect Carman to be moved.
I could definitely see Cody Ford or Ben Brown making this team. My current projection is a bit light on the interior, making them strong candidates for the practice squad.
Defensive Line (10) - D.J. Reader, B.J. Hill, Josh Tupou, Zach Carter, Jay Tufele, Trey Hendrickson, Sam Hubbard, Joseph Ossai, Cam Sample, and Myles Murphy
Practice Squad Potential: Raymond Johnson III, Dominique Davis, and Jeff Gunter
Get out your Sharpies for this one. Trey Hendrickson, Sam Hubbard, Joseph Ossai, Cam Sample, and Myles Murphy are all making this team as defensive ends. Raymond Johnson III did some nice things this preseason, but I don’t know how he could crack into that group. The team will hope to get him on the practice squad.
The interior is a little tougher, but honestly not that tough. D.J. Reader and B.J. Hill are the most obvious. Josh Tupou is not only the backup nose tackle, he’s the starting 5-tech in the team’s “base” defense. Zach Carter has added weight and appears to have improved as a pass rusher. Could he be the one to finally replace Larry Ogunjobi in this defense?
Jay Tufele has some versatility and provides a bit of pass-rush juice. The only other real contender is Dominique Davis, who likely ends up on the practice squad.
Linebackers (5) - Germaine Pratt, Logan Wilson, Markus Bailey, Akeem Davis-Gaither, and Joe Bachie
Practice Squad Potential: Shaka Heyward and Keandre Jones
This is about as clear-cut as they come. Germaine Pratt and Logan Wilson are obvious locks, given their shiny new contracts. Markus Bailey, Akeem Davis-Gaither, and Joe Bachie have all started games and played well on both defense and special teams. It’s a solid and deep room.
With the pending free agency of the later trio, I could see the team trying to keep Shaka Heyward on the practice squad to develop for 2024.
Defensive Backs (10) - Chidobe Awuzie, Cam Taylor-Britt, Mike Hilton, DJ Turner, Jalen Davis, D.J. Ivey, Dax Hill, Nick Scott, Tycen Anderson, and Jordan Battle
Practice Squad Potential: Allan George, Sidney Jones, and Michael Thomas
This cornerback group is absolutely stacked. Chidobe Awuzie returns from injury with second-year-player Cam Taylor-Britt across from him and veteran Mike Hilton in the slot. Rookie DJ Turner will be the primary backup on the outside, and Jalen Davis will be the backup slot.
The sixth cornerback is where it gets interesting. Allan George earned the team’s trust last year, but they have raved about D.J. Ivey’s rare physical attributes, and I don’t think they’ll be willing to expose him to waivers. Whoever they don’t choose, they will certainly try to add to the practice squad.
Dax Hill and Nick Scott will be the starting safeties, but Tycen Anderson could play a large role as well. Michael Thomas gave Anderson his jersey following the Bengals final preseason game, symbolically passing the torch to the next safety and special teams ace. Thomas could end up on the practice squad if he is cut. Jordan Battle has the potential to see some action as well, but they likely won’t push the rookie.
Special Teams (3) - Evan McPherson, Brad Robbins, and Cal Adomitis
Drue Chrisman’s unfortunate hospitalization eliminated any chance of a competition for a specialist role.
Life comes at you fast as kicker Evan McPherson is suddenly the elder statesman of this group. Young long-snapper Cal Adomitis and rookie punter Brad Robbins round out an impressive group.
The overall influx of youth and speed on the roster should make Darrin Simmons’s special teams units a force to be reckoned with in 2023.