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The Bengals’ biggest roster decisions ahead of final cuts

Highlighting a few position battles that will force the Bengals coaching staff to make some tough decisions.

Syndication: The Enquirer Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

The preseason is over. In less than two weeks, a football game that matters will have been played. The Cincinnati Bengals coaching staff, like all other teams, are working tirelessly to reduce their rosters from around 90 to 53. The final rosters are due by Tuesday at 4 pm ET.

When someone in the Bengals front office says, “I have a case of the Mondays,” this Monday, they get a free pass.

Here are a few position battles that took place during camp and some tough decisions the coaches are going to have to make.

Tycen Anderson vs. Michael Thomas

I’m going to start with this one because I believe Anderson will be chosen before Thomas is. He had an amazing preseason, highlighted by a two-interception first preseason game, including one he took back for a pick-six. He’s young and athletic and could be a dynamic addition to the secondary and special teams.

Michael Thomas is one of my favorite players on the Bengals. He’s entering his 11th year in the league and has not only mentored a young team as a great force in the locker room, but he contributed heavily on special teams. Unless the Bengals keep five safeties, and I doubt they will, I imagine Thomas gets cut. Hopefully, he clears waivers and signs to the practice squad.

Mitchell Wilcox vs. Tanner Hudson

The two top tight ends on the roster are Irv Smith Jr. and Drew Sample, but a third tight end is definitely needed, considering Smith’s injury history and Sample being..... Sample. The third tight end needs to be another potential pass catcher who can stretch the field, meaning Devin Asiasi isn’t included.

Neither Wilcox nor Hudson had fully healthy preseasons. Wilcox started the preseason on PUP but was activated after the team’s second preseason game. Hudson missed the second preseason game with a concussion, which he suffered in the first game. In game three, the only of the two to catch any passes was Hudson, who snagged four for 42 yards, including an impressive 20-yard catch in traffic.

Wilcox took 17 snaps (to Hudson’s 32) but didn’t run any routes. He did, however, have a very good run-blocking score. I imagine Hudson has the spot unless the team decides to keep four tight ends.

Trent Taylor vs. Stanley Morgan

The Bengals are loaded at wide receiver. They have the big three, but they also have Charlie Jones and Andrei Iosivas, who were both drafted this year, and Trent Irwin, who had a good preseason and contributed quite a bit in 2023.

They’ll likely keep seven receivers, though, and that seventh spot will either go to Taylor or Morgan. Taylor caught a couple of passes last year, but Morgan didn’t catch any. However, Morgan is a special teams ace. I think Taylor is a better receiver than Morgan, but Morgan is a better special teamer than Taylor. It’ll be interesting to see what the coaches do here.

Jackson Carman vs. Hakeem Adeniji

Here’s the deal. We know what Carman is and what he isn’t. He is an okay backup left tackle who struggles with pass blocking, especially on the right side, but is a pretty powerful run blocker. He also has experience at guard, and the team likely has a little more invested in him and hopes that he can still develop. He is a decent athlete.

Adeniji has experience at guard and tackle too, but maybe his potential ceiling isn’t as high as Carman’s. His potential floor might be higher, though. Neither of them played particularly well against the Commanders or throughout the preseason in general.

I think Carman makes it because..... just because I do.

Raymond Johnson III vs. Jay Tufele

The Bengals defensive line is loaded with talent, and the last spot on the line will likely go to one of these guys. Johnson had a great preseason, with two sacks and eight total pressures. He was one of the better backup edge rushers on the team this preseason.

Tufele had an okay preseason, highlighted by a good performance in his first game. However, the other guys on the interior, like Zach Carter and Josh Tupou, played better. On top of that, Joseph Ossai left the third game with an ankle injury. That could push the Bengals to lead toward Johnson III as well.

D.J. Ivey vs. Sidney Jones IV

The Bengals looked like they could have a depth problem at the cornerback position. However, after the draft and free agency, it has become a position of strength for the team. Chidobe Awuzie is back and fully healthy and poised to resume as the starter opposite Cam Taylor-Britt.

Ivey has been a pleasant surprise, considering he was a seventh-round pick, and he not only did it in the games, but he did it against Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd at times in practice as well.

Jones didn’t take any snaps in any preseason games, and he just didn’t get much of a chance to get a lot of tape.

Brad Robbins vs. Drue Chrisman

Here’s the deal. We all love Chrisman, especially considering what he’s done for charity throughout the offseason. However, the Bengals selected Robbins for a reason, and he’s what the Bengals need, a punter with a high hang time who is capable of pinning a team back in their own territory.

I think Robbins makes the team, but hopefully, Chrisman lands on his feet somewhere else.

Who do you think will make the team? What tough decisions do you think the Bengals coaching staff will need to make?