The NFL football season is just around the corner, and with that are incoming roster cuts. The Cincinnati Bengals might be one of the more infuriating teams to watch in 2020, but the potential building blocks in place on this roster are ones that should keep the fan base in a euphoric state of mind. Still, it’s never easy to trim a talented 80-man unit down to 53 for Week 1.
The offseason has been extremely different without a preseason. Without those live reps, it’s hard to pinpoint which scout team heroes will transition well in live-action if their number is called. Those that struggled during camp also might be out of luck when it comes to grabbing their pink-slip. More than likely the final 53-man squad is already cemented in head coach Zac Taylor’s mind; here’s hoping it’s the perfect blend for the impending season.
Final 53-Man roster projections for the 2020 Cincinnati Bengals
The promising young talents on offense
Quarterbacks (3): Joe Burrow, Ryan Finely, Brandon Allen
Burrow showed glimpses of greatness in the final week of camp, building a connection with Auden Tate on the outside. Ready or not, he’s going to be the starter Week 1 against the Chargers, and hopefully for the at least next decade. Finley proved to be the better quarterback than Jake Dolegala, but Allen’s veteran presence may very well be enough to slot in at QB2. Either way, it’s cut and dry that the Bayou Bengal is the only person hope they need to know.
Running Backs (4): Joe Mixon, Gio Bernard, Trayveon Williams, Samaje Perine
We all know that Mixon will see a bulk of the carriers, especially after his extension. Perhaps the top overall weapon in the Bengals system, expect him to see the most snaps of all offensive players not on the offensive line or under center. Bernard is cemented as the change-of-pace back while Williams has so far not had a chance to break out due to injury. Perine’s size should see him stay on the roster for short-yardage situations.
Wide Receivers (6): A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, John Ross, Tee Higgins, Auden Tate, Alex Erickson
Both Erickson and Tate exploded in training camp, as the duo needed to in order to earn their keep. Ross is in a contract year, but a fully healthy season might make him Burrow’s go-to weapon. Green is on the franchise tag, and Boyd has been the only target in two years that’s surpassed 70 catches and 1,000 yards. Higgins can sit back and learn as a rookie behind what appears to be an extremely talented arsenal for the 23-year-old gunslinger.
Stanley Morgan and Mike Thomas also made strides throughout camp. Expect both of them to be on the practice squad this season.
Tight End (3): C.J. Uzomah, Drew Sample, Mason Shreck
Tyler Eifert is gone, so Uzomah will get the chance to step up as more of a well-rounded tight end moving forward. Sample had an intense final week of camp after his rookie season was plagued with injuries. He’s a great blocker, but his receiving ability stood out late in camp. The team will need to keep a third tight end, and Shreck should be in the running for special teams and as an “H-back” role.
Offensive Line (9): Jonah Williams, Michael Jordan, Trey Hopkins, Xavier Su’a Filo, Bobby Hart, Billy Price, Fred Johnson, O’Shea Dugas, Hakeem Adeniji
Until the waiver wire starts, these should be the names on most lists. Williams is hopefully the final answer as Andrew Whitworth’s replacement from 2016. Johnson could battle in practice week-by-week with Hart, who competed for the right side’s starting role. Isaiah Prince might have made the roster if he had not decided to opt-out — giving the final spot to the versatile Dugas as a swing tackle.
A porous defense on the upswing
Defensive Line (8): Carlos Dunlap, D.J. Reader, Geno Atkins, Sam Hubbard, Carl Lawson, Mike Daniels, Andrew Brown, Khalid Kareem
The top four should start based on production and contracts alone. Reader’s run-stopping ability might be a perfect pairing for Atkins’ dangerous pass-rushing skills. Lawson will hope to remain healthy in a contract year and have a Shaquil Barrett-like season as a pass rusher.
Brown came on as of late, making him the likely final option as a larger five-technique who can move more inside on coverage sets. Amani Bledsoe, another camp class hero, is more than likely going to be considered for the practice squad.
Linebackers (6): Germaine Pratt, Logan Wilson, Josh Bynes, Akeem Davis-Gaither, Markus Bailey, Austin Calitro
The top three are set for a base 4-3 defense or even a dime formation. Bynes’ veteran presence should give him the starting rights over Wilson in Week 1, but the Wyoming product will eventually crack the rotation. The Bengals can’t afford to cut Bailey as his production is too valuable to the future. To keep him safe from the wire, Cincinnati could move Jordan Evans to the IR with his hamstring injury while figuring out the seventh-round rookie’s role for the future.
Cornerbacks (6): William Jackson III, Mackensie Alexander, Darius Philips, LeShaun Sims, Tony Brown, Winston Rose
Trae Waynes’ injury opens a roster spot for someone on special teams for at least 12 weeks. Sims likely gets the call as Waynes’ replacement thanks to his veteran presence in the Titans’ coverage. Barring a suspension, Philips should own the nickel role for Alexander before eventually challenging Sims for reps on the outside. Brown was impressive in the final scrimmage with two near interceptions and a pass breakup in the slot. Rose had an up and down camp but his upside should earn him the final spot over Torry McTyer.
Safeties (4): Jessie Bates III, Shawn Williams, Vonn Bell, Brandon Wilson
Bates III is finally going to shine at his natural centerfield role this season in deep coverage. Williams could return in time for the season opener, challenging Bell for snaps as the permanent strong safety position.
However, it is worth keeping in mind that the former Saint shined as a larger nickel defender early in New Orleans and could do the same with the Bengals in place of Alexander in the early part of this season. Wilson’s special team skills likely give him the edge over Trayvon Henderson if the team elects to only go with a four-man set.
A shoutout to the Special Teams
Special Teams (3): Randy Bullock (PK), Kevin Huber (P), Clark Harris (LS)
If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Tristian Vizcaino was cut last week, keeping “Big Bullock” on the roster for at least Week 1.
Enjoy the season, Bengals fans. While this year may not always be pretty, it is looking like a promising future in the Jungle for years to come.