On Tuesday, the Cincinnati Bengals announced their youngest 53-man roster of the Zac Taylor era. Per the team’s website, the average age is 25.4 years. Last year, the Browns had the league’s youngest roster after cutdown day, averaging 25.6 years.
“As the roster gets more expensive, it gets younger as well,” Taylor said. “That’s the nature of the NFL and how it unfolds.”
What Changes Are in Store for the Bengals’ 53-Man Roster?
But history suggests today’s 53-man roster won’t be tomorrow’s 53-man roster. The Bengals claimed three players off the waiver wire last year — offensive lineman Max Scharping, tight end Devin Asiasi, and defensive tackle Jay Tufele — forcing them to cut three players who initially had made the roster.
Two of those three, Scharping and Tufele, are returning to this year’s 53-man roster, at least for now.
Here’s a position-by-positon breakdown and a look at where changes could be coming.
Cincinnati Bengals 53-Man Roster | Offense
Starter: Joe Burrow
Backup: Jake Browning
Practice Squad Prospect: Reid Sinnett
Analysis: As much as Taylor praised the way Browning played this summer, this is one of the positions where the Bengals will be looking to add talent. Even with Browning’s strong finish to the preseason, he still led only two touchdown drives out of 12 chances. That’s the same number that ended in interceptions.
“We’ll give it 24 hours to see how it all shakes out at the quarterback spot,” Taylor said.
Asked if he’s comfortable with Browning as QB2, Taylor said, “I feel really good about Jake being the No. 2.” But honestly, what else would he say before knowing whether a viable option will exist?
Even if the Bengals don’t find an immediate challenger to Browning, they certainly should be able to add another arm to be a better No. 3 than Sinnett before getting a better grasp of the offense and competing with Browning.
Running Back (4)
Starters: Joe Mixon
Backups: Trayveon Williams, Chase Brown, Chris Evans
Practice Squad Prospects: Jacob Saylors, Calvin Tyler Jr.
Analysis: Taylor said Williams, who sprained his ankle Aug. 2, will work his way back into practice this week, which is a positive sign because the third-down RB role is still clearly up for grabs. Williams always felt like the favorite before getting hurt, and then Evans appeared to have it in control.
“We kept four backs,” Taylor said. “We know what Mixon’s role is going to be — he’s a great first and second-down back that we want to continue to feature any way we can.
“I thought Chase had a good preseason, Chris had a good preseason, and now Trayveon gets a chance to jump into the mix. I think those roles are a little bit still to be finalized, and we’ve got a couple more practices to iron that out.”
It was interesting the “when he had the ball in his hands” qualifier Taylor added when complimenting Brown’s performance in the preseason finale Saturday at Washington. It sounds as though the rookie still has some trust to build in pass protection, and the third-down role is going to come down to Williams or Evans.
Wide Receiver (6)
Starters: Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd
Backups: Trenton Irwin, Charlie Jones, Andrei Iosivas
Practice Squad Prospects: Stanley Morgan, Trent Taylor, Kwamie Lassiter II, Shedrick Jackson
Analysis: Maybe spending three hours with Riverboat Ron Rivera rubbed off on Taylor, as the Bengals are taking a gamble in cutting Morgan. Or maybe there was a handshake agreement, and it’s not a risk at all. Morgan is not subject to waivers, so he can simply turn down any team that tries to sign him for his proven special teams work.
“It was a tough conversation, certainly,” Taylor said of cutting Morgan. “He’s been a part of four years worth of teams here and been a part of a lot of ups and downs, so difficult conversation when you’re dealing with guys like that. Certainly appreciate Stanley and love Stanley, and again, we’ll just continue to see how things shake out these next couple days.”
Tight Ends (3)
Starter: Irv Smith Jr.
Backups: Drew Sample, Mitchell Wilcox
Practice Squad Prospects: Tanner Hudson, Devin Asiasi, Nick Bowers
Analysis: Hudson did everything he could to make the team and can’t feel good about the way it shook out, with Wilcox riding in for a couple of practices and 17 snaps Saturday in Washington to win the job.
Hudson is a vested veteran who doesn’t need to clear waivers. The Bengals surely would like to bring him back on the practice squad, but you can see why he would be interested in looking elsewhere.
Offensive Line (10)
Starters: LT Orlando Brown Jr., LG Cordell Volson, C Ted Karras, RG Alex Cappa, RT Jonah Williams
Backups: Max Scharping, D’Ante Smith, Cody Ford, Jackson Carman, Trey Hill
PUP: La’el Collins
Practice Squad Prospects: Jaxson Kirkland, Nate Gilliam, Ben Brown
Season-Ending IR: Devin Cochran
Analysis: The biggest surprise here is Hill with Scharping cementing himself as the backup center. Hill has done nothing to suggest he would get claimed on waivers, so it would have been a safer move to cut him and keep Morgan as a seventh receiver.
Adding Collins to the Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform list means he’ll miss at least the first four games and can’t even return to practice until the days leading up to Week 5.
“It’s still weeks out, so it’s certainly hard for me to predict right now,” Taylor said.
Cincinnati Bengals 53-Man Roster | Defense
Defensive Line (10)
Starters: Trey Hendrickson, DJ Reader, B.J. Hill, Sam Hubbard
Backups: Joseph Ossai, Myles Murphy, Cam Sample, Zach Carter, Josh Tupou, Jay Tufele
Practice Squad Prospects: Raymond Johnson III, Jeff Gunter, Domenique Davis, Owen Carney
Season-Ending IR: Devonnsha Maxwell, Tautala Pesefea Jr.
Analysis: The Ossai injury wasn’t enough to get Johnson onto the 53, and he may not make the practice squad as well as he played in the preseason. One of the 31 teams almost certainly will put in a claim.
As for Ossai, Taylor said they are still assessing the severity of the right ankle injury he suffered Saturday at Washington.
“We’re going to get more information here today and tomorrow to be a little more conclusive on that,” Taylor said.
Starters: Logan Wilson, Germaine Pratt
Backups: Akeem Davis-Gaither, Joe Bachie, Markus Bailey
Practice-squad prospects: Keandre Jones, Jaylen Moody
Analysis: As clear-cut as it gets.
Starters: Chidobe Awuzie, Cam Taylor-Britt, Mike Hilton
Backups: DJ Turner II, Jalen Davis, DJ Ivey
Practice Squad Prospects: Allan George, Sidney Jones IV
Season-Ending IR: Marvell Tell III
Analysis: Ivey is the team’s latest seventh-round find to make the 53-man roster.
“Every day improving,” Taylor said. “Felt like he really competed, even in that last game. He was around the ball, made some plays on the ball. Again, a guy we feel like is only going to continue to improve. Felt like he was worthy of a 53-man roster spot.”
George should be back as a member of the practice squad, but Jones’ future is less certain.
Starters: Nick Scott, Dax Hill
Backups: Jordan Battle, Tycen Anderson
Practice Squad Prospect: Michael Thomas, Larry Brooks, Yusuf Corker
Analysis: Michael Thomas wants to come back on the practice squad, and the Bengals would love to have him back. Unless some team comes up with an incredible offer the 33-year-old veteran can’t refuse, he’ll be back in the building Wednesday.
Special Teams (3)
Starters: K Evan McPherson, P Brad Robbins, LS Cal Adomitis
Practice squad prospect: Drue Chrisman
Analysis: While the Bengals have taken advantage of the 16-man practice squad to stash specialists in the past, it didn’t sound as though that would be the plan for Chrisman.
“I certainly hope he gets an opportunity somewhere else to further his career,” Taylor said. “I think it speaks to Brad and the camp he’s had and the confidence that we have in him. He’s jumped in — doesn’t really appear to be a rookie. He fits in like he’s a vet. I have the confidence for him to show up in a divisional game Week 1 and be able to perform like we need him to.”
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