Preseason begins in just over 48 hours, which means the first depth chart was just released. The Bengals first one had a few surprises, and some other aspects that will make fans upset when they don’t realize the setup. Carl Lawson might be listed as 3rd-string RDE, but he will be on the field on the high majority of 2nd and 3rd downs. John Ross and Darqueze Dennard are listed as backups, but the majority of snaps in the NFL are not in base formations, but rather 3+ WR sets. Ross will be on the outside (Boyd in the slot), and Dennard will be the slot CB. The biggest surprise is at RT. Bobby Hart, the cast off of the putrid New York Giants O-line is currently the starter with Cedric Ogbuehi backing him up. Not a good sign for Jake Fisher, the projected starter coming into camp.
Bold = Lock
Quarterback (2): Andy Dalton, Matt Barkley
In a perfect world, the Bengals would be able to keep three quarterbacks, but I don’t see that happening this year with the young talent at other positions. Technically, the backup is still up for grabs, as Matt Barkley, signed in the offseason, and Jeff Driskel duke it out. The club has gone above and beyond to keep Driskel on the active roster over the pass couple seasons, but Barkley has more experience. Regardless, if Andy goes down, the team is not going to win.
Cut: Jeff Driskel, Logan Woodside
Runningback (4): Joe Mixon, Giovani Bernard, Mark Walton, Jr., Ryan Hewitt
Mixon took over the starting role and is a vital piece to the potential success of the group. Gio is right next to Mixon in the room and will still play plenty throughout the year. Rookie Mark Walton has similarities to Bernard in both style of play and size. He will contribute on special teams and in spots on offense. The one guy who’s spot is still up in the air is Ryan Hewitt. The Bengals did not use a fullback much at all with Ken Zampese and if Lazor plans on using him more often, he will be the guy. However, Cethan Carter could still beat him out.
Cut: Tra Carson, Brian Hill, Jarveon Williams, Quinton Flowers, Ray Lawry
Wide Receiver (7): A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, John Ross, Josh Malone, Cody Core, Alex Erickson, Auden Tate
Mike Brown and co. clearly have a ton of confidence in the young guns of the wide receiver group. Brandon LaFell was let go last week, leaving AJ Green as the only one with more than 2 years of experience. Green, Tyler Boyd, John Ross and Josh Malone will be the top four. Their spots are locked. As for Cody Core, Erickson, and Tate, it will depend on how many receivers they decide to keep. If they keep seven like they did a year ago, they will be the final three. With Burfict suspended, I think his final spot will go to keep all of them. Core and Erickson provide a ton of value on special teams and Tate can do things with his size that others can’t. If there was any belief that he could spend the year on the practice squad, they would do that. However, with the way he has performed in camp, there is no chance that is happening.
Cut: Kermit Whitfield, Ka’Raun White, Kayuane Ross, Devonte Boyd, Jared Murphy
Tight Ends (3): Tyler Eifert, Tyler Kroft, C.J. Uzomah
The room is set unless they keep a fourth with Eifert’s health always in jeopardy. If this is the case, Cethan Carter, who is listed as an H-back on the depth chart would be the most likely candidate. Mason Schreck is a practice squad candidate.
Cut: Mason Schreck, Jordan Franks, Moritz Boehringer
Offensive Line (10): Cordy Glenn, Clint Boling, Billy Price, Trey Hopkins, Alex Redmond, T.J. Johnson, Bobby Hart, Cedric Ogbuehi, Jake Fisher
The decisions on the offensive line will be the storyline come cut day, as the club is still trying to recover from losing key veterans (Whitworth and Zeitler) and poor drafting (Ogbuehi and Fisher). The trade for Cordy Glenn and subsequent drafting of Billy Price cements starters in 3 of the 5 spots. The right side of the line is still the most worrisome part of the team. Trey Hopkins and Alex Redmond are competing to for the starting spot, and they both should be on the final 53. Westerman had a ton of momentum at the end of last season, but he got food poisoning right before camp and lost a ton of weight. It will take him longer to truly be ready for real football. TJ Johnson is a lock to make it as the backup to Price, and may be needed more than anyone thought if Price’s snap problems persist. As for right tackle, it is a battle between Bobby Hart, Ogbuehi, and Fisher. I do believe all three end up on the roster with Hart being the leader in the clubhouse right now.
Cut: Justin Murray, Austin Fleer, Kent Perkins, Cory Helms, Brad Lundblade
Defensive Line (9): Carlos Dunlap, Geno Atkins, Andrew Billings, Carl Lawson, Jordan Willis, Sam Hubbard, Ryan Glasgow, Michael Johnson, Chris Baker
No position group on the roster has as much depth as the defensive line. In my opinion, I do not believe there is much wiggle room as to who is going to make it. Dunlap, Atkins, Billings, and Lawson will play the most snaps. Hubbard and Willis will rotate on the outside, while Glasgow and Baker will rotate on the inside. Michael Johnson is in a different position. While many believe he should be let go to provide more opportunities for the young guys, Johnson proved he can be of most value when moving inside on 3rd downs. The fact that he is listed as the starter on the first depth chart tells me he isn’t in jeopardy. This won’t be a Brandon LaFell-type situation. If I had to pick the one guy who could get left out, it would be Chris Baker, who was signed to a two-year deal this offseason. Rookie Andrew Brown was picked in the fifth round in the draft, but the team has proved that doesn’t mean you are a shoe-in to make it. If he shows out in the preseason, he would be an easy addition.
Cut: Andrew Brown, Josh Tupou, Eddy Wilson, Josh Okoye
Linebackers (5): Preston Brown, Nick Vigil, Vincent Rey, Malik Jefferson, Jordan Evans
Suspended (1): Vontaze Burfict
With Burfict suspended for the first four games, he does not count towards the 53-man roster. With that being said, I do not think that they will use that spot on an additional backer. The five guys that are locks will be the only ones to make it. Brown, Vigil, and Rey will be the ones playing the most through the first month. Evans will play some on passing downs, and both him and Jefferson will be keys on special teams. If they decide to keep another, Hardy Nickerson is the obvious choice.
Cut: Hardy Nickerson, Brandon Bell, Chris Worley, Junior Joseph
Defensiveback (10): William Jackson III, Dre Kirkpatrick, Darqueze Dennard, KeiVarae Russell, George Iloka, Shawn Williams, Clayton Fejedelem, Jesse Bates III, Devontae Harris, Darrius Phillips
Eight defensive backs have cemented their spot on the team. WJ3, Dre, and Dennard will be the corners, while Iloka and Williams will be the guys on the back end. Russell will be trusted much more than the others as the fourth corner, while rookie Jesse Bates has the versatility to help at both safety and slot corner. Clayton Fejedelem is as good as they have on special teams. This leaves one or two possible spots. Devontae Harris and Darius Phillips were both picked in the fifth round and have the early lead. Harris is more reliable on the defensive side of the ball, where Phillips is much less consistent. Phillips brings more valuable on special teams, but he has even been shaky there in camp. I could easily see him being a practice squad guy.
Cut: Josh Shaw, C.J. Goodwin, Tony McRae, Brandon Wilson, Tyrice Beverette, Trayvon Henderson
Specialists (3): Randy Bullock, Kevin Huber, Clark Harris
Randy Bullock is the only one of the three with competition in camp, but Bullock was so steady last season, I don’t see any change.
Cut: Jonathan Brown
Practice Squad: Logan Woodside, Jarveon Williams, Kermit Whitfield, Mason Schreck, Kent Perkins, Justin Murray, Andrew Brown, Josh Tupou, Junior Joseph, Brandon Wilson
Other PS candidates: Chris Worley, Quinton Flowers, Ka’Raun White, Jordan Franks, Cory Helms, Eddy Wilson, Trayvon Henderson