Bengals: 53-Man Roster Prediction following Jets Game

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Offense (24)

Aug 7, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) pitches the ball during the first half against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs won 41 – 39. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterback (2): Andy Dalton, Jason Campbell

Andy Dalton is obviously a roster lock, but it’s still worth noting his stellar off-season thus far.  He’s been fantastic and went eight for eight during Saturday’s game.  He completed another couple deep throws and may be turning the corner in this aspect of his game.  Concerns over Dalton’s play will continue until he can consistently perform at this level and during big (and playoff) games. But his performance thus far could be an indication that Hue Jackson’s approach to the offense may be enabling Dalton’s improvement along with Dalton’s off-season work which included having the receivers visit him at his home to work out and some time with throwing guru Tom House.

With regards to the depth at the position, the job still belongs to Jason Campbell despite his poor performance and elbow injury during the game against the Chiefs.  Frankly it’s disappointing to see the depth hasn’t improved, outside of drafting A.J. McCarron who is injured himself, since the Bengals prioritized this going into the off-season.  It’s beginning to look like the Bengals will put McCarron on the I.R. considering he’s yet to practice or play this preseason.  This would still allow McCarron to learn the system, but more importantly, would allow the Bengals to keep and extra positional player who may be able to help the Bengals address their depth and special teams concerns.  The backup job will be Jason Campbell’s more because of the inability of Matt Scott or Tyler Wilson to step in and take it rather than Campbell earning it thus far.

Running Back (4): Giovani Bernard, Jeremy Hill, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Cedric Peerman

The recent change in this group is BenJarvus Green-Ellis over Rex Burkhead.  Burkhead remains the better option for a third down back, but he suffered what seems to be a significant knee injury during Saturday’s game and looks to be out for some time.

If Burkhead misses substantial time, then the Bengals could use the I.R. with a designation to return option and Burkhead could be back by the middle of the season (depending on the prognosis).  In the meantime “the Law Firm” is an excellent third back to have on the roster.  He’s been a great short yardage back and his yards/carry may be benefitted by Hue Jackson’s scheme.  He’ll take some of the load off of both Bernard and Hill allowing them to stay fresh later into the season; an especially important consideration for rookies that are just getting used to the rigors of the NFL schedule.

Cedric Peerman would initially be a lock when considering he was last year’s captain of the special teams unit, but that’s an interesting point to consider.  On the one hand, the Bengals need as much help as possible with this unit’s play and a veteran such as Peerman can help a lot.  On the other hand, the unit has struggled with Peerman involved.  In the end Peerman needs to be on this team as taking away the unit’s leader will not solve its struggles (along with the lack of a fourth option at running back considering James Wilder Jr.’s struggles thus far).  As the unit’s captain hopefully he, along with coach Darrin Simmons, can begin to steer these young players in a better direction.  The unit struggled with penalties and consistently put the offense into difficult situations.  This unit needs a leader maybe more than ever during recent years and Peerman needs to be that guy.

Tight End/Fullback (4): Tyler Eifert, Jermaine Gresham, Orson Charles, Ryan Hewitt (FB/HB)

After not getting any work during the first game, Orson Charles lead the Bengals’ tight ends in snaps on Saturday night.  This could be a good sign for the third-year player as his only shot to make this team at this point seems to be in battling veteran Alex Smith for the final tight end slot.  Ryan Hewitt’s strong performance this preseason continues and, as the more reliable blocker between he and Charles, Hewitt seems to have the FB/HB role all but locked up.  The difference between Smith and Charles will be special teams contributions.  Smith may be the more reliable blocker within the offense, but Charles offers help on special teams and has more long-term potential than does Smith.  Charles has struggled to establish himself on this team.  With Jermaine Gresham going into a contract year and his future with the team still being decided upon, 2014 would be an excellent year for Charles to put it all together.

Wide Receiver (5): A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Dane Sanzenbacher, Ryan Whalen

The prognosis on Marvin Jones’ broken foot puts him out only for the Bengals first three regular season games while they have a week four bye following that.  This means the team won’t use its I.R. with a designation to return tag on Jones and he’ll be on the roster the whole time despite being injured.  The battle for the fifth, and final spot on my list, comes down to James Wright versus Ryan Whalen as Cobi Hamilton has played himself back onto the practice squad versus the final roster at this point.

As of last week I had James Wright holding the final slot, but after the Jets game the situation looks different.  Whalen reminded fans of his reliability in the passing game by catching four of the six targets he received.  His sure-handedness will be vital while Jones is out and he’s a veteran on special teams.   After not playing at all in game one, Whalen had a strong performance while Wright struggled to see the field.  He did play on special teams, but the rookie, special teams extraordinaire had another blocking penalty on Saturday night.  Wright’s value lies solely in his special teams prowess–he was drafted because of this–so if he continues to make these mistakes during this phase of the game, he’s going to play himself out of the competition and maybe even out of contention for the practice squad, which is often reserved for players who offer potential within the offense and defense.  Even considering Hamilton’s struggles, he’s clearly the more gifted receiver between he and Wright.  The battle for the final slot isn’t over, but as of now, Whalen looks to be the front-runner.

Offensive Line (9): Andrew Whitworth, Andre Smith, Marshall Newhouse, Tanner Hawkinson, Clint Boling, Kevin Zeitler, Mike Pollak, Trey Hopkins, Russell Bodine

Following the Jets game, not much seems to have changed along the line.  Trey Hopkins continues to receive a majority of snaps despite the return of Mike Pollak.  He’s looked good all off-season after being a prioritized UDFA following this May’s draft.  At this point it seems safe to assume that he’ll make the final roster.  Tanner Hawkinson is an ultra-versatile lineman who has put in the work to get stronger in the off-season.  He can line up just about anywhere which makes him simply to valuable to let go of when considering the line’s recent struggles to get and stay healthy.  Finally there’s Russell Bodine.  He’s going to make the roster, but his camp battle isn’t over.  He’s still fighting through snapping struggles as he battles for the starting center job.  The team is giving him every shot to earn the job because they like his strength against the powerful interior linemen they’ll face.  But the team has also began giving Mike Pollak some time at center in case Bodine continues to struggle as the preseason moves towards its finale.