Bengals: 53-Man Roster Prediction following Cardinals Game

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Offense (24)

Nov 17, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals offense huddles during the game against the Cleveland Browns at Paul Brown Stadium. Cincinnati won 41-20. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterback (2): Andy Dalton, Jason Campbell

This group has been established for some time, so there’s very little prediction coming here.  Andy Dalton has looked quite good during the preseason and, though it’s only been three games, he hasn’t turned the ball over and has been more impressive when facing pressure; it looks as though Hue Jackson’s influence is rubbing off on Dalton, which is great news for the Bengals and their outlook going forward.

What has been disappointing is the Bengals’ inability for establish some depth at the position; a goal going into the season.  Jason Campbell was brought to Cincinnati primarily to mentor Dalton, but a side benefit to his acquisition was his knowledge of Hue Jackson’s system.  Campbell did well while starting during Jackson’s tenure in Oakland, so one would think his knowledge of Jackson’s system would’ve helped him find similar success with the Bengals.  But this hasn’t been the case thus far.  Campbell struggled mightily against the Chiefs even having sustained an elbow injury.  He returned for the Cardinals game, but continued to be unimpressive.  Along with Campbell, neither newly acquired Tyler Wilson and nor Matt Scott has made any impression either and, due to an injury of his own, rookie quarterback A.J. McCarron has been an afterthought as he’s been unable to get onto the field at all. Going into the season, it looks as if the Bengals will continue to lack depth at the position.

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

The Bengals have a loaded backfield heading into 2014.  It’s seems apparent that Hue Jackson’s system is working for the Bengals starting offense and the Bengals’ backfield is prepared for the increased role in the offense.  Cedric Peerman makes the team because of his special teams ability and Green-Ellis makes it because Rex Burkhead looks to be out for some time after sustaining a knee injury and the team needs to be deep at running back.  Green-Ellis is an excellent third option and he ensures that Bernard can leave the “heavy lifting” to both Green-Ellis and Jeremy Hill.  Health will be a huge key to the Bengals’ success, especially in the playoffs, so having three to four capable backs will keep the group healthy as the year progresses.

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

The Bengals have a huge conundrum when it comes to the receivers room.  Although it’s unlikely, I still think it’s possible the team goes with only five in the group because they have so many receiving options outside of this group including their tight ends and running backs.  James Wright is the final selection over both Cobi Hamilton and Brandon Tate.  Tate has been a solid returner per usual, but he adds little else.  With Dane Sanzenbacher and Adam Jones stepping up in the return roles, I simply can’t see the Bengals prioritizing another returner when he has little skill to contribute elsewhere.  And as gifted as Hamilton is, he’s struggled with drops and can’t play on special teams.  Wright has struggled with penalties while blocking on special teams (three penalties in three games), but he seems to be the best all-around player in this threesome so he wins the spot.

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

The only question mark in this group is Charles.  He’s battling with veteran Alex Smith and Kevin Brock for the final slot.  Charles has been largely a disappointment since being drafted.  I expect he’ll make the roster due to his special teams ability, something that can’t be overlooked due to the unit struggling, albeit largely when blocking versus covering.  Alex Smith specializes as a blocker, but the team has a very capable one in Hewitt at both the fullback and tight end slot.  Charles’ chances did take a hit when the league approved the expansion of the practice squad and its eligibility rules, which made Charles eligible now despite heading into his third season.  If Charles is cut, the Bengals will likely place him on the practice squad (if he clears waivers).  In that case, the team would keep Alex Smith.  The Bengals’ final preseason game should be the deciding factor.

Offensive Line (9): Andrew Whitworth, Andre Smith, Kevin Zeitler, Clint Boling, Russell Bodine, Mike Pollak, Marshall Newhouse, Tanner Hawkinson, T.J. Johnson

The wrench in the plans here comes with Trey Hopkins injury. Geoff Hobson reports the injury may be serious, but doesn’t necessarily end his season.

This places the team in an interesting circumstance.  If neither Hopkins nor running back Rex Burkhead are necessarily out for the year, then the team must decide which player (if either) they’d want to use the I.R. with a designation to return tag on.  Both players would be eligible for the practice squad, but both players could very likely be picked up by an opposing team.  I suspect that either one or both will get the “return” tag and the other would be placed on the I.R. for the year so the team can retain his rights.  As the team hasn’t confirmed any specific diagnosis on either player, we’ll all have to wait until more information is available to speculate what the team will choose.