CINCINNATI (WKRC) - The Bengals will resume practice on Wednesday as they head toward the third game of the preseason on Sunday in Jacksonville, and then two days later - on Aug. 30 - the team must cut its current 90-player roster to 75, with the final cut to 53 players coming on Sept. 3, two days after the preseason finale against Indianapolis.
Here is a position-by-position look at how the roster is taking shape with locks to make it, players on the bubble and those who are longshots to make it, plus the roster moves the Bengals are likely to make on Aug. 30 to get down to the 75-player limit at that time (the number to be kept on the 53-player roster is in parentheses after position listed):
- Locks (2): Andy Dalton, AJ McCarron.
- On the Bubble: None.
- Longshots (2): Joe Licata, Keith Wenning.
- The Skinny: Dalton is the starter, McCarron an extremely capable backup and Wenning will likely be re-signed to the practice squad.
RUNNING BACK (5)
- Locks (5): Jeremy Hill, Giovani Bernard, Rex Burkhead, Cedric Peerman, Ryan Hewitt (FB),
- On the Bubble (1): Jeff Luc (FB).
- Longshots (3): Andrew Bonnett (FB), Tra Carson, Bronson Hill.
- The Skinny: Luc, who was a linebacker in college at the University of Cincinnati, but has played well despite being very raw, would stick only if Hewitt is needed at tight end if Tyler Eifert and/or Tyler Kroft would both miss the opener, and even then he is likely headed for the practice squad. Carson may also be a practice squad candidate.
TIGHT ENDS (3)
- Locks (3): Tyler Eifert, Tyler Kroft, C.J. Uzomah.
- On the Bubble: None.
- Longshots (2): Matt Lengel, John Peters.
- The Skinny: It's just a matter of when Eifert and Kroft will be ready, and Uzomah has shown enough potential to keep, plus he's the most experienced healthy tight end on the roster right now. If both Eifert (ankle) and Kroft (hyper-extended knee) aren't ready for the season opener it's possible Lengel is kept, but not very likely.
WIDE RECEIVERS (6)
- Locks (3): A.J. Green, Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd.
- On the Bubble (5): Brandon Tate, Cody Core, James Wright, Jake Kumerow, Alex Erickson.
- Longshots (4): Mario Alford, Michael Bennett, Antwane Grant, Alonzo Russell, Rashaun Simonise
- The Skinny: There is a real battle here with some decisions to make. Core has probably played his way into lock status, while Kumerow has hurt his chances with injuries and could be ticketed for the practice squad again. That leaves Tate, Wright and Erickson likely battling for two spots. Erickson has shown he has some ability as a punt returner, but will the Bengals really trust an undrafted rookie to handle that role. Tate is well-respected for his consistency and reliability, and has looked good as a receiver in camp and the two preseason games. Wright is working his way back from knee surgery that cost him all of last season. Alford, who is battling a sprained ankle, and Russell are possibilities for the practice squad, and it's possible Alford goes on the Physically Unable to Perform list or injured reserve to keep him around as well.
OFFENSIVE LINE (9)
- Locks (8): LT Andrew Whitworth, RT Cedric Ogbuehi, RG Kevin Zeitler, LG Clint Boling, C Russell Bodine, G/T Jake Fisher, G/T Eric Winston, G Christian Westerman.
- On the Bubble (2): C T.J. Johnson, G/T Trey Hopkins
- Longshots (2): C/G/T Trip Thurman, G Alex Redmond, G/C Alex Cooper, T John Weidenaar, T Aaron Epps.
- The Skinny: Thurman is a wild-card, because he has played center and guard and is now playing tacke, while Hopkins also has some versatility, but has struggled at tackle. Cooper and Thurman are possibilities for the practice squad. It's possible the Bengals keep 10 at this position group.
DEFENSIVE LINE (9)
- Locks (4): DT Geno Atkins, DE Michael Johnson, DE Carlos Dunlap, DT Domata Peko.
- On the Bubble (5): DE Will Clarke, DE/DT Margus Hunt, DT Marcus Hardison, DT Pat Sims, DT DeShawn Williams.
- Longshots (3): DE Ryan Brown, DE Jack Gangwish, DT David Dean
- Injured (2): DT Andrew Billings, DT Brandon Thompson.
- The Skinny: All five players on the bubble will likely make it as Clarke and Hardison have played well, Sims is still a run stuffer and Williams has upside, while Hunt is going to get one last chance to show something. Billings is likely lost for the season after suffering a torn meniscus and Thompson is still on the Preseason Physically Unable to Perform list as he recovers from a knee injury suffered in the 2015 regular-season finale. It's also possible only eight are kept at this position in which case Williams and Hunt could be battling for the final roster spot. Williams is also still eligible for the practice squad.
- Locks (4): MLB Rey Maualuga, OLB/MLB Vinny Rey, OLB Karlos Dansby, OLB/MLB Nick Vigil.
- On the Bubble (3): MLB Trevor Roach, OLB P.J. Dawson, OLB/DE Jayson DiManche.
- Longshots (2): OLB Marquis Flowers, MLB Darien Harris.
- Suspended (1): OLB Vontaze Burfict.
- The Skinny: Burfict is suspended for the first three regular-season games and won't count against the 53-player roster till week four when he is eligible to play so that opens a roster spot. Dawson will likley land one and Roach has the inside track for the other. DiManche is also a possibility because of his special teams ability, and because he might add depth as a edge-rushing end, which has been used at times in training camp. Harris has a good chance to be on the practice squad.
- Locks (7): CB Adam Jones, CB Dre Kirkpatrick, CB Darqueze Dennard, S Shawn Williams, S George Iloka, CB/S Josh Shaw, S Derron Smith.
- On the Bubble (3): CB Chris Lewis-Harris, S Jimmy Wilson, S Clayton Fejedelem.
- Longshots (5): CB Chykie Brown, CB Darius Hillary, CB Tony McRae, CB Corey Tindal, S Floyd Raven,
- Injured (1): CB William Jackson III
- The Skinny: It's possible the Bengals keep 10 players at this position group due to injury issues to Dennard, and if so all three players on the bubble make it. If only nine players are kept then Fejedelem, the team's seventh-round pick, could be the odd man out, but would definitely be signed to the practice squad. Hillary will be a candidate for the practice squad.
- Locks (3): P Kevin Huber, K Mike Nugent, LS Clark Harris.
- On the Bubble: None.
- Longshots (1): K Zach Hocker
- The Skinny: Nugent will enter the season as the Bengals kicker, even if some fans aren't happy with that. Hocker just returned to practice this week and most certainly will get a chance to kick in the preseason finale and maybe some at Jacksonville, but it isn't enough to unseat Nugent.
PREDICTED ROSTER MOVES ON AUG. 30
The Bengals must reduce their current roster by 13 players to reach the 75-player limit and here is a prediction of what they will do (Tyler Eifert and Brandon Thompson are still on the Preseason PUP list, which is why only 13 moves must be made):
- Waived (11): WR Michael Bennett, FB Andrew Bonnett, DT David Dean, DE Jack Gangwish, WR Antwane Grant, RB Bronson Hill, CB Tony McRae, TE John Peters, G Kyle Remond, WR Rashaun Simonise, CB Corey Tindal.
- Released (1): CB Chykie Brown
- Injured Reserve (1): DT Andrew Billings.
- The Skinny: Even though the Bengals only need to make 13 roster moves due to Eifert and Thompson still on the Preseason PUP list, this cut may be harder for the team to make than the final cut, because it's not likely many if any starters play in the preseason finale, so certain position groups will have extra players for that game due to nagging injuries to frontline players. It's just a guess about Billings being placed on IR, because if the Bengals place him on that list now then he won't be eligible to return this season, but if the meniscus tear in his knee required surgery to repair it, then he won't be back this season anyway. Releasing the veteran Brown now gives him a chance to land with another team, but that won't be very likely.