Cincinnati Bengals 53-Man Roster Projection

Bengals Roster

After another off-season of roster churn, the Cincinnati Bengals are starting pre-season work-outs with many fresh faces. For the first time since Zac Taylor took over the coaching job, the team faces a somewhat normal training process. However, this season is quite important for the coaching staff and organization; it’s time to win some football games. Plus, with Joe Burrow manning the quarterback position, it’s time to start fighting for playoff berths in Cincinnati. 

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Cincinnati Bengals 53-Man Roster Projection: It’s All About Joe Burrow

Quarterback (2)

In: Joe Burrow, Brandon Allen

There’s not going to be much controversy at this position. They could wind up carrying three quarterbacks on the roster as insurance for Burrow’s knee. Still, Burrow is a rising star and should be expected to carry the position in 2021. Behind him? Brandon Allen is a good backup who can win teams a game or two if Burrow should miss time. With their coaching staff built up by quarterbacks, the team is in good hands with Burrow and Allen. 

Running Back (4)

In: Joe Mixon, Samaje Perine, Chris Evans, Pooka Williams

Over the last few seasons, it’s become commonplace for the Bengals to carry four running backs on the roster. The top of the depth chart is obvious: the team paid Joe Mixon $48 million last summer for a reason. However, Mixon only has one 16-game season in his career and is coming off of a major foot injury. Samaje Perine played well alongside the since-departed Giovani Bernard last season in limited sets. The pass-catching, sixth-round pick Chris Evans, however, seems like a logical replacement for Bernard.

Beyond the core three, Pooka Williams is the name to watch for this group. His punt returning ability to something that could push him onto the Cincinnati Bengals 53-man roster this season. However, Pooka will need to beat out Traevyon Williams in order to leap onto the roster. Granted, T. Williams didn’t look great last season in limited opportunities. Looking ahead, the battle between the pair should be a good watch come training camp. 

Tight End (3)

In: C.J. Uzomah, Drew Sample, Thaddeus Moss

The top end of this room is entering its third-straight season together. Uzomah is a nice pass-catcher and a friendly leader in the locker room. Drew Sample is one of the league’s best blocking tight ends and provides an acceptable second-string option. Certainly, both have their shortcomings but are respectable options for this team. Beyond that duo, Burrow’s college teammate Thaddeus Moss seems likely to make the back-end of this roster. Look for Moss to play a role on special teams and in some red zone sets. 

Wide Reciever (7)

In: Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, Auden Tate, Trent Taylor, Stanley Morgan, Scotty Washington

This group is probably pretty set in stone, though the back-end of the room could shake up in training camp. The top-end, however, is going to be hard to shake. The trio of Chase, Higgins, and Boyd might be the best in football this season and is already receiving plenty of hype. While Boyd is the only truly proven player in the room, he’s in very good company. Higgins looked great as a rookie and Chase seems like a fast fit. Meanwhile, Auden Tate is going to be the first receiver off the bench, which is a good weapon for the Bengals in that spot. His catch radius makes him a good target for Burrow and the two showed some solid chemistry last season. 

Offensive Line (9)

In: Jonah Williams, Quinton Spain, Xavier Su’a-Filo, Trey Hopkins, Jackson Carman, Riley Reiff, Fred Johnson, Billy Price, Hakeem Adeniji 

After renovating their much-maligned offensive line this off-season, this group has much more high-end than in the past. In particular, relying on free-agent snag Riley Reiff at the tackle position is a massive upgrade over Bobby Hart. The guard spots will wind up being the most important positions to watch prior to the season. At right guard, all indications are that second-round rookie Jackson Carman will take the reigns. Meanwhile, the left guard spot will be determined by a battle between veterans in Spain and Su’a-Filo. 

For now, the best-performing depth players are going to be important things to monitor for this Cincinnati Bengals 53-man roster. Last season, Michael Jordan proved a less-than-acceptable back-up on the line. Other names, like Alex Redmond, are out the door, paving the way for the team to work with young talent. They need to get something out of Adeniji, Johnson, and/or Jordan in camp to feel good about depth. Plus, Billy Price is playing out what’s likely his final season in Cincinnati. 

Defensive Line (10)

In: D.J. Reader, Sam Hubbard, Trey Hendrickson, Larry Ogunjobi, Cameron Sample, Joseph Ossai, Tyler Shelvin, Mike Daniels, Josh Tupou, Renell Wren

One of the major lessons learned from last season? Defensive line depth is a big deal. In an effort to not play a full line of street free agents this year, the Bengals were aggressive in upgrading this group this off-season. Hendrickson and Ogunjobi were big free-agent splashes. Both are expected to play starting roles on this defensive line. Sample and Ossai both have the chance to help this team add more sacks as rookies. After all the group tallied just 17 sacks last season, last in the NFL. Granted, a healthy D.J. Reader to push the middle of the line should play a major impact on that front. The back end of this room will be interesting to watch. Tupou opted out last season and Wren is coming off of a major quad injury. 

Linebackers (6)

In: Logan Wilson, Germaine Pratt, Akeem Davis-Gaither, Jordan Evans, Markus Bailey, Joe Bachie

Perhaps the group with the most question marks ahead of the season, this is a very young Bengals linebacking group. Only Jordan Evans has more than three years of professional experience and he’s not expected to start. Granted, Logan Wilson played awfully impressive football as his rookie season progressed. Currently, he’s expected to make a sophomore leap and more health on the defensive line should help the cause. Pratt, on the other hand, needs to play with more consistency entering his third season in Cincinnati. 

Beyond the starting group, Markus Bailey and Joe Bachie are two second-year players looking to make a splash. Neither played many reps during the 2020 season and will compete to show their on-field value in 2021. Bachie joins the team after being a sought-after waiver-wire member in late May. Bailey was a 2020 seventh-round pick who is still working back into shape after a bad knee injury during his collegiate career. Both have the ability to make an impact as sideline-to-sideline linebackers; that makes it an interesting depth chart battle.

Cornerback (5)

In: Trae Waynes, Chidobe Awuzie, Mike Hilton, Darius Phillips, Eli Apple

This group is another that’s pretty set in stone ahead of the 2021 season. The top-end will be a trio of free agents who came to Cincinnati over the past two off-seasons. Waynes and Awuzie are certain to start outside, with former Pittsburgh Steelers slot corner Mike Hilton adding some impact. Behind them are two pretty comfortable back-ups in Phillips and Apple. Phillips shows some flash in the punt return game and has great ball skills at both slot and outside corner. In Apple, the team has a chance to work with some untapped potential in the former first-rounder. Who’s up first between that duo? That’ll be a battle in camp, though it would seem Phillips has the upper hand. Certainly, a strong camp from Apple could change that narrative.

Safety (4)

In: Jessie Bates III, Vonn Bell, Ricardo Allen, Brandon Wilson

Is this the best safety duo in football? As the 2020 season progress, it started to seem that way. Due for an extension this fall, Jessie Bates III ranked as the top safety in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus. Meanwhile, Vonn bell brings as much to the run game as any safety in the league right now. This off-season, the team brought in the solid veteran Ricardo Allen to give them some depth. Behind him, Brandon Wilson is a scary kick returner and will keep teams on their toes in 2021. 

Specialists (3)

In: Evan McPherson, Kevin Huber, Clark Harris

Pleasing fans, rookie kicker Evan McPherson is replacing Randy Bullock at kicker. That factor alone was a cause for celebration among some Bengals fans. Clark Harris holds his position at long snapper, a spot where he’s manned well for a long time. One thing to watch? Kevin Huber might be in a tough spot on this Bengals roster. In early May, they signed undrafted free agent Drue Chrisman to their roster. If the team is refreshing their specialists, Chrisman might overtake the 35-year-old Huber’s punting job.

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