Bengals Hold The Line With Roster Cuts As They Re-Shape The Trenches

D'Ante Smith: Arguably the offense's training camp Rookie of the Year.
D'Ante Smith: Arguably the offense's training camp Rookie of the Year.

The Bengals finished their offseason overhaul in the trenches during Tuesday's cut to 53 when they released two Opening Day starters from last season (Michael Jordan and Mike Daniels), kept all 10 draft picks and loaded up with 11 new offensive and defensive linemen.

The Bengals opted for seven wide receivers (Trenton Irwin caught a spot after two seasons on the practice squad), three running backs (rookie Chris Evans is the No. 3 but they hope to keep at least one more on the 16-man practice squad they form Wednesday) and five linebackers in a process that is ongoing for possible adds at tight end and on the edge.

Two injured draft picks, edge players Joseph Ossai and Wyatt Hubert, went on reserve lists. Ossai (knee), injured in the preseason opener, is out for the year. Hubert (shoulder), injured before he reported to training camp, could return in six weeks, as could offensive lineman Hakeem Adeniji (shoulder). Marhsall's Darius Hodge, a situational edge rusher, was the only undrafted rookie to make a roster that has 19 first and second-year players.

Hodge joins a massive defensive line renovation built in response to allowing the most rushing yards in the league the past three seasons and generating the fewest sacks last year and is anchored by free-agent pickups Trey Hendrickson on the edge and Larry Ogunjobi at tackle.

Only nose tackle D.J. Reader and edges Sam Hubbard and Khalid Kareem are left from last season's front and they added a piece as late as Monday when the Bengals acquired a backup three technique for Ogunjobi in the Giants' B.J. Hill. Massive fourth-rounder Tyler Shelvin at tackle and versatile third-rounder Cam Sample at both edge and three technique give them a much different and younger look on the line.

Nose tackle Josh Tupou, a 350-pounder who opted out last season, also brings AFC North beef. After they signed four-year edge vet Noah Spence last week and he played 23 snaps in Sunday's game, they released him, indicating they're looking for more help at defensive end.

When the Bengals dealt backup center Billy Price to New York for Hill, it severely tightened the competition inside and one of the casualties was Daniels, a 10-year vet highly regarded for his intangibles who started 11 games last season.

In the other trench, the Bengals moved on from Jordan, a 2019 fourth-rounder from Ohio State whom lost his job each season after they traded up to get him. He was the Opening Day left guard in 2019 and 2020 and was listed as the right guard heading into training camp, but eight-year vet Xavier Su'a-Filo started there in the last two preseason games.

Still, the emphasis is on youth with all three drafted linemen giving them flashes of the future in the preseason. Sixth-rounder Trey Hill got promoted to center Trey Hopkins' backup with the Price trade. Fourth-rounder D'Ante Smith was the offense's preseason Rookie of the Year while making the transition from East Carolina left tackle to both NFL guards. Second-rounder Jackson Carman made strides in a move from Clemson left tackle to NFL right guard.

Fred Johnson returns as the backup swing tackle in his third season behind Jonah Williams and Riley Reiff, but has company when second-year man Isaiah Prince's solid work in the preseason games earned him a roster spot after he opted out in 2020.

No doubt the Bengals tried to make more than one trade. It was reported they talked to the Jaguars about re-uniting Jordan with his college coach, Jacksonville head coach Urban Meyer. But since the Jags have the first pick on the waiver wire, they don't have to give up anything.

The Bengals also apparently got no takers for third-year kicker Austin Seibert despite a brilliant preseason he nearly went toe-to-toe with fifth-rounder Evan McPherson.

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