The Bengals came out of Saturday's cut even younger than last year, but for how long as they continue to adjust the roster through the weekend and eye finalizing it Sunday in preparation for the Sept. 9 opener (Cincinnati's Channel 12, 1 p.m.) in Indianapolis.
The Bengals had to cut to 53 players by 4 p.m. Saturday, but a spate of injuries is apparently going to force them to re-adjust the roster by 4 p.m. Sunday. Two players who missed the last two games with injuries, wide receiver Cody Core (back) and rookie cornerback Davontae Harris (knee) both made it but may be candidates to go on injured reserve Sunday so they can be eligible for recall midway through the season.
Also complicating things were three players sent to season-long injured reserve after getting hurt in Thursday night's pre-season finale: H-back Cethan Carter (shoulder), rookie safety Trayvon Henderson (knee) and quarterback Matt Barkley (knee). Plus, veteran corner-safety Josh Shaw (groin) was waived injured.
They released a trio of long-time veterans Saturday, headed by right end Michael Johnson, but as the dust clears from potential moves ranging from waiver claims to IR classifications, the Bengals can approach those vets Sunday to re-sign them. Players with three years or less of experience are subject to waivers, but Johnson, H-Back Ryan Hewitt and back-up center-guard T.J. Johnson are free agents.
Michael Johnson, 31, has the most Bengals games on defense with 126 and has started for three AFC North champions. But Johnson, Hewitt and T.J. Johnson are eligible to re-sign with the Bengals or sign elsewhere starting 4 p.m. Sunday.
If the current roster goes to press in Indianapolis, it is even younger than last year, when head coach Marvin Lewis had his youngest group in 15 Opening Days at 25.45. This one is at 25.22 with the average NFL experience at 3.72 years, down from last year's 3.75. But hold on to your calculators. The roster isn't set because of the injury juggling as the Bengals scan the waiver wire of more than 1,000 players.
With Core questionable, it forced them to go with a seventh wide receiver in rookie Auden Tate. With Harris questionable, it forced them to go with five "healthy," cornerbacks, with rookie Darius Phillips and slot man Tony McRae backing up the first three of William Jackson, Dre Kirkpatrick and Darqueze Dennard. Even McRae missed three of the four pre-season games with an ankle injury, so both positions are in flux.
Sophomore tight end Mason Schreck making the club instead of Hewitt seems to represent a philosophical change. With Hewitt gone and Carter on IR, there are no more H-backs listed on the roster, just four tight ends.
Feeling they needed at least one back-up nose tackle, the Bengals opted for sophomore Josh Tupou and waived fifth-round pick Andrew Brown. But there still could be moves made here since the Bengals usually keep at least nine defensive linemen and this leaves them with only eight.
53-MAN ROSTER (Total players at the position and years of NFL Experience)
QUARTERBACKS (2): Andy Dalton (8), Jeff Driskel (3)
WIDE RECEIVERS (7): A.J. Green (8), Tyler Boyd (3), Cody Core (3), Alex Erickson (3), Josh Malone (2), John Ross (2), Auden Tate (R)
RUNNING BACKS (4): Giovani Bernard (6), Tra Carson (2), Joe Mixon (2), Mark Walton (R).
TIGHT ENDS (4): Tyler Eifert (6), Tyler Kroft (4), C.J. Uzomah (4), Mason Schreck (2).
OFFENSIVE LINE (9): G Clint Boling (8), T Cordy Glenn (7), T Jake Fisher (4), T Bobby Hart (4), T Cedric Ogbuehi (4), G Trey Hopkins (3), Christian Westerman (3), G Alex Redmond (2), C Billy Price (R).
DEFENSIVE LINE (8): T Geno Atkins (9), E Carlos Dunlap (9), NT Andrew Billings (3), T Ryan Glasgow (2), E Carl Lawson (2), Jordan Willis (2), T Josh Tupou (1), T-E Sam Hubbard (R),
LINEBACKERS (6): O-I Vincent Rey (8), MLB Preston Brown (5), OLB Nick Vigil (3), OLB Jordan Evans (2), MLB Hardy Nickerson (2), OLB Malik Jefferson (R),
DEFENSIVE BACKS (10): CB Dre Kirkpatrick (7), SS Shawn Williams (6), CB Darqueze Dennard (5), SS Clayton Fejedelem (3), CB William Jackson (3), CB Tony McRae (2), SS Brandon Wilson (2), FS Jessie Bates (R), CB Davontae Harris (R), CB Darius Phillips (R).
SPECIALISTS (3): LS Clark Harris (10), P Kevin Huber (10), K Randy Bullock (7).