If you were looking for any seismic shifts in the topography of the Bengals roster, it didn't happen in Thursday night's 35-7 victory over the Colts at Paul Brown Stadium in the preseason finale. When the final cut to 53 players comes down late Saturday afternoon, it won't be because of solely what happened against Indianapolis. It just happened to be another brick in the wall.
Here's how it looks before the waiver wire is suspended above PBS Saturday.
(The number in parenthesis is how many they traditionally keep at that spot and the players are listed according to NFL experience.)
Jason Campbell (10), Andy Dalton (4), AJ McCarron (R)
McCarron has yet to practice so you have to figure they're going to put him on the physically unable to perform list and keep him out of practice six more weeks. So it's doubtful they would keep another QB on the practice squad. Tyler Wilson, cut Friday, and Matt Scott, cut Monday, just don't appear to be options for a team that invested a fifth-round pick in McCarron.
WIDE RECEIVERS (6)
Brandon Tate (6), A.J. Green (4), Dane Sanzenbacher (4), Marvin Jones (3), Mohamed Sanu (3), Cobi Hamilton (1), James Wright (R), Colin Lockett (R)
The way the return thing is shaping up and the way Tate and Sanzenbacher have played receiver, there have to be spots for them. So it looks like the final spot may come down to Hamilton and Wright. Interesting call. With Wright sidelined by a concussion, Hamilton had his best game of the preseason Thursday and that included a 50-yard catch-and-run touchdown when he made the DB miss. But Wright has a powerful body of work that includes his fearlessness on teams and his consistent receiver play in camp. Tough decision.
RUNNING BACKS (4)
Cedric Peerman (5), Giovani Bernard (2), Rex Burkhead (2), Jeremy Hill (R), James Wilder Jr. (R)
With Friday's release of BenJarvus Green-Ellis, this spot is set. Wilder probably goes to the practice squad. Look at the average age of the four now The Law Firm is gone. 23.5 with a total of 219 NFL carries.
FULL BACKS (1 or 0)
Orson Charles (3), Ryan Hewitt (R), Nikita Whitlock (R)
They seem to be saying Hewitt is the starter because they keep rolling him out there at the start of games no matter who is out there. Charles qualifies under the new practice squad rules and Whitlock seems to be the quintessential practice squad candidate because of his conversion from defense to offense and his willingness to hit. But would they keep two on the squad?
TIGHT ENDS (3)
Alex Smith (10), Jermaine Gresham (5), Tyler Eifert (2).
We have yet to see Gresham and Eifert line up together but they should in Baltimore Sept. 7. The Ravens' biggest strength is their front seven, so you have to believe they keep Smith because of his blocking ability. And they didn't wear him out (28 snaps) Thursday, but it's enough to think he's sticking around.
OFFENSIVE LINE (9)
LT Andrew Whitworth (9), T-G Will Svitek (9), G-C Mike Pollak (7), RT Andre Smith (6), T Marshall Newhouse (5), G Clint Boling (4), G Kevin Zeitler (3), C-G Trevor Robinson (3), G-T Tanner Hawkinson (2), C-G T.J. Johnson (1), G Trey Hopkins (R), C Russell Bodine (R), G Dan France (R).
Hopkins may end up on season-ending injured reserve with what has been called a fibula injury. If it's broken, that would end the rookie season of the promising undrafted free agent. Pollack played versatile Thursday and you have to figure he and Newhouse are the first two guys off the bench.
After that, Johnson and/or Robinson could fit into Hopkins' spot. Johnson impressed people by padding up and playing 31 snaps Thursday after getting carted off the field in Arizona Sunday. They have to keep four tackles, so does it come down to Hawkinson or Svitek? Do they keep 10 linemen and keep both? Or do they keep seven linebackers and stay with nine offensive lineman and go one light in the secondary with nine? Hawkinson's athleticism helps him and Svitek has experience at a spot, right tackle, where the incumbent Andre Smith (concussion) has yet to play in a game this year.
DEFENSIVE LINE (9)
E-T Robert Geathers (11), DT Domata Peko (9), E-T Wallace Gilberry (7), T Geno Atkins (5), E Carlos Dunlap (5), T Devon Still (4), T Brandon Thompson (4), T Christo Bilukidi (3), (2), Margus Hunt (2), E Dontay Moch (2), E Sam Montgomery (2), E Will Clarke (R), T David King (R).
Still (hamstring) didn't play Thursday and he badly needed a shot to try to fend off Bilukidi in the battle for the fourth tackle spot. Here's a spot where they could look on the waiver wire. Linebacker, too.
Rey Maualuga (6), Vincent Rey (5), Vontaze Burfict (3), Emmanuel Lamur (3), Jayson DiManche (2), Sean Porter (2), Marquis Flowers (R).
Could all seven make it? They need them in the special teams battle in the division, where they are the only 4-3 team and the other three always have plenty of backers covering kicks. If they don't think a sixth corner or fifth tackle has emerged, why not take a seventh linebacker? But the backups have been sporadic in their play and it's not a given they'll find something on the waiver wire. Porter (hamstring) probably won't be ready for a couple of weeks if he makes it.
DEFENSIVE BACKS (10)
CB Terence Newman (12), S Danieal Manning (9), CB Leon Hall (8), CB Adam Jones (8), S Reggie Nelson (8), S Taylor Mays (5), CB Dre Kirkpatrick (3), S George Iloka (3), CB Chris Lewis-Harris (2), S Shawn Williams (2), CB Onterio McCalebb (1), CB Darqueze Dennard (R), CB Victor Hampton (R).
Lewis-Harris is looking at a two-game NFL suspension, so they may just decide to keep five cornerbacks for the first couple of weeks. The big call looks to be at safety. It's hard to see them keeping all five. Maybe they do, but maybe they make Mays the seventh backer/fifth safety and keep them all. Mays made some big plays Thursday night from the nickel backer spot, one a fourth-and-two stop for a five-yard loss. Williams, known primarily as a special teams ace, also played well Thursday from scrimmage and tied for a team-high five tackles. But so did Manning with a pick six and four tackles. Toughest decision of the day if they only keep four safeties.
K Mike Nugent (10), LS Clark Harris (6), P Kevin Huber (6).
Harris streak? It's at 75 games and 702 hikes with no unplayable snaps.