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Bengals' 53 Roster Look Heading Into Final Cuts

CB DJ Ivey blocks the ball during the Bengals-Commanders preseason game on Saturday, August 26, 2023.
CB DJ Ivey blocks the ball during the Bengals-Commanders preseason game on Saturday, August 26, 2023.

A look at how the roster lines up as the Bengals cut to 53 by Tuesday at 4 p.m. (Years of NFL service in parenthesis.)


Trevor Siemian (9), Joe Burrow (4), Reid Sinnett (2), Jake Browning (1).

It looks like Browning took the edge in The Derby To Back Up Burrow during Saturday night's 21-19 preseason finale loss to the Commanders. He's hit his last ten passes and led two touchdown drives on his last three series. It's a great story of perseverance if consummated Tuesday. After five preseasons he's on the verge of making the Opening Day roster, but head coach Zac Taylor planned to go through staffing due diligence before saying anything. The presumption is the runner-up goes to the practice squad and Sinnett goes to the priority phone list.


Tyler Boyd (8), Trent Taylor (6), Stanley Morgan (5), Tee Higgins (4), Trenton Irwin (4), Ja'Marr Chase (3), Kwamie Lassitter II (1), Charlie Jones (R), Andrei Iosivas (R), Malachi Carter (R), Marc Hippenhammer (R), Shedrick Jackson (R).

They're trying to figure out The Next Three behind The Big Three and with Irwin not playing Saturday, Iosivas finishing off a mega camp with a touchdown, and Jones returning two of the four punts, that could be it. But they have kept seven receivers in the past and those two valued special teams veterans Morgan and Taylor are looking for a spot, too. Is that the discussion? Either seven receivers or seven cornerbacks and are seven cornerbacks a must with Chidobe Awuzie coming off ACL rehab as he heads into his second week of practice?

The undrafted Jackson appears to have earned a developmental spot after his 56-yard night capped a blistering final two weeks in practices and games. Sometimes those wide-open catches are the hardest, yet he put away Sinnett's 34-yarder for a touchdown. But put a star next to his leaping 16-yarder on the sideline in the first half's two-minute drill. Jones looks like he's getting more and more comfortable as a receiver. He had a 20-yarder over the middle in the same drive and earlier took a hellacious pop over the middle and held on.


Joe Mixon (7), Trayveon Williams (5), Chris Evans (3), Chase Brown (R), Jacob Saylors (R), Calvin Tyler Jr. (R).

Three of the Big Four didn't play Saturday when Brown had his best game. They drafted him because he's a back that can hit the homer and while he hasn't hit a long one yet, he put his bat on the ball consistently in Washington. He ran hard inside to convert a third-and-two, he disappeared at the line of scrimmage to turn a no gain into five yards, and he showed good vision with five runs of at least four yards. Saylors and Tyler got almost no work in camp and didn't carry in a game until Saturday. Saylors' churning 27-yard run that got wiped out by a hold might have been enough to keep him on the practice squad.


Drew Sample (5), Irv Smith Jr. (5), Devin Asiasi (4), Tanner Hudson (4), Mitchell Wilcox (4), Nick Bowers (2), Christian Trahan (R).

The two guys who seem to be gunning for the third and last spot behind Smith and Sample (DNPs on Saturday), Hudson and Wilcox, were the Bengals' two highest-graded offensive players in Washington per PFF. Hard to keep four tight ends if you're keeping four backs. It was an encouraging night for Wilcox, who played his first 17 snaps since coming off meniscus surgery. He didn't have a catch, but the coaches love him because he does a little bit of everything and has scratched from undrafted rookie to solid pro with four years in the system. PFF graded him as their fourth-best blocker of the night and first in the running game on 12 runs. They have to decide if he's ready for the wear and tear.


RT La'el Collins (9), C Ted Karras (8), LG Alex Cappa (6), LT Orlando Brown (6), G-T Cody Ford (5); G-C Max Scharping (5), T Jonah Williams (5), G-T Hakeem Adeniji (4), G-T Jackson Carman (3), C-G Trey Hill (3), T D'Ante Smith (3), LG Cordell Volson (2), C Ben Brown (2), G Nate Gilliam (1), G Jaxson Kirkland (R).

The four/five backups behind the five starters? Whoever they are, they got a ton of work on Saturday. Scharping, Hill, Adeniji, and Carman took at least 50 percent of the snaps, and Smith probably would have if he hadn't hurt his shoulder. Smith and Carman flipped tackles during the night, Sharping was PFF's leading offensive lineman of the game for them in his second career start at center, and the quarterbacks got sacked only once while the mobile Browning played only 17 of 70 snaps.

Keep nine or ten? You get the sense the scars of last season's late carnage up front when they lost three starting offensive linemen in consecutive games are at the forefront as they put this roster together. The backups do have versatility and numbers in experience. If they opt to keep ten for injury protection, that could answer the numbers question at receiver and cornerback. They'd probably have to keep six at each if they go ten up front.

Collins and Ford didn't get any snaps Saturday but are key in the trim to 53. Collins, the first of those three to get hurt, is still rehabbing his ACL and may start the season on the physically unable to perform list (PUP). Before Ford suffered a concussion, he may have won a job with that versatility at guard and tackle. Kirkland played both Saturday and was the only offensive player to take all 70 snaps in what looked to be a 60-minute practice squad tryout.


NT DJ Reader (8), E Trey Hendrickson (7), T B.J. Hill (6), E Sam Hubbard (6), NT Josh Tupou (6), E-T Cam Sample (3), E-T Joseph Ossai (3), T Jay Tufele (3), T Zach Carter (2), E Jeff Gunter (2), E Raymond Johnson III (2), E Owen Carney (1), T Domenique Davis (1), E Myles Murphy (R), T Tautala Pesefea Jr. (R).

They may keep the "heavy," theme going here. As in going heavy at the heavy positions. Under Taylor, they've often kept nine offensive linemen, but maybe they go 10 now with the playoffs so fresh. And 10 defensive linemen are the fewest they can possibly keep. Except for Murphy, the first-round pick, they're veterans of the 10-game winning streak where they were such factors on great defense in the red zone and fourth quarter.

And then there is a guy like Johnson, PFF's highest-graded Bengals defender in one game and the second in the other two games. Or Gunter. His sack Saturday was one of three pressures this preseason. Or Davis. Eight of his 13 tackles came in Washington. They have been everywhere and anywhere. How and where they fit, is, as they say, a good problem to have.

Here's the other part of roster construction for a team that believes it has 60 legit guys for the 53. So many of them are here in their deepest and best position. The player personnel department has built a bunch of lists and one of them could be called the "Poach Response."

They're hoping to get some of these talented guys that don't fit on the 53 to the practice squad. But everyone else is watching tape, too. So if another team claims a projected practice squad player on waivers ("poach"), the Bengals have to be ready to cover that position.


Germaine Pratt (5), Joe Bachie (4), Markus Bailey (4), Akeem Davis-Gaither (4), Logan Wilson (4), Keandre Jones (2), Shaka Heyward (R), Jaylen Moody (R), Tyler Murray (R).

The first five are the five. They signed the rookies after the draft in the hopes of developing them on the practice squad. But if there are options on other lists, they could always do that, too.


S Michael Thomas (10), CB Chidobe Awuzie (7), CB Mike Hilton (7), CB Sidney Jones IV (6), S Nick Scott (5), CB Jalen Davis (4), S Tycen Anderson (2), S Dax Hill (2), CB Cam Taylor-Britt (2), S Yusuf Corker (1), CB Allan George (1), S Jordan Battle (R), CB D.J. Turner II (R), CB D.J. Ivey (R), S Larry Brooks (R), CB Marvell Tell III (R).

The classic veteran vs. the kid involved Anderson vs. Thomas, the dean of the Bengals as they vie for the fourth and final safety spot behind Hill, Scott, and Battle. In a grand gesture after Saturday's game, the locker room sage gave his No. 31 jersey to Anderson and then said he's ready to stay if invited to the squad. Battle, who looks targeted for special teams, played an active 67 percent of the snaps. He missed a tackle, but also made five.

If they go heavy up front, they'd probably have to go with six cornerbacks instead of seven. Awuzie's first week of team work indicated he looks ready to go off his ACL rehab. Plus, the concern about cornerback depth was eased by the draft and then eliminated in this preseason with the play of the second-rounder Turner and the sixth-rounder Ivey. Ivey put himself in a great spot Saturday night when he took all 61 snaps, defensed two passes, and made four tackles. And he always seemed to be in position, starting with the second play of the game when veteran Washington quarterback Jacoby Brissett went deep down the right sideline on him in one-on-one coverage and Ivey turned his head at just the right instant on the incompletion.


K Evan McPherson (3), LS Cal Adomitis (2), P Drue Chrisman (2), P Brad Robbins (R).

If Robbins' 51-yarder with sky-scraping hang time does indeed cement his front-runner status, that would mean all eight draft picks are probably destined for the 53. It would also mean every draft pick in the decade has made either the Opening Day 53 or been assigned to the reserve/non-football injury list as a rookie. Wyatt Huber, a Kansas State defensive end taken in the 2021 seventh round, is the only one who went on NFI.

Probably safe to say McPherson had the greatest kicking preseason in Bengals' history. He hit all eight field goals, three of them from 50 or beyond, and that included Saturday's booming tee shot from 58.