After sitting back and watching a bunch of backups competing for the last spots on the Cincinnati Bengals roster during Thursday’s preseason finale, A.J. Green lamented the fact that less than 48 hours later some of those guys would no longer be in the locker room with him.
The Bengals – and the other 31 teams in the NFL – have to cut down their roster to 53 players by 4 p.m. Saturday. After the roster is pared down, up to 10 others who are eligible will be signed to the practice squad, but those who don’t have jobs will hope for another opportunity through the waiver wire.
“It’s tough to see (guys) leave,” Green said. “But I guess that’s the business of it.”
Here is a projected 53-man roster and a look at who seems to have the edge in some of those tight battles:
In: Andy Dalton, Jeff Driskel
Out: Matt Barkley, Logan Woodside
Driskel has never played a regular-season game but was by far the more consistent player in the battle with Barkley for the backup spot this preseason, and Barkley’s left knee injury Thursday after just six snaps might have sealed it. Through four games, Driskel completed 38 of 58 passes for 448 yards and two touchdowns this preseason (65.5 percent), while Barkley completed just 17 of 36 passes (47.2 percent) for 230 yards with one touchdown.
RUNNING BACK (4)
In: Joe Mixon, Giovani Bernard, Tra Carson, Brian Hill
Out: Mark Walton, Jarveon Williams, Quinton Flowers
After a strong preseason from Carson, the decision here really seemed to be between fourth-round pick Mark Walton and second-year player Brian Hill, who the Bengals signed off the Falcons’ practice squad last November. Hill was the better of the two this preseason but Walton still might have had the edge before leaving the finale with a shoulder injury.
TIGHT END/H-BACK (4)
In: Tyler Eifert, Tyler Kroft, C.J. Uzomah, Ryan Hewitt
Out: Cethan Carter, Jordan Franks, Mason Schreck, Moritz Bohringer*
Hewitt saw very little time this preseason but Marvin Lewis attributed that to situational factors in the games he normally would have played more in, and Cethan Carter’s role on special teams doesn’t seem to weigh more heavily than what Hewitt can do in the offense. Carter also was injured Thursday. Bohringer is exempt through the international program and can be placed on practice squad without taking up a spot.
WIDE RECEIVER (6)
In: A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, John Ross, Josh Malone, Alex Erickson, Auden Tate
Out: Cody Core, Ke’Raun White, Devonte Boyd, Kermit Whitfield, Jared Murphy, Kayuane Ross
Core has been out for almost three weeks with an undisclosed injury, and in the meantime Tate has emerged as a big target who can make plays. Core had a promising rookie campaign in 2016 but has struggled with consistency and injuries since then, and with Malone and Tate both having strong showings in camp, Core’s inability to get on the field might have cost him a job.
OFFENSIVE LINE (9)
In: Cordy Glenn, Clint Boling, Billy Price, Trey Hopkins, Bobby Hart, Jake Fisher, Christian Westerman, Alex Redmond, Cedric Ogbuehi
Out: T.J. Johnson, Brad Lundblade, Justin Murray, Kent Perkins
Injured/Reserve: Rod Taylor
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The starting spots on the right side remain unclear, but it seems as though Hart has the job at right tackle and Redmond or Hopkins at right guard. Westerman, despite ProFootballFocus.com grading him as the best lineman this preseason, likely will end up backing up Boling at left guard. Johnson is the odd man out as Hopkins can play center if something happens to Price. Fisher and Ogbuehi continue to get consideration at the backup tackle spots.
DEFENSIVE LINE (9)
In: Carlos Dunlap, Andrew Billings, Geno Atkins, Michael Johnson, Jordan Willis, Sam Hubbard, Carl Lawson, Ryan Glasgow, Andrew Brown
Out: Josh Tupou, Chris Okoye, Simeyon Robinson, Eddy Wilson
Tupou was listed on the final depth chart as the backup to Billings at nose tackle but Glasgow’s ability to play both interior positions opens the door for Brown at defensive tackle. The battle between Tupou and Brown for the last spot appears close as both missed the first two games because of injuries.
In: Preston Brown, Nick Vigil, Jordan Evans, Vinny Rey, Malik Jefferson, Hardy Nickerson
Out: Brandon Bell, Junior Joseph, Chris Worley
Suspended: Vontaze Burfict
If the decision is between Nickerson and Bell, the nod goes to Nickerson. He got experience last year, including two starts, and Lewis seems to like him. Plus, he has shown progress on special teams. Bell’s saving grace could be if the Bengals decide to go thin in other areas, which could be the case while Burfict is suspended the first four weeks.
DEFENSIVE BACK (10)
In: Dre Kirkpatrick, William Jackson III, Shawn Williams, Jessie Bates, Darqueze Dennard, Keivarae Russell, Clayton Fejedelem, Brandon Wilson, Josh Shaw, Darius Phillips
Out: Tony McRae, Tyrice Beverette, C.J. Goodwin, Trayvon Henderson
McRae’s camp was marred by injury and he didn’t play Thursday, so it’s hard to imagine he gets the nod over a guy like Josh Shaw, who has struggled at times but is the only one who can play both corner and safety. Henderson looked promising and made a nice interception late in the preseason finale but was carted off and that could end his chances.
SPECIAL TEAMS (3)
In: Randy Bullock (kicker), Kevin Huber (punter), Clark Harris (long-snapper)
Out: Jonathan Brown
Brown showed off his leg strength on kickoffs and in making a 55-yard field goal at Dallas, but hasn’t been consistent enough to earn a spot just yet. There are plenty of other teams in need, so perhaps he lands a job elsewhere, but Lewis indicated he doesn’t plan to use a practice squad spot on a kicker this year.