Now that the important preseason games are done, and the Bengals went 2-0 while the Bungals went 0-1.
The Bengals were dominant at home, crushing the Giants and Bears. However, the Bungals reared their ugly head in prime time on Monday Night Football last week vs. the Bucs where their first team offense and defense looked horrific.
Thankfully, in the most important preseason game, the third game, the Bengals first teasers looked great. So it's time to make a projection for their final 53 man roster.
Andy Dalton - love him or hate him, he is the undisputed (at least until midseason, anyway) starter for the Bengals.
AJ McCarron - he played very, very well on Saturday in shredding the Bears defense. The ceiling is high on this former National Champion (twice) and fifth round draft pick two seasons ago. The Bengals have half a dozen of his former 'Bama teammates, so he has their total respect already. Add in all the other SEC players we have on the team (about a third of the team), and these guys all know what McCarron can do.
Jeremy Hill (no brainer. One of the Bengals very best players. He led the league in rushing over the last half of the season once he became a starter. He should get 25 touches per game).
Gio Bernard (another no brainer. He is a great runner/receiver threat. Plus, the Bengals are experimenting with Gio as a punt returner, where he excelled in college).
Ced Peerman (one of our very best special teams players. This is a no brainer given how much he can do for the team).
Rex Burkhead (another no brainer. Rex can run the ball and he has worked quite a bit in the slot as a receiver. He could be one of the most surprising Bengals this year. Plus, he is a core special teams player. When it's all said and done, don't be surprised if Rex contributes more this year than Gio).
Ryan Hewitt (a TE/FB/B-back hybrid. Cindy believes he is one of the best blocking fullbacks in the NFL, plus throw in how he can contribute at TE, and he is a lock for the roster).
Wide Receiver -
Usually, the Bengals keep quite a few wide outs, but I think they carry fewer this year since their offensive coordinator wants to run the ball more. Given that Hewitt and Burkhead can contribute here, I think they keep fewer receivers to keep more defensive linemen or secondary players.
AJ Green (lock. Outside of a drop and bad route here and there, he is one of the best receivers in the league. With the other big three wide receivers getting contract extensions, expect AJ to sign for something like 5 years and 75 million dollars).
Mo Sanu (lock. He had some monster games last year, but he did disappear in a few games when Cincy needed him most. He is big and strong. Will contribute massively out of the slot this year).
Marvin Jones (lock. He missed all last year because of an injury. But he added 730 yards and 10 touchdowns in '13 when he was healthy. Has a knack for the end zone and has some real speed to contribute to the offense).
Brandon Tate (people hate on Tate a lot because he basically is the king of the fair catch when it comes to his main role as punt returner. But he wins at least one game per year (in '11 it was at Seattle when he returned a punt for a TD; in '13 it was when he had a big return in OT against the Bills that set up a FG, and in '14 it was against Denver when he set them up for the game winner on a big punt return in the fourth quarter). He is okay as a kick returner, and he can contribute some as a receiver).
Mario Alford (a rookie seventh rounder who has amazing speed. Hue Jackson is salivating at being able to dream up dozens of ways to use him on offense).
Greg Little (big and experienced. A former second rounder, he can contribute if needed. Otherwise, he'll most likely be inactive).
Tyler Eifert (the first rounder from '13. He missed all of last year with an injury. But word out of camp is that he had an amazing camp this year and will be a vital part of the offense).
Tyler Kroft (a third rounder this year. Will make the roster for his blocking).
CJ Uzomah (a late rounder. He'll make the team but likely be inactive during the regular season).
Andrew Whitworth (the second best left tackle in team history. He is 33 and in the final year of his contract. The Bengals drafted a first round pick to replace him, but don't be surprised if we see a one or two year contract extension. He is in the best shape of his career and is most valuable as a leader).
Andre Smith (a very solid right tackle. Smith is in the best shape of his life and in a last year of a contract too).
Jake Fisher (the second round draft pick. He will play a lot as the swing tackle).
** Eric Ogboughy (the first round pick. He will be on the PUP as he recovers from a knee injury. But the Bengals are deep enough where they don't need him to play this year).
Russell Bodine (center. The Bengals traded up to get him last year and he started all games as a rookie, but he has looked bad this preseason. He is easily the weakest position on the offensive line).
Clint Boling (guard. He just signed a lucrative contract extension and will be around for most of his career).
Kevin Zeitler (guard. His fifth year option was exercised, but for a former first rounder, he hasn't played like it enough this preseason).
TJ Johnson (back up center. Versatile player)
Eric Winston (back up tackle. He'll be the first player off the bench to back up either tackle).
Dan France (a young back up who can player anywhere along the line).
Defensive line - here is where it will be the most interesting as there is quite a bit of talent here.
Michael Johnson (starting defensive end if his knee checks out. He gave all of Bengaldom a scare when he went down with an ALC sprain the first week of camp).
Carlos Dunlap (their best pass rusher. He will get double digits sacks if Geno Atkins is back to his normal self).
Geno Atkins (before his knee injury on Halloween 2013, he was the best defensive tackle in football. Since then, though, he has been very, very average. Word is he has been unblockable in camp)
Domata Peko (the vet on the defensive line. He is their nose tackle. He takes a lot of flak for his lack of pass rush, but the coaches love him).
Wallace Gilberry (filled in when Johnson left for Tampa Bay last year, but now that Johnson is back, Gilberry will be back to a situational pass rusher, where he is most effective. He replaces Peko on passing downs inside)
Brandon Thompson (filled in for Atkins in 2013 and did okay. He should make the team this year)
Marqus Hunt / Will Clarke (one of these two will make the final roster, but I think only one will make it. Hunt has incredible talent, but he is very raw. Clarke did nothing last year and supposedly was in great shape and having a great camp, but he has been invisible in the preseason games.)
Marcus Hardison (a rookie fourth round draft pick. He looks like a DT but plays DE. Hasn't done a ton in the preseason, but he's a rookie yet and has an upside, so much so he will probably push either Hunt or Clarke off the roster).
Pat Sims / Devon Still (Sims is a behemoth vet who has always played well for us. Still has huge upside but he has shown just too little, especially with his attention on his daughter who has been fighting cancer. I could see the Bengals saying enough is enough with Still and moving on from him. They essentially did that last year, but they brought him on their practice squad so his daughter would have the NFL's insurance for her treatment).
** Vontaze Burfit (a Pro Bowler in 2013 and then signed a lucrative contract extension and then got hurt and missed a majority of the season. He is slowly coming back from micro-fracture knee surgery. I think they'll put him on the PUP list so he will miss the first six games while getting healthy).
Emmanual Lemur (the starting outside linebacker. He is very, very average though)
Rey Maualuga (starting inside linebacker. When he tackles well, the defense is excellent. When his technique slips, though, the defense is very average).
AJ Hawk (the Bengals signed AJ for his leadership and experience to back up or start until Burfict is ready).
Vincent Rey (a key fill in and special team player)
PJ Dawson (the Bengals third round pick this year. Has a shot to start next year)
Chris Carter (doubles as a defensive end on passing downs. He is by far the best pass rusher from the linebacker corps)
Marquis Flowers (a back up player last year who filled in some on defense. A key special team player).
Dre Kirkpatrick (the Bengals first first round pick back in 2012. He hasn't done much but bide his time to start. When Newmann signed in Minnesota, that opened the way for Dre to start. He really came on at the end of last year when Newmann was benched. Next to Atikins, Kirkpatrick is having the best camp. If the former 'Bama star plays well, he is in for a hefty pay raise).
Adam Jones (he has had trouble in the past for the Titans and Cowboys, but he has been a model citizen, for the most part, since he's been with Cincy. He too stands to make a substantial raise this year. He is our best corner and by far the most explosive returner we have).
Darqueze Dennard (last year's first rounder. Hasn't had a chance to crack the lineup because of all the talent. But he will get his shot).
Leon Hall (long in the tooth former first rounder. He is making a ton of money this season (9 million) for a guy who is their third corner. He illustrates why the Bengals aren't cheap. They don't pay millions to big names. But they reward their star players).
George Iloka (third year starter from the Bengals excellent 2012 draft class. He stands to make a huge pay raise too soon).
Reggie Nelson (only the second non-Bengals' drafted player to start for us. He is in the final year of his contract and likely won't be back next year, but he is one of our best players)
Shawn Williams (former third round pick out of Georgia needs to show something to emerge).
Derron Smith (a rookie out of Fresno State. Has been a ball hawk in camp, but we haven't seen that in nay preseason games yet.)
Josh Shaw (another rookie who the Bengals love. He can play corner and safety. And he is an amazing special teams player).
That should round up (more or less) the final 53 man roster.
Guys who should be in the news before the season with contract extensions -
AJ Green, Dre Kirkpatrick, Adam Jones, and George Iloka.
And for those waiting with bate breath, here is my projection for the starting lineup
QB - AJ Dalton (second round 2011)
RB - Jeremy Hill (second round 2014)
FB - Ryan Hewitt (free agent 2014)
TE - Tyler Eifert (first round 2013)
WR - AJ Green (first round 2011)
WR - Mo Sanu/Marvin Jones (second round 2012 / fifth round 2012)
LT - Andrew Whitworth (second round 2006)
LG - Clint Boling (fourth round 2011)
C - Russell Bodine (fourth round 2014)
RG - Kevin Zeitler (first round 2012)
RT - Andrew Smith (first round 2009)
DE - Carlos Dunlap (second round 2010)
DT - Domata Peko (fourth round 2006)
DT - Geno Atkins (fourth round 2010)
DE - Michael Johnson (third round 2009)
OLB - AJ Hawk (free agent)
MLB - Rey Maualuga (second round 2009)
OLB - Emmanuel Lemur (free agent 2012)
CB - Dre Kirckpatrick (first round 2012)
SS - George Iloka (fifth round 2012)
FS - Reggie Nelson (trade from Jacksonville, 2009)
CB - Adam Jones (free agent from Dallas 2010)