Bengals Coverage

Bengals Beat: Bengals 2023 Camp 53-man Projection 2.0: Training Camp Begins

CINCINNATI – As training camp begins this week, the Cincinnati Bengals have a re-fortified roster that is designed to get back to the Super Bowl and win the franchise’s first Vince Lombardi trophy.

The first preseason game is Friday, Aug. 11 vs. Green Bay. Every NFL team needs to cut from a maximum of 90 players to 53 by Tuesday, Aug. 29 at 4 p.m. ET. The opener is Sunday, Sept. 10 at Cleveland.

Three players begin camp on the physically unable to perform – offensive linemen La’el Collins and Devin Cochran and tight end Mitchell Wilcox, with Wilcox not expected to stay on PUP very long. Wilcox was brought back on Sunday, in time to start competing for a spot in the tight end room.

  • Key Additions:

Free agents: Orlando Brown Jr., Nick Scott, Cody Ford, Sidney Jones IV, Tarell Basham, Irv Smith Jr.
Draft: Myles Murphy, DJ Turner II, Jordan Battle, Charlie Jones, Chase Brown, Brad Robbins, Andrei Iosivas, DJ Ivey

  • Key Losses:

Free agents: Jessie Bates III, Vonn Bell, Eli Apple, Hayden Hurst, Samaje Perine
Retired: Kevin Huber

On paper, this is the most talented roster the Bengals have ever possessed heading into training camp. How will it gel with new pieces? That’s the mission of head coach Zac Taylor and his veteran coaching staff.

So, without further ado, we present 2023 Bengals 53-man roster projection 1.0.

OFFENSE (25):

  • Quarterback (2):

Joe Burrow, Trevor Siemian:
In the running: Jake Browning

Trags take: Unless injury befalls Siemian, the two quarterback spots are essentially set. Like they did last year, Browning will assume his role in the quarterbacks room and on the practice squad. This really shouldn’t change. Brandon Allen is in San Francisco and Siemian was another savvy signing by Duke Tobin to ensure there’s quality behind Burrow if need be. For the first time ever, Joe Burrow looks to enjoy a full offseason camp followed by a full training camp. In 2020, it was COVID. In 2021, he was being cautious returning from ACL repair. In 2022, he was on track until suffering appendicitis and having his appendix removed in surgery that turned out more significant than anticipated.

  • Running back (4):

Joe Mixon, Trayveon Williams, Chase Brown, Chris Evans
In the running: Calvin Tyler Jr., Jacob Saylors

Trags take: The biggest storyline here is the return of Joe Mixon, and at his $12.8 million salary cap cost. Very few expected him back, let alone at that cost. But Mixon has at least one more year to run it back and reward the loyalty the Bengals have shown in him, despite inconsistencies in production and off-field issues last January. If healthy, Mixon can still deliver 100-yard games and catching the ball out of the backfield. Trayveon Williams is the No. 2 back with rookie Chase Brown challenging for playing time. Chris Evans has fallen down the depth chart in his third year out of Michigan but the coaches still appreciate what he can bring in terms of his speed and explosion. Samaje Perine is off to Denver.

  • Tight end (3):

Irv Smith Jr., Drew Sample, Mitchell Wilcox (PUP)
In the running: Tanner Hudson, Nick Bowers, Christian Trahan, Devin Asiasi

Trags take: Will Irv Smith Jr. be the latest tight end to find new life with golden touch of Joe Burrow? He never reached his full potential in Minnesota in three seasons (one injury year in 2021). The Bengals are very high on him and he flashed a lot of potential in OTAs. Keep a very close eye on Tanner Hudson. He could challenge with a strong camp and preseason, and he was the long snapper in OTAs while Cal Adomitis nursed a minor foot injury. Drew Sample is coming back from a right knee injury last year while Devin Asiasi is considered a valuable blocking tight end who can catch. Wilcox’s return will make things more difficult for Asiasi. But competition is always a good thing.

  • Wide Receiver (6):

Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, Charlie Jones, Andrei Iosivas, Stanley Morgan
In the running:Kwamie Lassiter II, Trenton Irwin, Trent Taylor, Shedrick Jackson, Malachi Carter, Mac Hippenhammer

Trags take: It might seem bold but the Bengals drafted Charlie Jones to be an immediate playmaker for the team, both as a fourth receiver and a punt returner. This moves Trent Taylor out of the rotation and into a spot where’s he’s been before – using camp and the preseason to prove he still belongs in the NFL. Taylor has been very reliable for Darrin Simmons on special teams but Jones is young and dynamic, showing off his special teams with Iowa in 2021 and his receiving skills with Purdue in 2022. Iosivas has raw athletic talent he flashed at Princeton. The Bengals drafted him to make the roster. There’s not a more solid and likeable special teams player than Stanley Morgan. Rooting for Miami Redhawk Mac Hippenhammer to make it to the practice squad.

  • Offensive line (10):

Orlando Brown Jr., Jonah Williams, Jackson Carman, Ted Karras, Alex Cappa, La’el Collins (PUP), Cody Ford, Max Scharping, Cordell Volson, Trey Hill
In the running: Hakeem Adeniji, D’Ante Smith, Ben Brown, Jaxson Kirkland, Nate Gilliam, Devin Cochran (PUP)

Trags take: We’re assuming here that the Bengals keep all three right tackles in Jonah Williams, La’el Collins and Jackson Carman and don’t trade one of them during camp for a future asset. But the likely scenario is that they do wind up dealing one of them, depending upon the health and recovery of Collins, who figures to start camp on PUP. The offensive line unit is the best the Bengals have had in two decades on paper. Healthy, it figures as one of the strengths of this team with Brown as the left tackle, Volson the left guard, Karras the center, Cappa right guard and Williams right tackle. Hill, Ford, Scharping and Carman are all proven competent backups.

DEFENSE(25):

  • Edge (6):

Trey Hendrickson, Sam Hubbard, Joseph Ossai, Myles Murphy, Cam Sample, Tarell Basham
In the running: Jeff Gunter, Owen Carney, Raymond Johnson III

Trags take: The signing of Tarell Basham and the drafting of first-rounder Myles Murphy could spell practice squad for Jeff Gunter, the seventh round choice in the 2022 draft. Cam Sample, drafted fourth in 2021, is an oft-overlooked but reliable talent. The rest of the unit is rock solid, though looking to improve upon its sack totals of 2022, when they averaged just 1.9 sacks per game (29th out of 32 in NFL). Look for Murphy to make a big impact on special teams.

  • IDL (4):

DJ Reader, B.J. Hill, Zach Carter, Josh Tupou
In the running: Jay Tufele, Domenique Davis, Tautala Pesefea Jr., Devonnsha Maxwell

Trags take: Davis, who shined last year in preseason, and Tufele will push for an added spot but the competition in the secondary will likely mean both are left off to begin. Tufele is a third-year talent out of USC who had quality snaps last year. Reader and Hill are the class of this group and the undeniable leaders. Carter is a second-year player capable of making significant improvement this year.

  • Linebackers (5):

Logan Wilson, Germaine Pratt, Akeem Davis-Gaither, Joe Bachie, Markus Bailey
In the running: Keandre Jones, Shaka Heyward, Jaylen Moody, Tyler Murray

Trags take: This is as competitive a group on the back end as you will find on the roster. Wilson, Pratt and ADG are locks. Bachie is a glue guy. Bailey and Keandre Jones figure to battle for that final spot and a place on Simmons’ special teams unit.

  • Cornerbacks (6):

Chidobe Awuzie, Mike Hilton, Cam Taylor-Britt, DJ Turner II, DJ Ivey, Sidney Jones IV
In the running: Jalen Davis, Allan George, Marvell Tell III

Trags take: Tre Flowers is off to Carolina with Vonn Bell and Hayden Hurst. Eli Apple is a free agent who might land in Indianapolis. This leaves the Bengals a fascinating group. Chido Awuzie was cleared for camp and taken off PUP over the weekend. He’s ready to return from ACL surgery last November. The really interesting decision is what to do with Sidney Jones IV if he impresses in camp after being signed away from the Raiders in March. Maybe the Bengals try to sneak seventh rounder DJ Ivey through to practice squad.

  • Safeties (4):

Nick Scott, Dax Hill, Michael Thomas, Jordan Battle
In the running: Tycen Anderson, Yusef Corker, Larry Brooks

Trags take: The drama – and leadership – of Bates and Bell are gone to Atlanta and Carolina, respectively. Michael Thomas is a leader but won’t see the field as a safety but rather as a core special teams leader and likely captain. Tycen Anderson, a fifth rounder out of Toledo, needs to impress in camp and the preseason as number crunching in other areas of the roster could impact him. Or, he could wind up on the practice squad.

SPECIAL TEAMS (3):

  • Kicker (1):

Evan McPherson
In the running: None

Trags take: Again, not much to say if Shooter is healthy. Money Mac was 24-of-29 last year on field goals, including a perfect 5-for-5 from 50-plus. 40-of-44 on PATs. He is a perfect 19-for-19 on field goal attempts in two playoff seasons. He’s missed one postseason kick in 32 chances.

  • Punter/Holder(1):

Brad Robbins
In the running: Drue Chrisman

Trags take: Kevin Huber is now officially retired. He won’t be challenging Chrisman but good friend and Bengals’ sixth-round pick Robbins will. Robbins is liked by Simmons for his ability to hang ’em high and accurate, two things that were missing on the fateful last punt in the AFC championship loss in Kansas City. Robbins, who Simmons liked for his ability to kick in the elements of Ann Arbor, looked the part in OTAs and minicamp. Chrisman, with a likeable attitude and good work ethic, again figures to land on the practice squad.

  • Long snapper (1):

Cal Adomitis
In the running: None

Trags take: Yes, Tanner Hudson was snapped for Adomitis in OTAs for a couple of practices but don’t read anything into that. Adomitis was called into service after Clark Harris injured himself in the opener last year against the Steelers, forcing Mitchell Wilcox into the role because Adomitis wasn’t active. After that, no one really noticed Adomitis, which means he did his job well. He was the top long snapper in college (Pitt) in 2021 and signed on with the Bengals. Another savvy move for Duke Tobin.

Mike Petraglia

Joined CLNS Media in 2017. Covered Boston sports as a radio broadcaster, reporter, columnist and TV and video talent since 1993. Covered Boston Red Sox for MLB.com from 2000-2007 and the New England Patriots for ESPN Radio, WBZ-AM, SiriusXM, WEEI, WEEI.com and CLNS since 1993. Featured columnist for the Boston Celtics on CelticsBlog.

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