** UPDATED With Billy Price Trade to N.Y. Giants **
CINCINNATI — The Bengals have concluded their preseason and the back end of the roster is where the biggest questions remain.
“We’ll get a chance to recap the game and get started on the personnel stuff because those are decisions we’ve got to make and do with staff in the next couple of days,” Zac Taylor told me.
Understand, as always, NFL rosters are very fluid over the first two weeks of the season as teams refine what they have and sign players released by other teams and see if they’re a fit with them.
That point was driven home with the trade of back-up center Billy Price to the New York Giants for nose tackle B.J. Hill. This means rookie Trey Hill is your back-up center, barring another trade. This also could have ramifications along the offensive and defensive lines.
The other variable, of course, are the players with practice squad eligibility remaining. Many of these cuts could wind up back in Cincinnati on the practice squad.
Here’s a look at my projection for the roster as it will look after Tuesday at 4 p.m.:
Joe Burrow, Brandon Allen
CUTS: Kyle Shumur
Burrow is ready to go.
RUNNING BACK (4):
Joe Mixon, Samaje Perine, Chris Evans, Trayveon Williams
CUTS: Jacques Patrick, Pooka Williams Jr.
Williams, who looked very impressive on Sunday, edges Patrick in one of the better camp battles of preseason.
WIDE RECEIVER (6):
Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins, Ja’Marr Chase, Trenton Irwin, Auden Tate, Mike Thomas
CUTS: Stanley Morgan, Scotty Washington, Trent Taylor
Irwin took a massive hit and still held onto the ball on Cincinnati’s first scoring drive Sunday. Taylor is a veteran slot receiver but the 25-year-old Irwin, a favorite on the practice squad the last two seasons, has done enough to prove he belongs on the 53-man.
TIGHT ENDS (3): C.J. Uzomah, Drew Sample, Thaddeus Moss
CUTS: Mason Schreck, Mitchell Wilcox
Straight forward. Wilcox could wind up on the practice squad.
OFFENSIVE LINE (10): Trey Hopkins, Trey Hill, Jackson Carman, Quinton Spain, Jonah Williams, Riley Reiff, Xavier Su’a-Filo, D’Ante Smith, Isaiah Prince, Fred Johnson
CUTS: Michael Jordan
IR: Hakeem Adeniji
TRADED: Billy Price
This was a warning shot across the bow at Michael Jordan after Sunday’s game from Zac Taylor on Jordan slipping to the third string. “Consistency. I think that’s the key term with all of the interior players,” Taylor said. “That’s why you see the veterans get the latest stab at it, because they’ve been more consistent. We’ve got guys with a lot of talent and a lot of potential, but it’s the consistency that we’re really looking for.” If the Bengals feel one of their backup tackles can move inside to guard, it would be hard to give up on either Prince or Johnson.
DEFENSIVE TACKLES (5):
D.J. Reader, Larry Ogunjobi, Mike Daniels, Tyler Shelvin, B.J. Hill
CUTS: Kahlil McKenzie, Renell Wren, Josh Topou
DEFENSIVE END/EDGE (5):
Sam Hubbard, Trey Hendrickson, Cam Sample, Khalid Kareem, Darius Hodge
CUTS: Amani Bledsoe, Noah Spence
IR: Joseph Ossai, Wyatt Hubert
Kareem and Hodge had impressive preseasons, earning a spot on the roster.
Germaine Pratt, Logan Wilson, Akeem Davis-Gaither, Markus Bailey, Jordan Evans
CUTS: Keandre Jones, Joe Bachie
Pratt and Davis-Gaither need to step up in 2021.
Jesse Bates III, Vonn Bell, Ricardo Allen, Brandon Wilson
CUTS: Trayvon Henderson, Kavon Frazier
A veteran group.
Mike Hilton, Chidobe Awuzie, Jalen Davis, Eli Apple, Darius Phillips, Trae Waynes
CUTS: Winston Rose, Antonio Phillips
IR: Donnie Lewis Jr.
The Waynes injury might alter their thinking here. Davis takes a spot and the team might gamble that they can develop him as a corner as well as a special teamer.
SPECIAL TEAMS (3)
PUNTER Kevin Hubert
CUT: Drue Chrisman
Bad luck for Chrisman (hand injury) but watching Hubert drill a 57-yard coffin corner punt out at the 6 Sunday was a reminder, this guy can still boom with the best. He’s not going anywhere.
PLACE KICKER: Evan McPherson
CUT: Austin Siebert
We all knew this all along but rookie fifth-round pick Evan McPherson is NOT Jake Elliott 2.0. His 57-yard boot before halftime confirmed what we all knew – McPherson is going to be a weapon. “In the games, on that field, it’s different, in front of the fans, and he’s been the same steady guy that he’s been since day one, since he’s been here,” Zac Taylor told me. “So, it was good to get that deep one, he nailed it. It would have been good from a lot longer than that, it appeared to me. So that as really good to see. You know, both of those kickers—it’s been a tremendous battle, watching both of them, Austin and Evan.” Indeed, Siebert has been very good in camp and preseason and will likely wind up on some NFL roster on Sept. 12.
LONG SNAPPER: Clark Harris
Along with Kevin Huber, Harris has been on the roster since 2009. That’s not going to change at the start of 2021. Old reliable.