The Cincinnati Bengals are in their last week of training camp, with the final game of the preseason kicking off at 6:05 p.m. ET Saturday at the Washington Commanders.
Last week, Cincinnati had its first-string defense out on the field for a series that lasted 16 plays. With Atlanta looking to score, QB Desmond Ridder’s pass intended for Scott Miller was broken up by CB Mike Hilton and intercepted by DE Joseph Ossai. The Bengals ranked inside the top 10 in redzone defense last year and that trend has a good chance to continue into 2023.
Cincinnati’s coaching staff has some tough decisions to make with the cut deadline on Aug. 29. Here is how the roster is taking shape:
There’s no guarantee that teams will have the face of the franchise for every game, so a quality backup QB could be a difference-maker in a one- or two-game swing during the season. Those games could have seeding or even playoff implications.
Joe Burrow’s still-lingering calf injury came on the second day of training camp, so the Bengals have had the chance to watch both Trevor Siemian and Jake Browning compete for the backup spot.
In Atlanta, Zac Taylor put the ball in each of the two players’ hands in field-goal range during fourth-and-short situations. Taylor didn’t see what he wanted as neither was able to convert the first down.
Who will get the job? That question is still unanswered. Both quarterbacks have been inconsistent throughout camp.
There are 12 receivers on the roster and the big three — Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd — are locks. The Bengals usually keep seven receivers, but that could change this year with so much talent at different positions.
Outside of the top three, a player who has made his presence known is Andrei Iosivas, a sixth-round pick out of Princeton. He has utilized his speed and size to prove himself while being the top target in two straight games, catching 9 passes for 94 yards — on 20 total targets.
Charlie Jones is another expected lock for 2023 after contributing well on special teams and converting on two third-down plays in Atlanta. Special Teams Coordinator Darrin Simmons has been high on Jones since he was drafted.
The staff is still evaluating Stanley Morgan, Trenton Irwin, Kwamie Lassiter, Malachi Carter, Marc Hippenhammer and Shedrick Jackson.
Offensive line coach and run game coordinator Frank Pollack is working with 15 linemen in camp. Jackson Carmen played every snap last week against the Falcons in the left tackle position, the same position he played at Clemson. He has been a player that the Bengals seem to want on the roster, but they’re still looking for consistent play from him after picking him in the second round of the 2021 draft. Carmen lost the starting left guard spot to Cordell Volson last season.
Who will back up Jonah Williams at RT and who will back up Orlando Brown Jr. at LT? Cincinnati is still searching for answers there. Max Sharping, Cody Ford, and Trey Hill have shown a bit of versatility, with each being able to play two positions on the line.
Tough decisions need to be made in the RB room. Joe Mixon was found not guilty last week on an aggravated menacing charge and has since rejoined the team.
Chase Brown has been working on pass protection and it’s working in his favor, as he managed to allow zero pressures on eight throws last week according to PFF.
Trayveon Williams is dealing with an ankle injury, Chris Evans has been putting in a ton of work in preseason games, and there are two rookies who are still being evaluated — Jacob Saylers and Calvin Tyler Jr.
Mitchell Wilcox was cleared to practice this week while Tanner Hudson was unavailable in Atlanta due to a concussion against Green Bay. The two locks at this position are Drew Sample and Irv Smith Jr., while Devin Asiasi, Nick Bowers, and Christian Trahan are competing for a roster spot.
This position group is stacked, with Logan Wilson and Germaine Pratt each signing deals to keep the two of them together for at least three more years.
There are a total of nine players competing for a spot on the final roster. Joe Bachie suffered a chest injury against Green Bay but managed five tackles his next time out against Atlanta. Marcus Bailey was close to hauling in two interceptions in Atlanta. Akeem Davis-Gaither was drafted in the fourth round in 2020 and has provided key depth at the position. Keandre Jones, Shaka Heyward, Jaylen Moody, and Tyler Murray are fighting to be part of the team in September.
Nick Scott and Dax Hill are locks at the position while Tycen Anderson and Jordan Battle have looked to solidify their spots on the team. Veteran Mike Thomas has proven to be a guy who helps the locker room culture, and he has perfected Lou Anarumo’s playbook. He might test the Bengals’ tendency to keep just four safeties on the roster.
Shutdown CB Chidobe Awuzie was competing in 11-on-11 drills with the team Monday and expects to suit up in Cleveland in the season opener. He was a massive loss to the team when he tore his ACL last season.
Cam Taylor-Britt and Mike Hilton are both expected locks to make the squad. DJ Turner II has been taking reps as Awuzie prepares for the first week of the season. DJ Ivey, Allan George, Sydney Jones, Marvell Tell III, Jalen Davis are all competing for a spot.
In the first series in Atlanta, the Bengals’ defensive line looked ready for the season opener. This is a talented group and Marion Hobby will have a heck of a time trying to trim this position group down.
Myles Murphy was drafted in the first round in April with the intention of having him learn behind Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard. His size is obvious at 6’5”, 276 pounds, but his speed was put on display during camp.
Zach Carter had two tackles in Atlanta last week along with three pressures while Domenique Davis led the line with five tackles and a quarterback hit. Tarell Basham is competing for a roster spot on his fifth team since he was drafted in 2017 by the Colts. He was carted off the field during practice in July with a right leg injury.
The Bengals drafted punter Brad Robbins in the sixth round and he’s been exactly what they’ve expected. Drue Chrisman’s one punt this offseason went 40 yards and forced the Falcons to start their next drive inside the ten. Cincinnati also has long snapper Cal Admits and kicker Evan McPherson in this group.
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