CINCINNATI -- Training camp is still some two months away for the Cincinnati Bengals, but that doesn't mean we can't talk about it.
Even with organized team activities (OTAs) on the horizon this week, many of you want to discuss how the Bengals will go about whittling down the 90-man roster later this summer. I get it, though. This part of the year isn't as interesting as the preseason.
In this weekend's second installment of the Bengals mailbag, we open by considering who the last four in/last four out could be in September:
@ColeyHarvey As of today- your last 4 players to make the team & last 4 cuts?
— Joe (@JoeskiBroski) May 22, 2015
@ColeyHarvey Joe, why do you have to do this to me? It's May, man! Seriously, it is extremely tough to predict training camp cuts at this point since we haven't even seen the full team take part in voluntary OTAs and mandatory minicamps. Besides, injuries and other unforeseen circumstances could affect all of this. But I'd like to think I'm a good sport. So I'll play along.
It took a while to construct a four-out/four-in cut list, but I have come up with something. Please don't etch this in stone, as I could certainly see it changing between now and the final preseason game. But based on what we know about this team right now and assuming camp ended today, here are my last four out: defensive tackle Devon Still, offensive lineman T.J. Johnson, quarterback Terrelle Pryor and linebacker Marquis Flowers. There deserves to be an asterisk next to Flowers' name, though. This is assuming veteran linebacker Vontaze Burfict will be fully recovered from microfracture surgery to his knee by the time the season begins. That's a big assumption. The signs are beginning to point to him not being ready for the opener, meaning a linebacker spot would still be open, and Flowers would thus have a spot on the 53-man roster.
As for the last four in, I've got linebacker Jayson DiManche, receiver Denarius Moore, offensive guard Trey Hopkins and defensive tackle Marcus Hardison. This four-out, four-in exercise reflects an intense competition at receiver -- I don't think seventh-round pick Mario Alford will have much difficulty making the team, but Brandon Tate will -- as well as linebacker, quarterback, interior offensive line and defensive tackle. Given everything Still has gone through, I'm definitely pulling for him. At this point, though, he seems on the fringe of making the team.
@ColeyHarvey I've got Rey&Rey, Hawk, Dawson, Lemur, Nicco, & Flowers making the team @ LB. with Burfict on PUP. Sound about right?
— Trevor Long (@TheTrevorLongLP) May 22, 2015
@ColeyHarvey Speaking of the linebacker position battle, thanks for the inquiry, Trevor. I'm with you on Rey Maualuga and Vincent Rey. I also agree that A.J. Hawk, P.J. Dawson and Emmanuel Lamur make the team. As I mentioned above, I think the final linebacker spot (for now I've got the Bengals taking seven on the 53-man roster) comes down to DiManche and Flowers. Special teams play could be the determining factor, which is why I gave DiManche the edge for now. But Flowers' ability to play a hybrid safety/cover role helps him. As for Nico Johnson, I'm thinking he's among the odd men out. But again, special teams will be a key factor for the guys on the back end of the linebacker depth chart. That's certainly where Johnson would find himself. As for Burfict being on the physically unable to perform list, that's far from certain at this time, but it definitely could happen. If it happens, Johnson's and/or Flowers' jobs may be safe until he returns.
@ColeyHarvey also, do you think any of the UDFA's can make this team??
— Trevor Long (@TheTrevorLongLP) May 22, 2015
@ColeyHarvey Two questions for the price of one this week, huh? I would like to think that perhaps one or two of the undrafted free agents will make the 53-man roster, but in crunching numbers for Joe's question, I found it difficult to include any. The Bengals are just bringing back so much talent on the returning roster, and it's hard seeing them truly letting go of any of the draft picks since this was such a developmental draft for them. Of the undrafted players, I'm most intrigued to watch defensive tackle DeShawn Williams, running back Terrell Watson, fullback Mark Weisman, center Chris Jasperse, safety Erick Dargan, cornerback Troy Hill, safety Floyd Raven Sr. and tight end John Peters. It'll also be interesting to see what happens this year with past undrafted players James Wilder Jr., Cobi Hamilton and Onterio McCalebb. But no, at this point, I can't see anyone from that group making anything other than Cincinnati's practice squad this year.