Projecting the Bengals' 53-man roster

CINCINNATI -- The first wave of preseason cuts are on the horizon for the Cincinnati Bengals and other NFL teams as they work to get their rosters down to 75 players by Tuesday.

With the releases of three this past Tuesday, the Bengals have 87 players on their roster.

Although we will start having a better idea after the third preseason game where some of Cincinnati's fringe players stand, we can try to project the roster.

Based on what we've seen in practices and two preseason games, here's a 53-man roster projection:

Quarterbacks (2): Andy Dalton, AJ McCarron (practice squad: Keith Wenning)

Running backs (4): Jeremy Hill, Giovani Bernard, Rex Burkhead, Cedric Peerman (cut: Mark Weisman, practice squad: James Wilder Jr., Terrell Watson)

H-backs (1): Ryan Hewitt

Wide receivers (6): A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Greg Little, Mario Alford, Brandon Tate (IR: James Wright, cut: Denarius Moore, Tevin Reese, Onterio McCalebb, practice squad: Jake Kumerow, Michael Bennett)

Tight ends (3): Tyler Eifert, Tyler Kroft, C.J. Uzomah (cut: John Peters, practice squad: Matt Lengel)

Centers (2): Russell Bodine, T.J. Johnson (cut: Jake Smith)

Offensive tackle (4): Andrew Whitworth, Andre Smith, Eric Winston, Jake Fisher (injury list: Cedric Ogbuehi, cut: Tanner Hawkinson, Matt O'Donnell, practice squad: Dan France)

Offensive guard (3): Clint Boling, Kevin Zeitler, Trey Hopkins (practice squad: Chris Jasperse)

Defensive end (5): Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson, Margus Hunt, Will Clarke, Wallace Gilberry (cut: Sam Montgomery)

Defensive tackle (5): Geno Atkins, Domata Peko, Brandon Thompson, Marcus Hardison, Pat Sims (cut: Devon Still, Kwame Geathers, practice squad: DeShawn Williams)

Outside linebackers (4): A.J. Hawk, Emmanuel Lamur, Paul Dawson, Marquis Flowers, (injury list: Vontaze Burfict, Sean Porter, cut: Jayson DiManche, Chris Carter)

Middle linebackers (2): Rey Maualuga, Vincent Rey (cut: Nico Johnson, practice squad: Trevor Roach)

Cornerbacks (5): Adam Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick, Darqueze Dennard, Leon Hall, Josh Shaw (cut: Brandon Ghee, Chris Lewis-Harris, practice squad: Troy Hill)

Safeties (4): Reggie Nelson, George Iloka, Shawn Williams, Derron Smith (cut: Shiloh Keo, Floyd Raven)

Specialists (3): Kevin Huber, Clark Harris, Mike Nugent (cut: Tom Obarski)

Remaining position battles to watch

  • Keep a close eye on what happens with the final roster spots at running back, offensive tackle, defensive tackle, outside linebacker and safety. Some of our hardest projected cut-down decisions came at those positions. At outside linebacker, the decision of keeping Flowers over Carter was difficult because the latter has been solid all preseason, and was one of the few bright spots in Monday night's game at Tampa Bay. Carter deserves a spot on the 53-man roster. But the Bengals are still trying to groom Flowers and are also encouraged by what he's given them on defense and special teams.

  • Things could change at defensive tackle by the end of the preseason, especially considering Sims has missed multiple practices and didn't play in Monday's game. When he has been out there, he has outperformed Still. DeShawn Williams could be hard to hide on the practice squad.

  • We chose Derron Smith over Keo for the final safety spot, but Keo has played quite well, too. In this case, the younger Smith's playmaking potential was the deciding factor.

  • France has played well enough to sneak onto the 53-man roster. His status could be dictated by possible injury-list designations that affect other offensive tackles at the start of the regular season.

  • Finally, be on the lookout for updates about the competition between Wilder and Watson. The practice squad seems most likely for both, given the stranglehold others have on running back jobs. Wilder might hold a slight edge because of his recent strong special teams play.