Bengals' 53-man roster projection has rookie unseating leading kick returner Brandon Tate

The Cincinnati Bengals must cut their roster to 75 by 4 p.m. ET Tuesday and to 53 by 4 p.m. ET Saturday. Here's a final 53-man roster projection:

QUARTERBACKS (2): Andy Dalton, AJ McCarron

No surprises here. McCarron has proven that he is a capable backup behind Dalton. Keeping a third quarterback on the roster would be unnecessary.

WIDE RECEIVER (6): A.J. Green, Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd, James Wright, Cody Core, Alex Erickson

Brandon Tate was on my 53-man roster until Sunday night. But how do you keep Erickson off? The rookie just keeps making plays and seems to have a higher ceiling than Tate does at this point in his career. It's possible that they keep both Tate and Erickson, but I'm going to say Erickson jumps Tate here.

Core, the Bengals' sixth-round pick, didn't make this projection when OTAs began, but he has proven himself during training camp. Wright is a bit of a wild card because of his injury history and could be the odd man out if the team takes both Tate and Erickson.

TIGHT END (4): Tyler Eifert, Tyler Kroft, C.J. Uzomah, Ryan Hewitt (H-back)

The Bengals might have to keep an extra tight end for a while, with both Eifert and Kroft nursing injuries, but they could use Hewitt and Jake Fisher as blocking tight ends if needed.

RUNNING BACK (3): Jeremy Hill, Giovani Bernard, Rex Burkhead

Hill and Bernard are locked in at starters, and Burkhead has been a special-teams standout. Peerman was on this list until he fractured his forearm on Sunday, so my guess is he now heads to IR. Jeff Luc could be a practice squad candidate or potentially an extra addition to the roster as a fullback.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (10): Andrew Whitworth, Eric Winston, Cedric Ogbuehi, Jake Fisher, Clint Boling, Kevin Zeitler, Russell Bodine, Christian Westerman, T.J. Johnson, Trey Hopkins

The Bengals could go with 10 offensive linemen, with starting guard Ogbuehi nursing a toe injury. That might open the door for Hopkins, who can play tackle and guard. Alex Redmond, whom I didn't pencil in on the roster, could also play several positions but has been hurt as of late. Keeping only nine is also possible, which might make Hopkins the odd man out. However, Johnson was being evaluated for a concussion during Sunday's game, and his availability could cause some tweaks to the last spots.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (9): Geno Atkins, Domata Peko, Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson, Pat Sims, Will Clarke, Marcus Hardison, DeShawn Williams, Margus Hunt

Rookie Andrew Billings will probably be placed on IR to begin the season, while Brandon Thompson will likely start the season on PUP. That frees up spots that the defensive linemen on the bubble likely wouldn't see.

DEFENSIVE BACKS (9): Adam Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick, Darqueze Dennard, Shawn Williams, Derron Smith, George Iloka, Chris Lewis-Harris, Josh Shaw, Clayton Fejedelem

Expect William Jackson III to go on IR, possibly to return. Dennard is currently injured, but that doesn't change the cornerback projection. I gave seventh rounder Fejedelem the nod over Jimmy Wilson for the last spot.

LINEBACKERS (7): Rey Maualuga, Karlos Dansby, Vincent Rey, Nick Vigil, P.J. Dawson, Trevor Roach, Marquis Flowers

Vontaze Burfict will start the season on the reserve/suspended list and will not count against the 53-man roster when he sits out for three weeks. The Bengals will have to make a decision on the bottom of this roster position when he returns. They will have to carry an extra linebacker for at least three games while Burfict serves his suspension. Roach and Flowers might have gotten some help here with Peerman going down, which could free up a spot at another position.

SPECIAL TEAMS (3): Mike Nugent, Kevin Huber, Clark Harris

Nugent didn't look great in the team's second preseason game, but who is going to press him at this point? Zach Hocker has been hurt, so there has been no real competition here. The team did not bring in a second punter or long snapper. This group will stay the same.