CINCINNATI -- The Bengals released an unofficial depth chart on Tuesday ahead of their first preseason game. As is often the case, there weren't many surprises. The Bengals, like most teams, keep their real depth chart hidden and usually give veterans the nod over rookies at this time of the year.
Here's what's notable about the depth chart:
Joe Mixon is listed as the fourth-team running back: That means he's even behind Cedric Peerman, a special-teams guru who is rarely used as a running back and is currently on the non-football injury list. That won't stick. Mixon might be sharing his snaps with Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard, but even at this early stage, it's clear he is very talented. Mixon will get his carries at some point.
Bernard has come a long way since tearing his ACL in November, but he'll be taking it easy in preseason games. As a veteran, he doesn't need as many carries as the rookies and they'll likely try to limit his snaps in the games while his knee continues to heal completely.
Christian Westerman is listed as the backup left guard: A more realistic option here is Trey Hopkins, who is listed as Andre Smith's backup at right guard but has played left guard, right guard and center during training camp.
Hopkins has spent the most time with the first-team offense and offensive line coach Paul Alexander has praised him, noting he is probably the first player off the bench right now. Hopkins is heading into his fourth season with Cincinnati after spending most of his career on injured reserve or on the practice squad. It seems logical the team would give the first backup spot to him instead.
No nickel cornerback or slot receiver listed: The Bengals don't typically dive into the nitty-gritty on their depth charts, but like most teams, they're in nickel defense more than they're in their base. That means a third corner will be getting a lot of playing time next to Dre Kirkpatrick and Adam Jones. It won't be William Jackson III, who has played exclusively on the outside and will be one of the first two backups there. That spot likely will go to Darqueze Dennard or Josh Shaw.
The Bengals don't list what receiver would be No. 3 were they to line up three-wide, a formation they use often. That no doubt is Tyler Boyd, who took most of his snaps in the slot last season. Following Boyd probably would be John Ross or Alex Erickson. However, Ross is still limited by his shoulder, and there's no indication when he'll be cleared to return to full contact.
Dennard is listed as the third-team cornerback: It seems more likely that Dennard would be the first backup outside over Shaw, who is listed as Kirkpatrick's immediate backup. Dennard has had his issues with injuries, but he's healthy now. The team tends to lean toward veterans with experience over younger players, so Dennard probably will be the first choice to replace Jones as he serves his one-game suspension in the season opener.
Randy Bullock is the first-team kicker: There's nothing to read into that. Bullock is a veteran and is going to get the spot over rookie Jake Elliott for now, especially because it doesn't seem that either has a real leg up on the job at this point. In reality, they're locked in a kicking competition that's going to last the rest of the preseason. Elliott has missed two field goal attempts during training camp and Bullock has missed one.
Ross isn't listed as a punt returner: Whether that's significant remains to be seen. Ross has been working on punt returns, but because he never did it in college, it's been a slow process. Ross essentially is starting from scratch and learning the ins and outs of fielding punts. He might not be ready to return punts in a real game anytime soon, but the Bengals are going to be working with him to see what he's got in practice.
Pat Sims is listed ahead of Andrew Billings at defensive tackle: The veteran Sims has had more time with the first-team unit in training camp, but Billings is being groomed to replace the departed Domata Peko. Sims never played more than half of the defense snaps last year in any game. Billings likely will be the starter this year, with Sims coming in to spell him from time to time.