AFC North: 2014 NFL Roster Projection

Cleveland Browns' projected roster

August, 29, 2014
Aug 29
10:00
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Examining the Cleveland Browns' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)

Grossman secured the third spot with the way he played against Chicago.

RUNNING BACKS (3)

It's impossible to ignore the way Crowell ran against the Bears. He looked quick, strong and topped 100 yards. If the Browns released him, they'd never get him back on the practice squad. He earned a spot.

FULLBACKS (2)

Gray is about as solidly on the bubble as any player on the team. His versatility should have helped him, but he did not play tremendously well in the preseason.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)

Not exactly a well-stocked group. Gabriel earned a spot with solid play. Snead earns it based on potential, but don't be surprised if his spot goes to someone who was cut by another team. Snead seems more like a practice squad candidate.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

The Browns are well-fortified with the three tight ends they have.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

A group that seems very settled.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (7)

Another unit that seems pretty well stocked.

LINEBACKERS (7)

The Browns could keep eight here and not keep Snead or Gray, except nobody really jumped out as an active pass-rushing type. So go with these seven.

CORNERBACKS (6)

The Browns will scan the waiver wire here, and may be as active trying to strengthen this spot as they will be at receiver. Depth is needed. Badly.

SAFETIES (4)

It's a toss-up for the fourth safety spot between Poyer and Josh Aubrey. I like Aubrey, but he could be practice squad eligible. The coaches also seem to like Poyer.

SPECIALISTS (3)

No need to change anything here, as all were strong and dependable contributors.
Examining the Cincinnati Bengals' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)
The Bengals were content with having just two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster last season, and might do the same this season. Rookie AJ McCarron would be the odd man out. He didn't practice in training camp after being placed on the active non-football injury list, and it doesn't seem like he's going to practice anytime soon. After Matt Scott was cut earlier this week that leaves fellow backup Tyler Wilson to potentially contend for a practice squad spot. He isn't likely to make the 53-man roster.

RUNNING BACKS (5)

This grouping includes Hewitt at H-back, meaning the Bengals are more likely to take four halfbacks. Burkhead, Peerman and Hewitt are not locks to make the team, but there are compelling reasons for each being part of the 53-man roster. BenJarvus Green-Ellis and James Wilder Jr. also have chances to make the final roster, but in Green-Ellis' case that's really hard to see. He hasn't played in two weeks and has barely practiced in that time. Wilder had a strong 11-carry, 49-yard rushing performance that mostly covered the fourth quarter. Like Green-Ellis, Burkhead also hasn't practiced or played in two weeks after suffering a Week 2 knee injury. The last halfback spot could be one of the toughest decisions the Bengals have to make this year. As for Hewitt, I included him over Orson Charles because he has seemed to impress more throughout camp, and seems more versatile. Nikita Whitlock also is competing for a fullback job.

RECEIVERS (6)

The top three on this list are locks to make the team. If this group holds, that means former practice squad player Cobi Hamilton and undrafted rookie Colin Lockett won't make the team. Tate, who was left off earlier roster projections, had been impressive catching passes in training-camp practices, and has been listed as the starting kick and punt returner on the team's depth charts. It's tough to say if he will stick, though, now that others, like Adam Jones and Sanzenbacher, have gotten in-game work at both return positions. Sanzenbacher returned a punt for a touchdown Thursday against the Colts. Of the possible cuts listed here, Hamilton's size (6-foot-2) and leaping ability make him a possible pick to make the team, but he's been inconsistent. Wright's special-teams background and his consistently strong showing in training camp make him a very real possibility to make the team, too, although an apparent head injury ran him from Sunday's game, and he had three big special teams penalties in the three games he played. He didn't play Thursday.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

Gresham is entering a contract year, and expectations have never been higher for him.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (10)

It's common for teams to have nine or 10 linemen, and if the Bengals do injury-list McCarron, it seems likely Cincinnati would keep 10 linemen this season, instead of the nine I previously had been predicting. This group seems to provide the versatility coaches are seeking. Of the undrafted free-agent linemen the Bengals signed this year, Hopkins -- a versatile guard who was used in a variety of ways this spring -- has the best shot to make the team. A serious shin injury on Sunday, though, could affect him. Depending on the injury's severity, he could find himself placed on injured reserve to open up another spot that could go to a sixth back like Wilder. Coaches had been very high on Hopkins' play before the injury. For now, we'll bank on the injury being more minor than it appeared. He'll stick if so.

DEFENSIVE LINE (9)

The only player on this list who wasn't on last year's 53-man roster is Will Clarke. The rookie was drafted in the third round in May. He effectively takes the roster spot of Michael Johnson, who signed with Tampa Bay in the offseason. This might be the most settled group on the team.

LINEBACKERS (6)

Like the receivers, the top spots at linebacker are squared away. In this case, it's a lock that Burfict, Lamur, Rey and Maualuga will make the team. The two remaining linebackers are part of one of the better position battles on the team. DiManche has the best chance of the remaining linebackers to make the team. Flowers could be in a scenario similar to McCarron, Wilder, Lockett and Hopkins in that he has tools the Bengals don't want to risk losing by placing him on the practice squad where he could be poached away. But with Lamur ahead of him, Flowers could be a good "redshirt" candidate. There is no need to rush him into his cover linebacker duties unless he really is ready to contribute. J.K. Schaffer earlier this week was one of two players placed on injured reserve after missing much of the preseason with two concussions.

CORNERBACKS (5)

After a strong preseason from this group, these are the Bengals' five cornerbacks this season. Chris Lewis-Harris has a shot to stick as a practice squad player after a solid preseason, too. He won't make the 53-man roster to start the season because he was suspended under the league's substance abuse policy in July. He'll miss the first two games.

SAFETIES (4)

This might be one of the tougher cuts Bengals coaches have to make if they end up keeping just four safeties. Shawn Williams has performed quite well so far this preseason in both training camp practices and games, but Manning has a measure of versatility as a special-teamer, a fluidity with which he plays defense and a locker room presence as a veteran that trumps Williams' promise and Mays' play.

SPECIALISTS (3)

These guys aren't going anywhere. The punter, kicker and long-snapper will make the team.
Examining the Pittsburgh Steelers' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)


I felt going into the finale preseason game that Jones had to play his way off the roster. The second-year man didn't do that and the Steelers will give the 2013 fourth-round pick another season as the No. 3 quarterback.

RUNNING BACKS (4)
Josh Harris and Stephen Houston each had a nice run Thursday night against the Carolina Panthers. But neither got the kind of work that leads you to believe the Steelers are seriously considering one of them as a No. 4 running back. The question is which one will they keep for the practice squad.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)

Bryant's shoulder injury, which is signficant, clinches the Steelers keeping six wide receivers. Heyward-Bey really emerged in the second half of the preseason and I see the sixth-year veteran not only making the team but also getting a helmet on game days. Justin Brown is the odd man out here if the Steelers only keep five wide receivers.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

Palmer isn't flashy but he blocks and is a solid contributor on special teams. Neither David Paulson nor rookie Rob Blanchflower did enough in the preseason finale to move past him. Blanchflower, a seventh-round pick, heads to the practice squad.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)

Offensive line coach Mike Munchak will push for nine here. If he gets his wish Guy Whimper makes it for another season. If not Johnson, a rookie fifth-round pick, beats out the nine-year veteran because of his upside and versatility.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (6)

McCullers, thought to be a project, has been a pleasant surprise. The rookie sixth-round pick is a lock to make the team. Defensive end Josh Mauro, an undrafted rookie, makes the 53-man roster if the Steelers keep seven defensive linemen. If not the Steelers will try to sneak the Stanford product onto the practice squad.

LINEBACKERS (9)

Jones is the surprise here, and the undrafted rookie makes it over fourth-year veteran Chris Carter because of his ability to play special teams and his upside. I really want to put Jordan Zumwalt on the 53-man roster and the rookie sixth-round pick is a candidate for short-term injured reserve, which the Steelers can use on one player. The guess is that the Steelers take the small risk of waiving Zumwalt, who hasn't played since the preseason opener because of a groin injury, and then signing the UCLA product to the practice squad.

CORNERBACKS (6)

Richardson only played 17 snaps in two games before hurting his knee, and the rookie fifth-round pick is in a similar situation as Zumwalt. The Steelers keep him because they desperately need to develop some young cornerbacks.

SAFETIES (5)

The Steelers have a tough cut to make if they only keep four safeties. Golden has more upside but Allen is a dependable veteran. Both are good special teams players. I think both make the 53-man roster.

SPECIALISTS (3)

Coach Mike Tomlin seems to be high on Wing, who has been the Steelers' only punter since the start of training camp. Consistency was an issue for him in the preseason and the Steelers could keep a close eye on the waiver wire even if Wing makes the 53-man roster. We also may have not heard the last from veteran Adam Podlesh, who has yet to report to the Steelers because of a family matter.
Examining the Baltimore Ravens' roster:

Quarterbacks (2)

This should be the fifth straight year that the Ravens only keep two quarterbacks. Keith Wenning didn't do enough in his two preseason games that would entice another team to put him on its 53-man roster. So, the Ravens can get Wenning on the practice squad. Plus, the Ravens would like to use their last roster spot on a special teams player, not a third quarterback.

Running backs (4)

Nothing has changed with this position all summer. Rice, Pierce, Taliaferro and Juszczyk are locks to make the team. Rice has been suspended for the first two games of the season, which allows the Ravens to carry Forsett. Fitzgerald Toussaint's 103 yards in the preseason finale earns him a spot on the practice squad.

Receivers (6)

This was the toughest position to project. The Ravens have to keep at least six because of the strength of the depth. The locks here are Torrey Smith, Steve Smith, Brown and Jones. When you look at the No. 5 receiver, his ability on special teams outweighs his impact as a receiver because his role is going to primarily be on the coverage and return teams. That's why Aiken still gets the nod here. Campanaro has more upside as a receiver than Deonte Thompson, which is why he gets the last spot. How can the Ravens cut Thompson? Well, the Ravens cut running back Bobby Rainey last year after he led the team in rushing, punt returns and kickoff returns. Perhaps, the Ravens could trade Thompson.

Tight ends (3)

The Ravens say Daniels' leg fatigue won't affect his status for the regular season so there is no drama at this position. Pitta is the clear cut No. 1, and Gillmore should see time as a rookie third-round pick.

Offensive linemen (9)

Monroe, Osemele, Zuttah, Yanda and Wagner are the starters. Gradkowski and Shipley, two starters from last season, are safe. Reid is the top backup tackle, but he is still dealing with a concussion. Urschel should have secured a spot over Ryan Jensen, who committed two holding penalties in the preseason finale.

Defensive linemen (5)

Ngata, Canty and Williams have been the starters throughout training camp and the preseason. Jernigan and Tyson are the Ravens' top two backups. It looks like Terrence Cody will start the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list. The Ravens can go with five linemen because Pernell McPhee can move to defensive end in a pinch. Nose tackle Derrick Hopkins can be stored on the practice squad.

LINEBACKERS (9)

Simon likely saved his spot with a strong performance in the preseason finale. The Ravens also don't get rid of fourth round picks a year after drafting them. They give them time to develop. The need for veteran depth at cornerback, where the Ravens are banged up, pushes out Albert McClellan. It's a tough call because McClellan led the Ravens in special teams tackles last season. The Ravens could bring back McClellan later in the season.

Cornerbacks (6)

Injury issues at cornerback force the Ravens to carry a sixth cornerback. The Ravens anticipate their top three cornerbacks (Smith, Webb and Jackson) to be healthy enough to play in the regular season. But none were practicing this past week. The Ravens have to keep veterans like Franks and Cox for insurance. Cox made some plays in the preseason finale despite not practicing with the team. Undrafted rookies Tramain Jacobs and Sammy Seamster can go on the practice squad.

Safeties (6)

Elam and Stewart remain the starters. Brooks, a rookie third-round pick, has generated buzz recently from his play at nickelback. Miles struggled on defense in the preseason finale, but he gets a spot because of his special teams play. Levine is a core special teams player who increased his value by playing cornerback as well. Trawick is probably the 53rd player, although the Ravens may go with a linebacker like McClellan instead. Hill is on the suspended list until the middle of October.

Specialists (3)

There's no decision to be made on the specialists. Tucker, Koch and Cox team up for the third straight season.
Examining the Cleveland Browns' roster:

Quarterbacks (3)

The old Tyler Thigpen experiment didn't go too well. Connor Shaw seems like a practice squad candidate.

Running backs (3)

Coach Mike Pettine said Dion Lewis has separated from the other players, but that it remains an open competition.

Fullbacks (2)

Gray can do things, but it's looking like he might make it as a hybrid tight end/fullback if he sticks.

Wide receivers (5)

We’ll assume that Josh Gordon is suspended. If he’s not, add him and remove Johnson. Taylor Gabriel and Marlon Moore opened eyes Saturday night with long kick returns. The road to a roster spot for either is through special teams.

Tight ends (3)

The Browns are well fortified with the three tight ends they have.

Offensive linemen (9)

Wallace has been impressive playing behind Thomas. The right guard competition between Gilkey and Greco seems to have turned solidly in Greco's favor.

Defensive linemen (7)

Bryant's wrist injury, which may need surgery, is troubling to a unit that started camp with good numbers. How that plays out will be interesting.

Linebackers (8)

Mingo has played consistently well. Martin has flashed in some practices. Sheard is a linebacker who will also play with his hand down. A sixth receiver would mean the Browns keep just seven linebackers, but if it's eight the decision comes down to Justin Staples or Diles.

Cornerbacks (6)

Gilbert had a terrible outing against the Rams. The hope is that he’ll use it as a learning experience, although the club is happy Skrine (thumb surgery) is expected back for the opener.

Safeties (4)

The Browns clearly were concerned about safety depth, so they signed 30-something Leonhard. That bumps Johnson Bademosi, an aggressive player who has made some mistakes. Poyer started in Gipson's absence and got a ton of reps. The coaches must like him. But Josh Aubrey is another guy playing well; if he forces his way on the team, the Browns might keep one less linebacker or fullback.

Specialists (3)

No need to change anything here from last season, as all were strong and dependable contributors.
Examining the Pittsburgh Steelers' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)
Jones is a candidate to be waived and signed to the practice squad if he doesn't show significant improvement in the last two preseason games. The second-year man took a step back big last Saturday night despite getting work with the Steelers' first-team offensive line in a 19-16 win over the Buffalo Bills. This could be a position that the Steelers try to upgrade after final cuts are made, depending on which quarterbacks are on the waiver wire.

RUNNING BACKS (4)

I dropped Tauren Poole for now since the Steelers are going to have to carry an extra long snapper until Greg Warren returns from a torn meniscus. Poole has a chance because of his special-teams play but no running back has emerged behind Bell, Blount and Archer.

WIDE RECEIVERS (5)

Justin Brown has to show more after catching just three passes for 15 yards in the Steelers' first two preseason games. He is safe for now but a player like Darrius Heyward-Bey still has time to make a move. Derek Moye seems to be losing ground in his attempt to make the 53-man roster for the second year in a row.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

There is no change here but David Paulson and rookies Eric Waters and Rob Blanchflower are still in the mix. Palmer gets the nod for now because of his experience, blocking and ability to contribute on special teams. Will Johnson plays enough tight end in his new role that the Steelers could go with Miller and Spaeth as the only players who are exclusively tight ends.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)

I'm still sticking with eight here but the Steelers could go with one more player up front if they go with one less at quarterback, running back or tight end. Adams will be the No. 3 tackle, allowing the Steelers to cut ties with veteran Guy Whimper and keep Johnson.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (7)
Brian Arnfelt is ahead of Mauro at right defensive end on the depth chart only. Mauro has played with the second-team defense in both Steelers' preseason games, and the undrafted rookie helped himself against the Bills with a pair of sacks and a quarterback pressure. McCulllers is a keeper and has the potential to be one of the steals of the 2014 NFL draft.

LINEBACKERS (9)

Zumwalt needs to get on the field as the rookie sixth-round pick didn't play against the Bills and has been hampered by a groin injury. Assuming he can get healthy the UCLA product makes the team. Jones is raw and could probably use a season on the practice squad. But a couple of players make the team every year because of their special-teams work, and the undrafted rookie has stood out in that phase of the game.

CORNERBACKS (5)

McCain has been solid and appears to have moved past Blake as the fourth-best cornerback on the team. Rookie Shaquille Richardson is off the 53-man projection for the first time as I need to see more from the fifth-round draft pick to put him on the team. Richardson still has time though his status for the Steelers' third preseason game in Philadelphia is uncertain because of an undisclosed injury he sustained last Friday in practice.

SAFETIES (5)

Golden flashed against the Bills with an intercepton and two pass break ups and he is a known commodity on special teams. The third-year man is the odd man out if the Steelers only keep four safties and go with six cornerbacks instead of five.

SPECIALISTS (4)

Punter Adam Podlesh has yet to re-join the Steelers after missing all of training camp because of a personal matter but Wing hasn't exactly put a stranglehold on the job. His net average after two games is just 35.8 yards though three of his 12 punts have been downed inside the 20-yard line. Ingram gets the nod over Bryce Davis as temporary long snapper until Warren returns.
Examining the Baltimore Ravens' roster:

Quarterbacks (2)

Flacco finished the preseason with a 102.6 passer rating, throwing two touchdowns and no interceptions. Taylor put together a solid but not spectacular preseason. He will be the primary backup for the fourth straight season unless the Ravens can upgrade after the final cutdown is made. Rookie sixth-round pick Keith Wenning appears headed to the practice squad.

Running backs (4)

Rice, Pierce, Taliaferro and Juszczyk are locks to make the team. Rice has been suspended for the first two games of the season, which allows the Ravens to carry Forsett.

Receivers (6)

Torrey Smith, Steve Smith, Brown and Jones have long secured spots. Aiken still gets a spot even though he hasn't made a catch in the past two preseason games. His presence on special teams (tackling on coverage teams and blocking on return teams) gives him an edge. The decision is whether to keep Campanaro or Deonte Thompson. Both are slot receivers who can back up Jones as the returner. Even though Thompson has been impressive in the preseason, Campanaro gets the final spot because he has more upside and the Ravens invested a draft pick in him.

Tight ends (3)

Pitta is the clear-cut No. 1 tight end, and Gillmore will help immediately as a blocker. The question mark is Daniels, who has missed the past two preseason games because of fatigued legs. He gets a spot right now, but it's a peculiar situation.

Offensive linemen (9)

Monroe, Osemele, Zuttah and Yanda are the guaranteed starters, and Wagner was officially named the starting right tackle last week. Gradkowski and Shipley, two starters from last season, appear safe. Reid has "earned" the backup tackle spot, according to coach John Harbaugh. Urschel remains ahead of Ryan Jensen and continues to work as the second-team right guard.

Defensive linemen (5)

Ngata, Canty and Williams have been the starters throughout training camp and the preseason. Jernigan and Tyson are the Ravens' top two backups. If Terrence Cody (hip) gets removed off the physically unable to perform list, he becomes the sixth defensive lineman. At this point, the Ravens can go with five linemen because Pernell McPhee can move to defensive end in a pinch. Nose tackle Derrick Hopkins, who was on my projected 53-man list last week, can be kept on the practice squad.

LINEBACKERS (10)

There won't be much change here because the Ravens return every linebacker from last season's team. The only addition is Mosley, the No. 17 overall pick in this year's draft. By not keeping a third quarterback, the Ravens create room to keep a strong special-teams player like McClellan.

Cornerbacks (6)

Smith and Webb are the starters, if healthy. Brown and Jackson have both worked with the first-team defense this offseason and are safe. The Ravens moved Levine from safety to corner in the last preseason game, which helps with the depth at this position. Levine's versatility on defense and value on special teams earns him a spot. Franks has played better than expected in the past two preseason games. The Ravens will keep Franks unless they can upgrade once final cutdowns are made Saturday. Undrafted rookie Tremain Jacobs will probably end up on the practice squad.

Safeties (5)

Elam and Stewart remain the starters. Brooks is rising up the depth chart with his playmaking ability, and Miles is a core special-teams player. Trawick moves into the projected 53-man roster this week because of his impact on special teams. He gets the nod over a defensive lineman like Hopkins. Hill is on the suspended list until the middle of October.

Specialists (3)

There is no drama on special teams. Tucker, Koch and Cox team up for the third straight season.
Examining the Cincinnati Bengals' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)
The Bengals were content with having just two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster last season, and might do the same this season. Rookie AJ McCarron would be the odd man out. He didn't practice in training camp after being placed on the active non-football injury list, and it doesn't seem like he's going to practice anytime soon. Fellow backups Matt Scott and Tyler Wilson are not likely to make the 53-man roster, although one of them could end up on the practice-squad.

RUNNING BACKS (5)

This grouping includes Hewitt at H-back, meaning the Bengals are more likely to take four halfbacks. Burkhead, Peerman and Hewitt are not locks to make the team, but there are compelling reasons for each being part of the 53-man roster. BenJarvus Green-Ellis and James Wilder Jr., also have real chances to be part of the full roster. Green-Ellis didn't play at all in Sunday's Week 3 preseason win over the Cardinals, and he only appeared in three plays in last week's loss to the Jets. Burkhead also didn't play due to a knee injury suffered in Week 2. Even with his injury -- one that doesn't appear as bad as initially feared -- Burkhead has a chance to stick based on what he did before Week 2. For now, we're going to place him back on this week's 53-man projection over Green-Ellis. As for Hewitt, I included him over Orson Charles here because he has seemed to impress more throughout camp, and seems more versatile. Nikita Whitlock also is competing for a fullback job.

RECEIVERS (6)

The top three on this list are locks to make the team. If this group holds, that means Jasper Collins, former Bengals practice squad player Cobi Hamilton and undrafted rookie Colin Lockett won't make the team. Tate, who was left off earlier roster projections, had been impressive catching passes in training-camp practices, and has been listed as the starting kick and punt returner on the team's depth charts. It's tough to say if he will stick, though, now that others, like Adam Jones and Sanzenbacher, have gotten in-game work at both return positions. Tate hasn't done much as a receiver in his three years with the Bengals; he's primarily been a special-teams addition. Of the possible cuts listed here, Hamilton's size (6-foot-2) and leaping ability make him a possible pick to make the team, but he's been inconsistent. Wright's special-teams background and his consistently strong showing in training camp make him a very real possibility to make the team, too, although an injury did run him from Sunday's game. It's not yet clear how much time he'll miss, but after experiencing what appeared to be a head injury, it would be stunning to see him on the field Thursday against Indianapolis.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

Gresham is entering a contract year, and expectations have never been higher for him. Along with Gresham, Eifert and Smith should be part of the main roster. Kevin Brock also is competing for a spot at the position.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (10)

It's common for most teams to have nine or 10 linemen, and if the Bengals do injury-list McCarron, it seems likely Cincinnati would keep 10 linemen this season, instead of the nine I previously had been predicting. This group seems to provide the versatility coaches are seeking. Of the undrafted free-agent linemen the Bengals signed this year, Hopkins -- a versatile guard who was used in a variety of ways this spring -- has the best shot to make the team. Coaches have been very high on his play. He did suffer what appeared to be a serious leg injury Sunday, though. Depending upon the severity of the injury the Bengals could injury-list him, thereby preserving him from potential practice-squad poaching and opening up another roster spot. For now, I'm banking on the injury being more minor than it appeared Sunday night. He'll stick if so.

DEFENSIVE LINE (9)

The only player on this list who wasn't on last year's 53-man roster is Will Clarke. The rookie was drafted in the third round in May. He effectively takes the roster spot of Michael Johnson, who signed with Tampa Bay in the offseason. This might be the most settled group on the team.

LINEBACKERS (6)

Like the receivers, the top spots at linebacker are squared away. In this case, it's a lock that Burfict, Lamur, Rey and Maualuga will make the team. The two remaining linebackers are part of one of the better position battles on the team. DiManche has the best chance of the remaining linebackers to make the team. Flowers could be in a scenario similar to McCarron, Wilder, Lockett and Hopkins in that he has tools the Bengals don't want to risk losing by placing him on the practice squad where he could be poached away. But with Lamur ahead of him, Flowers could be a good "redshirt" candidate. There is no need to rush him into his cover linebacker duties unless he really is ready to contribute. J.K. Schaffer was snubbed on this list at middle linebacker because he's missed an inordinate amount of the preseason after being placed under concussion protocol on two separate occasions.

CORNERBACKS (5)

The top four positions are effectively locked down. Kirkpatrick runs the risk of being cut for performance reasons, but it's unlikely because the Bengals would take a $1.2 million cap hit if they let go of the former first-round pick. At this point, aside from perhaps Chris Lewis-Harris or Lavelle Westbrooks, there aren't any other corners who appear worthy of cracking this list.

SAFETIES (4)

This might be one of the tougher cuts Bengals coaches have to make if they end up keeping just four safeties. Taylor Mays has performed quite well so far this preseason in both training-camp practices and games, but Manning has a measure of versatility as a special-teamer, a fluidity with which he plays defense and a locker room presence that for now trumps Mays' play.

SPECIALISTS (3)

These guys aren't going anywhere. The punter, kicker and long-snapper will make the team.
Examining the Cleveland Browns' roster:

Quarterbacks (3)

The old Tyler Thigpen experiment didn't go too well. Connor Shaw seems like a practice squad candidate.

Running backs (3)

There hasn't been an Isaiah Crowell sighting in days. Dion Lewis' fumble in Detroit won't help him. Ogbonnaya has great value on special teams, as his touchdown-saving tackle on a punt return showed.

Fullbacks (2)

Gray can do things, but it's looking like he may make it as a hybrid tight end/fullback if he sticks.

Wide receivers (5)

We’ll assume that Josh Gordon is suspended. If he’s not, add him and remove Johnson. Willie Snead made strides in practice, but needs to do better.

Tight ends (3)

The Browns are well fortified with the three tight ends they have.

Offensive linemen (9)

Wallace has been impressive playing behind Thomas. The right guard competition between Gilkey and Greco seems to have turned solidly in Greco's favor.

Defensive linemen (7)

Bryant's wrist injury, which may need surgery, is troubling to a unit that started camp with good numbers. How that plays out will be interesting.

Linebackers (8)

Mingo has played consistently well. Martin has flashed in some practices. Sheard is a linebacker who will also play with his hand down. A sixth receiver would mean the Browns keep just seven linebackers, but if it's eight the decision comes down to Justin Staples or Diles.

Cornerbacks (6)

Losing Skrine to his thumb injury is not good, but it does give Gilbert more time on the field. He has been the most impressive rookie on the team in camp.

Safeties (4)

The Browns clearly were concerned about safety depth, so they signed 30-something Leonhard. That bumps Johnson Bademosi, an aggressive player who has made some mistakes. Poyer started in Gipson's absence and got a ton of reps. The coaches must like him. But Josh Aubrey is another guy playing well; if he forces his way on the team, the Browns might keep one less linebacker or fullback.

Specialists (3)

No need to change anything here from last season, as all were strong and dependable contributors.
Examining the Cincinnati Bengals' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)
The Bengals were content with having just two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster last season, and might do the same this season. Rookie AJ McCarron would be the odd man out. He didn't practice in training camp after being placed on the active non-football injury list, and it doesn't seem like he's going to practice anytime soon. Fellow backups Matt Scott and Tyler Wilson are not likely to make the 53-man roster.

RUNNING BACKS (5)

This grouping includes Hewitt at H-back, meaning the Bengals are more likely to take four halfbacks. Green-Ellis, Peerman and Hewitt are not locks to make the team, but there are compelling reasons for each being part of the 53-man roster. Rex Burkhead and James Wilder Jr. also have real chances to be part of the full roster. Green-Ellis only played three snaps in Saturday's Week 2 preseason loss to the Jets, but he got the first reps after the starter Bernard, and with Burkhead possibly suffering a serious injury in the game, Green-Ellis might end up sticking as part of the running back rotation. If Burkhead's injury isn't as bad as feared, I'm not sure if Green-Ellis ultimately makes the team, but we're going to say for now that he does. As for Hewitt, I included him over Orson Charles here because he has seemed to impress more throughout camp, and seems more versatile. Nikita Whitlock also is competing for a fullback job.

RECEIVERS (6)

The top three on this list are locks to make the team. The true battle during training camp will be for the other three spots. If this group holds, that means Jasper Collins, former Bengals practice squad player Cobi Hamilton and undrafted rookie Colin Lockett won't make the team. Tate, who was left off earlier roster projections, had been impressive catching passes in training-camp practices, and has been listed as the starting kick and punt returner on the team's depth charts. It's tough to say if he will stick, though, now that Adam Jones and Sanzenbacher are getting in-game work at both return positions. Tate hasn't done much as a receiver in his three years with the Bengals; he's primarily been a special-teams addition. Of the possible cuts listed here, Hamilton's size (6-foot-2) and leaping ability make him a possible pick to make the team, but he's been inconsistent. Wright's special-teams background and his consistently strong showing in training camp make him a very real possibility to make the team, too, although an injury did run him from Saturday's game.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

Gresham is entering a contract year, and expectations have never been higher for him. Along with Gresham, Eifert and Smith should be part of the main roster. Kevin Brock also is competing for a spot at the position.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (10)

It's common for most teams to have nine or 10 linemen, and if the Bengals do injury-list McCarron, it seems likely Cincinnati would keep 10 linemen this season, instead of the nine I previously had been predicting. This group seems to provide the versatility coaches are seeking. Of the undrafted free-agent linemen the Bengals signed this year, Hopkins -- a versatile guard who was used in a variety of ways this spring -- has the best shot to make the team. Coaches have been very high on his play.

DEFENSIVE LINE (9)

The only player on this list who wasn't on last year's 53-man roster is Will Clarke. The rookie was drafted in the third round in May. He effectively takes the roster spot of Michael Johnson, who signed with Tampa Bay in the offseason. This might be the most settled group on the team.

LINEBACKERS (6)

Like the receivers, the top spots at linebacker are squared away. In this case, it's almost a lock that Burfict, Lamur, Rey and Maualuga will make the team. The two remaining linebackers are part of one of the better position battles on the team. DiManche has the best chance of the remaining linebackers to make the team. Flowers could be in a scenario similar to McCarron, Wilder, Lockett and Hopkins in that he has tools the Bengals don't want to risk losing by placing him on the practice squad where he could be poached away. But with Lamur ahead of him, Flowers could be a good "redshirt" candidate. There is no need to rush him into his cover linebacker duties unless he really is ready to contribute. I can't see the Bengals cutting Flowers. J.K. Schaffer was snubbed on this list at middle linebacker. Because of time spent under concussion protocol, he has missed opportunities to prove his value this camp. And unfortunately for Schaffer, less than a week after clearing the protocol, he experienced another head injury in Saturday's game. For now, there is no update on his status, but two head injuries in three weeks doesn't bode well for the hometown kid's chances.

CORNERBACKS (5)

The top four positions are effectively locked down. Kirkpatrick runs the risk of being cut for performance reasons, but it's unlikely because the Bengals would take a $1.2 million cap hit if they let go of the former first-round pick. Victor Hampton had previously been the sixth cornerback on this list, but the past two weeks I removed a sixth corner altogether in favor of adding a sixth receiver to balance the roster. If I had picked a sixth cornerback the last two weeks I would have gone with R.J. Stanford.

SAFETIES (4)

This might be one of the tougher cuts Bengals coaches have to make if they end up keeping just four safeties. Taylor Mays has performed quite well so far this preseason in both training-camp practices and games, but Manning has a measure of versatility as a special-teamer, a fluidity with which he plays defense and a locker room presence that for now trumps Mays' play.

SPECIALISTS (3)

These guys aren't going anywhere. The punter, kicker and long-snapper will make the team.
Examining the Cincinnati Bengals' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)
The Bengals were content with having just two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster last season, and might do the same this season. Rookie AJ McCarron would be the odd man out, possibly getting placed on an injury list that would allow him to be part of the overall roster, but not count against the 53-man roster. He hasn't practiced all training camp as part of the active non-football injury list, and it doesn't seem like he's going to be doing so anytime soon. McCarron isn't sure what the plan for using him is, but it seems a likely course of action so Cincinnati can keep another position player. Fellow backups Matt Scott and Tyler Wilson are not likely to make the 53-man roster.

RUNNING BACKS (5)

This grouping includes Hewitt at H-back, meaning the Bengals are more likely to take four halfbacks. Neither Burkhead, Peerman nor Hewitt is a lock right now to make the team, but there are compelling reasons for each being part of the 53-man roster. BenJarvus Green-Ellis and James Wilder Jr. also have real chances to be part of the full roster. Green-Ellis in recent days has gotten more opportunities, and even ended up as the No. 2 back on the Bengals' depth chart that was released Saturday. Still, I'm not sure right now if he remains in that spot through the end of the preseason. As for Hewitt, I included him over Orson Charles here because he has seemed to impress more throughout camp, and seems more versatile. Charles didn't even play in last Thursday's preseason game. Hewitt, an undrafted free agent, has been strong in blitz pickup and has opened his share of holes in short-yardage work during the last week or so of practices. He has also been thrown to regularly as a tight end with Jermaine Gresham and Kevin Brock both injured. Nikita Whitlock also is competing for a fullback job.

RECEIVERS (6)

The top three on this list are locks to make the team. The true battle during training camp will be for the other three spots. If this group holds, that means Jasper Collins, former Bengals practice squad player Cobi Hamilton and undrafted rookie Colin Lockett won't make the team. Tate, who was left off earlier roster projections, has been impressive catching passes in practices, and has been listed as the starting kick and punt returner on the team's depth charts. Odds he sticks around for another season are increasing exponentially with each workout. Of the possible cuts listed here, Hamilton's size (6-foot-2) and leaping ability make him a possible pick to make the team, but performance would be a reason for cutting him. He hasn't been as consistent overall as the others, although it should be noted that his past week or two of camp has been filled with a number of nice grabs. Wright's special-teams background and his consistently strong showing in training camp make him a very real possibility to make the team, too.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

Gresham is entering a contract year, and expectations have never been higher for him. To meet them, he will have to first overcome a back injury that has prevented him from practicing so far. Along with Gresham, Eifert and Smith should be part of the main roster. Brock also is competing for a spot at the position.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (10)

It's common for most teams to have nine or 10 linemen, and if the Bengals do injury-list McCarron, it seems likely Cincinnati would keep 10 linemen this season, instead of the nine I previously had been predicting. This group seems to provide the versatility coaches are seeking. Of the undrafted free-agent linemen the Bengals signed this year, Hopkins -- a versatile guard who was used in a variety of ways this spring -- has the best shot to make the team. Coaches have been very high on his play. Along with Thursday's preseason opener at Kansas City, he has spent his share of practices getting first-team reps at left guard in place of Boling and Pollak, who have been slowly recovering from knee injuries.

DEFENSIVE LINE (9)

The only player on this list who wasn't on last year's 53-man roster is Will Clarke. The rookie was drafted in the third round in May. He effectively takes the roster spot of Michael Johnson, who signed with Tampa Bay in the offseason. This might be the most set group on the team. Another name to watch, though, is 360-pound LaKendrick Ross. The defensive tackle was added nearly two weeks ago and could give the Bengals an added run-stopping presence in certain situations. He hasn't played much football, though, so coaches have a tall task teaching him schemes and concepts, and reaffirming fundamentals.

LINEBACKERS (6)

Like the receivers, the top spots at linebacker are pretty much squared away. In this case, it's almost a lock that Burfict, Lamur, Rey and Maualuga will make the team. The two remaining linebackers will be part of one of the better position battles on the team. DiManche has the best chance of the remaining linebackers to make the team. Flowers could be in a scenario similar to McCarron, Wilder, Lockett and Hopkins in that he has tools the Bengals don't want to risk losing by placing him on the practice squad where he could be poached away. But with Lamur ahead of him, Flowers could be a good "redshirt" candidate. There is no need to rush him into his cover linebacker duties unless he really is ready to contribute. Like McCarron, I can't see the Bengals cutting Flowers. J.K. Schaffer was snubbed on this list at middle linebacker. Because of time spent under concussion protocol, he has missed a lot of time to prove his value this camp.

CORNERBACKS (5)

The top four positions are effectively locked down. Kirkpatrick runs the risk of being cut for performance reasons, but it's unlikely because the Bengals would take a $1.2 million cap hit if they let go of the former first-round pick. Victor Hampton had previously been the sixth cornerback on this list, but the past two weeks I removed a sixth corner altogether in favor of adding a sixth receiver to balance the roster. If I had picked a sixth cornerback this week I would have gone with R.J. Stanford.

SAFETIES (4)

This might end up being one of the tougher cuts Bengals coaches have if they end up keeping just four safeties. Taylor Mays has performed better defensively this camp than Manning, but the elder Manning has a measure of versatility as a special teamer and a locker room presence that for now trumps Mays' play.

SPECIALISTS (3)

These guys aren't going anywhere. The punter, kicker and long snapper will make the team.
Examining the Baltimore Ravens' roster:

Quarterbacks (2)

The Ravens are set with Flacco as the starter and Taylor as the backup. The decision here is whether to carry three quarterbacks. If the Ravens limit Keith Wenning's playing time in preseason games (reducing the amount of tape other teams see of him), it may be an indication that the team is going to try to sneak the rookie sixth-round pick onto the practice squad.

Running backs (4)

Rice, Pierce and Juszczyk are locks to make the team. Taliaferro is a near certainty as well, especially after the rookie fourth-round pick led the team in rushing in the preseason opener. Rice has been suspended for the first two games of the season, which allows the Ravens to carry Forsett.

Receivers (5)

Torrey Smith, Steve Smith, Brown and Jones are going to make the roster. Aiken continues to build a strong case for making the team. Slot receiver Michael Campanaro, a seventh-round pick, has shown flashes but can't stay healthy. Putting him on injured reserve at the end of the preseason is a possibility.

Tight ends (3)

No major decisions at this position. The Ravens' top three tight ends are guaranteed to make the team, barring injury. Pitta, though, is clearly the No. 1 tight end. Daniels hasn't been sharp in training camp.

Offensive linemen (10)

Monroe, Osemele, Zuttah and Yanda are the guaranteed starters, and Wagner did well in the preseason opener as the new starting right tackle. Gradkowski and Shipley, two starters from last season, appear safe. Jensen has struggled and is moving himself on the wrong side of the bubble. Reid makes the team as the top backup at tackle. John Urschel is now sharing second-team reps at guard with Jensen. James Hurst, an undrafted rookie tackle, looks to be headed to the practice squad.

Defensive linemen (6)

Ngata, Canty and Williams have been the starters in training camp. Jernigan and Tyson are the Ravens' top two backups. Injuries are hurting the Ravens' depth at defensive end. After Brent Urban was lost for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Kapron Lewis- Moore suffered a likely season-ending Achilles injury. This would open a spot for either undrafted rookie Derrick Hopkins or Terrence Cody. Because Cody is on the physically unable to perform list, the nod goes to Hopkins right now.

LINEBACKERS (10)

There won't be much change here because the Ravens return every linebacker from last season's team. The only addition is Mosley, the No. 17 overall pick in this year's draft. By not keeping a third quarterback, the Ravens create room to keep a strong special teams player like McClellan.

Cornerbacks (5)

After the starting duo of Smith and Webb, there is a major dropoff. Asa Jackson has become the frontrunner for the No. 3 cornerback job but he sustained a minor ankle injury that could force him to miss the second preseason game. Chykie Brown makes the team even though he's struggled most of camp. Jacobs gets the final spot as a developmental corner, but his spot may be temporary. There's a good chance that the Ravens will sign a veteran who is released at the end of the preseason.

Safeties (5)

Elam and Stewart remain the starters. Miles and Levine are core special teams players. Brooks, a rookie third-round pick, is starting to move up the depth chart. The Ravens can keep Hill on the suspended list. He has had a good camp but he isn't eligible to play in the regular season until the middle of October.

Specialists (3)

There is no drama on special teams. Tucker, Koch and Cox team up for the third straight season.
Examining the Pittsburgh Steelers' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)
Jones did some good things in the preseason opener despite operating behind a porous offensive line. He played the entire second half and No. 4 quarterback Brendon Kay did not see the field in the Steelers' 20-16 loss to the New York Giants.

RUNNING BACKS (5)

Poole showed up big-time on special teams in the preseason opener, and the No. 4 running back will have to be able to contribute in that phase of the game. It's still early. The Steelers may only go with three running backs and Johnson as their fullback.

WIDE RECEIVERS (5)

No change here, though Derek Moye and Darrius Heyward-Bey are still very much in the picture. Heyward-Bey, however, needs to get back on the field as he did not play against the Giants because of a concussion.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

I don't see the Steelers keeping four tight ends with Johnson slated to play more there this season. Rookies -- and training camp roommates -- Rob Blanchflower and Eric Waters may be battling each other for a spot on the practice squad but it's still early.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)

I wanted another linebacker so I only have the Steelers keeping eight offensive linemen to start the season. Rookie fifth-round pick Wesley Johnson gets the nod over Guy Whimper and Chris Hubbard even though he barely played last Saturday night. His versatility will land the Vanderbilt product on the 53-man roster.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (6)

Defensive end Josh Mauro, an undrafted free agent, is in the discussion here after playing extensively with the second-team defense against the Giants. Defensive end Nick Williams, who spent his rookie season on injured reserve, also did some good things in the preseason opener.

LINEBACKERS (10)

I think Zumwalt is going to show he is a player now that his groin injury is behind the rookie sixth-round draft pick. Garvin is a good special-teams player and is athletic enough to play in pass coverage. I don't have to pick two of three from a group that also includes Jones if the Steelers keep 10 linebackers, though that may be a big if.

CORNERBACKS (5)

Blake is going to be the Steelers' No. 4 cornerback this season and he could make an impact after playing primarily on special teams last season. It is shaping up as a battle between Richardson, Isaiah Green and veteran Brice McCain if the Steelers only keep five cornerbacks.

SAFETIES (5)
Jordan Dangerfield, who signed a futures contract with the Steelers last January, continues to flash and warrants watching. Could Allen be in trouble if the Steelers want to get younger at safety?

SPECIALISTS (3)

Punter Adam Podlesh has yet to report to camp because of a personal matter, and the Steelers love the hang time Wing has displayed. The left-footed Aussie has to be more consistent, though, and will presumably find himself in a battle with Podlesh at some point.
Examining the Cleveland Browns' roster:

Quarterbacks (3)

I wonder if Warren Harding's election campaign in 1920 received one-tenth the coverage of Hoyer V. Manziel. Thigpen actually looked better in the game than he had in practice. Connor Shaw seems like a practice squad candidate.

Running backs (3)

There hasn't been an Isaiah Crowell sighting in days. Dion Lewis' fumble in Detroit won't help him. Ogbonnaya has great value on special teams, as his touchdown-saving tackle on a punt return showed.

Fullbacks (2)

Gray can do things.

Wide receivers (5)

We’ll assume that Josh Gordon is suspended. If he’s not, add him and remove Johnson. Willie Snead made strides in practice, but didn't in the game. He needs to do better.

Tight ends (3)

The Browns are well fortified with the three tight ends they have.

Offensive linemen (9)

Wallace has been impressive playing behind Thomas. The right guard competition between Gilkey and Greco seems to have turned solidly in Greco's favor.

Defensive linemen (7)

A deep group with a lot of talent. Coaches should be able to keep fresh linemen on the field and keep active linemen playing.

Linebackers (8)

Mingo has played consistently well. Martin has flashed in some practices. Sheard is a linebacker who will also play with his hand down. A sixth receiver would mean the Browns keep just seven linebackers, but if it's eight the decision comes down to Staples or Zac Diles.

Cornerbacks (6)

The most interesting competition remains between Skrine and Gilbert to see who starts opposite Haden. Gilbert has come on.

Safeties (4)

The Browns clearly were concerned about safety depth, so they signed 30-something Leonhard. That bumps Johnson Bademosi, an aggressive player who has made some mistakes. Poyer started in Gipson's absence and got a ton of reps. The coaches must like him.

Specialists (3)

No need to change anything here from last season, as all were strong and dependable contributors.

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