Bengals 53-man roster: Asking and answering 7 key questions

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The Cincinnati Bengals have the complicated part of the process over — the roster has been trimmed to 53 players and the majority of the practice squad is final.

But a final roster doesn’t arrive without questions. Whether it’s who starts where, what the depth looks like and more, plenty of talking points remain.

Let’s take a look at some of the bigger questions and find answers.

What's the deal with injured players?

Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Joseph Ossai (58) rushes against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a pre-season NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021 in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Alex Menendez)

Long story short, the Bengals placed breakout rookie Joseph Ossai on injured reserve, ending his season. But rookie defensive end Wyatt Hubert and offensive tackle Hakeem Adeniji went to the NFI, meaning they can come back after a minimum of three weeks (in their cases it will be much longer, but the team has options). More players could get moved to short-term IR soon, but that holds them out for roughly three weeks.

Why add more DEs and CBs?

Nov 8, 2020; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Titans defensive end Wyatt Ray (57) takes the field before the game against the Chicago Bears at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals claimed DB Nick McCloud and DE Wyatt Ray on the waiver wire after final cuts, cutting a pair of wideouts to make them fit. Why? The team didn't see much of what it wanted from Noah Spence after Ossai's injury at defensive end, plus Cam Sample and Khalid Kareem seem to have nagging injuries. At corner, Trae Waynes is hurt again and primary backup Eli Apple has a slight issue that makes him questionable for the opener, too.

What happens if a starting OL goes down?

Cincinnati Bengals' Jackson Carman during an NFL football camp practice in Cincinnati, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

Youth has to step up, period. The Bengals are rolling the dice on rookies Trey Hill, Jackson Carman and D'Ante Smith to come in and produce if one of the interior starters goes down. It's a scary idea despite the good flashes each has shown this summer, but maybe not so scary for those who are all-in on the idea that Frank Pollack can make pretty much anything work

Why only 3 TEs and RBs?

Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon (28) chats with the few fans in attendance during training camp practice at the Paul Brown Stadium practice field in downtown Cincinnati on Monday, Aug. 2, 2021.
Cincinnati Bengals Camp

Simple math, really. Three tight ends and running backs -- no more -- were staples of our 53 projections. The Bengals don't often use personnel requiring more depth at tight end and that third spot is all about special teams, hence Mitchell Wilcox. Running back doesn't need to be any deeper, especially with friendly practice squad call-up rules -- and the practice squad roster at the position might be stronger than any other team in the league after securing Jacques Patrick, Trayveon Williams and Pooka Williams.

Is there enough depth at oft-injured spots like CB and OT?

Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Trae Waynes (26) during training camp on the practice fields outside of Paul Brown Stadium in Downtown Tuesday, August 17, 2021.
Aug17bengals12

Maybe? Waynes and Apple already have issues and Darius Phillips hasn't been able to stay healthy. That's why they've got seven corners right now and safeties that can probably take snaps there in a pinch. They hope a summer breakout like Jalen Davis can come in and give quality reps if necessary, and they might be right. Offensive tackle is tricky too -- Fred Johnson is the swing backup and Isaiah Prince made the roster, but that's incredibly thin for such an important spot. They hope Jonah Williams and Riley Reiff are rocks who don't need to come off the field.

How big of a role or the rookies?

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1) runs downfield after making a catch during Cincinnati Bengals practice on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021, in Cincinnati.
Cincinnati Bengals Practice

Big. Eight of their 10 draft picks made the final roster and it might have been all 10 outright if Ossai and seventh-round defensive end Wyatt Hubert hadn't suffered season-ending injuries. Ja'Marr Chase will be a staple of the offense, the three rookie linemen could get in games, Chris Evans is part of the running back rotation, Cam Sample and Tyler Shelvin will be part of the defensive line rotation and Evan McPherson is the kicker, plus undrafted free agent Darius Hodge should see first-team reps on the edge.

Will they add more?

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) sits on the bench after completing his drive in the first quarter of the NFL Preseason Week 3 game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Miami Dolphins at Paul Brown Stadium in downtown Cincinnati on Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021.
Miami Dolphins At Cincinnati Bengals Preseason

100 percent. The team was already looking at quarterbacks. They need to fill that third spot on the depth chart, even if it's on the practice squad. The offensive line depth is shaky, pass-rushing depth unproven and secondary already battling injuries. There isn't an emergency to address, but claiming another player, signing a free agent or even striking up a small trade isn't out of the question before Week 1.

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