CINCINNATI -- Maybe it's a good thing Vontaze Burfict still has yet to complete his contract extension.

He now has another accolade he can use as additional leverage in the contract talks that have suddenly gone silent.

Nearly one week to the day that reports surfaced indicating Burfict had agreed to a new deal that would pay him more than $20 million, the linebacker cracked the top 40 on ESPN.com's #NFLRank series. He came in as the No. 32 defensive player in the league, one spot behind the Jets' Muhammad Wilkerson and one place above San Diego's Eric Weddle.

The ranking came after Burfict didn't even crack the top 100 of last year's preseason countdown.

The #NFLRank series, which debuted last Monday, has been ranking the top 100 players in the league. Players are separated into offense and defense. By Tuesday, the countdown, which started with rankings 100-91, reached the 30s.

Earlier this summer, many of the people behind ESPN's NFL coverage ranked the best current players in the league.

Burfict is the fourth Bengals player to be featured on the #NFLRank countdown. Defensive end Carlos Dunlap ranked 86th on defense, and running back Giovani Bernard ranked 88th on offense, four spots ahead of offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth who was No. 92.

A rising star, Burfict's rank probably comes about where one might imagine. After leading the league in tackles last season with 171, he has proven himself to be one of the best defensive players in the game. His selection to the Pro Bowl last year aided that, too, as well as his 298 tackles in the last two seasons. Only two players have more tackles in the league the last two years, and no other Bengals player is close to recording that many stops in the span.

These rankings are based on votes from 90 of our NFL experts. Yes, that group includes yours truly, along with the other 31 team reporters who make up NFL Nation. Here is the full list of voters.

You can read the full 100-31 breakdown here.

Here's a blurb from Burfict's #NFLRank:
Vontaze Burfict ranks third in the NFL with 298 tackles the past two seasons. He has 101 more tackles than the next highest Bengals defender in that time.

-- ESPN Stats & Information
CINCINNATI -- Vontaze Burfict finally spoke to reporters on Tuesday, but it was what he didn't say that warranted a headline.

For the first time since before he reportedly agreed with the Cincinnati Bengals last week on a contract extension that was said to pay him more than $20 million, Burfict fielded questions about the suddenly troubling extension and the apparent stalemate that has happened since.

When asked if he wanted to comment about the talks that have been stagnant since Wednesday's reports about the agreement, the linebacker whispered, "No comment."

Burfict
Asked if he was ready for the extension to reach a resolution, Burfict answered once more with a "no comment."

A locker away, listening to the whole pre-practice interview session, veteran cornerback Terence Newman chimed in: "I know I would like for him to get it resolved."

Burfict isn't answering any questions about the apparent extension debacle, and no one else involved in the situation really is, either. The Bengals aren't addressing the extension until it's finalized, and so far attempts to reach his agents for comment have been unsuccessful.

Last Friday, coach Marvin Lewis seemed to take exception with the way news of the pending agreement was publicized. In his only comments on Burfict's contract impasse, Lewis said at that time that the deal "is not signed off."

It still isn't.

"I would guess we expect him to sign," Lewis added. "Obviously the agent believes he has a deal. We didn't release it."

Burfict switched representation in February, hiring Paradigm Sports to help him get his second deal.

As he enters the third and final season on his rookie deal, the Pro Bowl linebacker is scheduled to make $570,000. Last week, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that the agreement Burfict and the Bengals reached would have paid him $7.6 million this season on the first year of the new deal.

With 298 career tackles in 32 regular season games, Burfict has been arguably the Bengals' best defender since he has been in Cincinnati. He had a league-high 171 tackles last year. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther has often praised his football intelligence and credits Burfict for knowing the system better than any other player on the team.
Most significant move: Few of the Cincinnati Bengals' cuts were very surprising, but quarterback Matt Scott's release might have been the most significant because he had been viewed as the No. 3 quarterback on the roster behind Andy Dalton and Jason Campbell. Tyler Wilson, fresh off concussion protocol, reverts into that role. When Wilson was signed after an injury to Campbell two weeks ago, it appeared the writing was on the wall for Scott, a mobile quarterback who doesn't fit the Bengals' scheme as well as the others. Although he played well during the Week 1 loss at Kansas City, Scott completed only 45.5 percent of his passes and was sacked five times in the three games he played.

Sharp should find a home: Kicker Quinn Sharp's release had been expected after he was signed in the offseason to help keep starter Mike Nugent's leg fresh throughout training camp and offseason workouts. While Nugent is the starter and has the more accurate leg of the two, Sharp's power is one of his more impressive traits. In Sunday night's preseason game, hours before he was cut by the Bengals, Sharp went 2-for-2 on field goals with one of them a 51-yarder. The Oklahoma State product should help someone's team this season desperate for a kicker.

What's next? The Bengals aren't technically done with this round of moves. They could end up sending two of their Tuesday cuts, J.K. Schaffer and Lavelle Westbrooks, to injured reserve Wednesday. Both were cut via the waived/injured designation and have until Wednesday to be claimed by another team. If neither is claimed and they clear waivers, they will be added to Cincinnati's IR. It's also worth keeping an eye on safety Taylor Mays, rookie linebacker Marquis Flowers, stand-up defensive ends Sam Montgomery and Dontay Moch, receivers Cobi Hamilton and James Wright and running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis as the Bengals cut to 53 on Saturday.

Bengals' cuts: QB Matt Scott, DT Larry Black, S Isaiah Lewis, K Quinn Sharp, WR Ryan Whalen, CB R.J. Stanford, TE Kevin Brock, WR Jasper Collins, LB J.K. Schaffer, CB Lavelle Westbrooks, LB James Davidson, WR Alex Neutz, WR Jeremy Johnson, OT Curtis Feigt, WR Conner Vernon, P T.J. Conley, DT Zach Minter, OG Chandler Burden.
CINCINNATI -- On the heels of a physical preseason game at Arizona less than 48 hours prior, the Cincinnati Bengals were thin Tuesday morning at the start of their final practice of the preseason.

Linebacker Vontaze Burfict (hamstring), cornerback Darqueze Dennard (hip) and running back Cedric Peerman (undisclosed) headlined the 14-player absences. Burfict hurt a hamstring Sunday night after appearing in just six plays against the Cardinals. Dennard has been sidelined since Week 2 of the preseason, when he hurt his hip on his very first play. Peerman's injury hasn't been given an official prognosis, but it appeared he fell hard on his left hip at the end of a 37-yard run in the second half of Sunday's game.

Burfict said he'll be ready for the season opener at Baltimore on Sept. 7.

Depending upon the volume and severity of all the injuries, the Bengals may have to alter the amount of snaps certain players receive in Thursday night's preseason finale against the Colts. They would like to use the game to get the final 25 players on the roster one last chance to prove themselves, and they would like to do what they can to keep their starters healthy.

After all, it was in last year's preseason finale when linebacker Emmanuel Lamur suffered a season-ending shoulder injury, derailing what had been a promising year. Cincinnati would like to avoid going through a similar situation this season.

Other notable absences Tuesday included receiver James Wright, the seventh-round draft pick who was knocked out of Sunday's game in the fourth quarter with a concussion. On an attempted catch in the end zone, he took an apparent forearm to his head before his helmet also bounced off the turf when his body hit the ground. He was one of three Bengals with injuries so bad in the fourth quarter that they had to be carted off. One of those three players, offensive lineman T.J. Johnson, practiced Tuesday.

Running back Rex Burkhead also was out of Tuesday's practice, missing action at the start of his second straight week. He injured his knee in the Bengals' Week 2 preseason loss to the Jets.

The Bengals aren't required to publish daily injury reports during the preseason, but they will furnish them beginning next week. So the following names are players who were observed by reporters to have missed (or in two cases to have returned) the open portion of Tuesday's practice:

Not practicing
DT Devon Still (hamstring)
CB Darqueze Dennard (hip)
WR James Wright (head)
RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis (undisclosed; was ill last week)
LB Vontaze Burfict (hamstring)
TE Jermaine Gresham (undisclosed)
CB Adam Jones (undisclosed)
QB AJ McCarron (shoulder)
LB J.K. Schaffer (head)
WR Marvin Jones (foot)
OG Trey Hopkins (shin)
RB Cedric Peerman (undisclosed)
RB Rex Burkhead (knee)
CB Lavelle Westbrooks (thumb)

Returned to practice
TE Tyler Eifert (shoulder)
QB Tyler Wilson (head)
Join us today at 1 p.m. ET, 10 a.m. PT for ESPN's NFL Nation TV's Spreecast episode No. 20.

Host Paul Gutierrez (San Francisco 49ers reporter), co-host Coley Harvey (Cincinnati Bengals reporter) and guests Mike Reiss (New England Patriots reporter), Jeff Legwold (Denver Broncos reporter) and Scott Brown (Pittsburgh Steelers reporter) will discuss a range of topics from Johnny Manziel getting sacked and mocked by Michael Sam, the Oakland Raiders being named the least desirable team to play for in the NFL in an ESPN.com poll and the 49ers' offense continuing to struggle in the preseason, among other timely issues.

Viewers are encouraged to log in and ask the panelists questions as well as contribute in the chat feature.

CINCINNATI -- There are so many different ways to evaluate talent in the NFL these days.

Coaches, scouts and player personnel directors have their own tools and statistics and metrics that help them determine how well a player fits their scheme and how well he doesn't. For the rest of us not privy to those tools nor those internal team conversations, when our eyes -- what we see on the field -- aren't enough, we turn to groups like ESPN Stats & Information, Football Outsiders and Pro Football Focus for an added layer of clarity.

Numbers can be the great equalizer in sports, particularly when situational statistics are the basis of measurement.

Some numbers, like PFF's player grades, for example, aren't valued by some who cover or work in the league. Critics believe there's a measure of subjectivity in them. Regardless your opinions on those grades, I contend that they are but one piece in the puzzle to answering the age-old question: Is this guy any good?

Ahead of the Cincinnati Bengals' final preseason game Thursday at home against the Colts, we're highlighting some notable Bengals PFF grades through three preseason games. A normal grade is 0.0. Negative grades are bad ones. Positive ones are good. It's a pretty simple concept, even if the formula behind it may be rather convoluted for the average football follower.

In some cases (A.J. Green and Cobi Hamilton, for example), the numbers seem to jibe with how the player has performed this preseason. In others (like Brandon Thompson and Reggie Nelson), they seem a little surprising. Remember, when it comes to player evaluation, coaches are factoring in play in preseason games, versatility, practice habits and the player's ability to positively impact the team on the field and in the locker room. Their evaluation goes far beyond numbers like these.

Here's where a few Bengals stand, according to PFF:

OFFENSE
QB Andy Dalton
Overall grade: 0.9, Snaps: 65

RB Giovani Bernard
Overall grade: -0.9, Snaps: 55

RB Jeremy Hill
Overall grade: 1.3, Snaps: 66

RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis
Overall grade: -2.3, Snaps: 11

WR A.J. Green
Overall grade: 4.0, Passing-game grade: 3.9, Snaps: 63

WR Mohamed Sanu
Overall grade: 1.5, Pass-block grade: -1.3, Snaps: 65

WR Cobi Hamilton
Overall grade: -3.8, Passing-game grade: -4.0, Snaps: 100

TE Alex Smith
Overall grade: -3.5, Snaps: 53

C Russell Bodine
Overall grade: -4.0, Run-block grade: -4.9, Pass-block grade: 1.4, Snaps: 97

RG Kevin Zeitler
Overall grade: 4.9, Run-block grade: 3.0, Pass-block grade: 1.2, Snaps: 89

LT Andrew Whitworth
Overall grade: 2.0, Run-block grade: 0.8, Pass-block grade: 1.0, Snaps: 54

DEFENSE
DE Margus Hunt
Overall grade: 5.6, Pass-rush grade: 2.9, Run-defense grade: 2.4, Snaps: 88

DE Will Clarke
Overall grade: -6.7, Pass-rush grade: -1.8, Run-defense grade: -3.8, Snaps: 93

DE Dontay Moch
Overall grade: -3.0, Run-defense grade: -1.7, Penalty grade: -1.8, Snaps: 43

DT Brandon Thompson
Overall grade: -2.3, Pass-rush grade: -0.6, Run-defense grade: -1.9, Snaps: 55

LB Emmanuel Lamur
Overall grade: -1.5, Pass-rush grade: 1.2, Run-defense grade: -3.0, Snaps: 71

LB Marquis Flowers
Overall grade: -4.4, Pass-rush grade: -0.2, Run-defense grade: -2.8, Coverage grade: -1.4, Snaps: 70

LB Jayson DiManche
Overall grade: -3.1, Pass-rush grade: 0.3, Run-defense grade: -3.1, Coverage grade: -0.3, Snaps: 40

LB Vontaze Burfict
Overall grade: 1.6, Pass-rush grade: -0.1, Run-defense grade: 0.3, Coverage grade: 1.4, Snaps: 30

S George Iloka
Overall grade: 2.1, Run-defense grade: 1.2, Snaps: 59

S Reggie Nelson
Overall grade: -2.2, Pass-rush grade: -0.3, Run-defense grade: -1.3, Snaps: 58

S Danieal Manning
Overall grade: 0.0, Pass-rush grade: -0.9, Run-defense grade: 1.0, Snaps: 106

CB Chris Lewis-Harris
Overall grade: 1.8, Coverage grade: 1.8, Snaps: 93

CB Dre Kirkpatrick
Overall grade: 1.3, Run-defense grade: -0.4, Coverage: 1.7, Snaps: 64

CB Terence Newman
Overall grade: -1.2, Run-defense grade: 0.6, Coverage grade: -1.8, Snaps: 53

CB Darqueze Dennard
Overall grade: -2.7, Pass-rush grade: 0.3, Run-defense grade: -0.9, Coverage grade: -2.1, Snaps: 36

CB Adam Jones
Overall grade: 0.6, Coverage grade: 0.6, Snaps: 42
It all looked so easy for the Cincinnati Bengals' first-team offense.

Whenever Andy Dalton and company took the field during the first two games this preseason, touchdowns and field goals were more than drive-by-drive goals, they were drive-by-drive results. The Bengals' starting offense in its basic, vanilla setup had one focus: to score.

Dalton
Dalton
Each of the four times the group had the football through Weeks 1 and 2 of the preseason, it did score. The offense was so efficient in the second game against the Jets that Dalton had a perfect passer rating of 158.3 after going 8-for-8 with 144 yards and a touchdown in the 25-17 loss. Turnovers and poor execution from the back of the depth chart contributed to the eventual evaporation of the 17-3 lead Dalton's group had built.

At Arizona on Sunday night, things weren't as easy for the starting offense which couldn't seem to get out of the shadow of its own goal line the entire game.

Field position created adverse conditions. Conditions that, because of the easy success the Bengals had begun the preseason enjoying, offensive coordinator Hue Jackson said they needed. With a much more taxing regular season on the horizon, he was right.

"Like I told them [Saturday] night in the meeting, I said I hope something like that does happen because you have to overcome that when it's not going good," Jackson said.

That echoed sentiments after Jackson witnessed a ragged-looking practice during training camp. He challenged his offense to respond the next day with better effort and execution.

Little went well for Cincinnati's first-team offense Sunday until it went on a 10-play, 78-yard drive across the final four minutes of the second quarter. After beginning the drive on their own 4 -- one of three Bengals drives that began inside Cincinnati's own 10-yard line -- the offense marched into range for kicker Mike Nugent to bury a 36-yard field goal that put the Bengals up 13-3 just before halftime. The Bengals' only touchdown in the game came from cornerback Terence Newman, who returned an interception 54 yards for a score in the first quarter.

In his post-game news conference, head coach Marvin Lewis considered that drive a momentum changer. Jackson said he learned as much off it than he has any other drive this preseason.

"Our guys kept their poise, the quarterback was outstanding," Jackson said. "Anytime you don't turn the ball over, you've got a chance to win. There was a lot of good in that. Now, we like to finish drives for touchdowns. You're in the scoring zone, you need to finish."

Jackson said he'd rather have the trade-off of what he witnessed Sunday night, though. His offense may not have ended up in the end zone, but it didn't have a single turnover and still won. Turnovers were the bugaboos in the first two games, and although the Bengals' offense scored a lot more easily and efficiently, the turnovers contributed to the losses. Both the Chiefs and Jets capitalized off them. The reason Jackson was giddy over Dalton's 13-for-21, 157-yard passing performance and even respected Giovani Bernard's 10-carry, 17-yard rushing night, was because the ball stayed off the ground and out of the hands of Cardinals defensive backs.

"If you look at what's the common denominator here, there was no offensive turnovers," Jackson said. "You win the game that way. Now we've got to do some of the stuff we did the first two games -- score points -- and don't turn it over, and you see what we have the potential of being."

Dalton, as we've seen throughout his career, will put up video-game numbers for stretches, but he'll also have those nights where with poor run-support and bad blocking, it doesn't all click. It's in those times when the Bengals have to simply play a clean game and keep trying to move the ball.

"We were on the road, long flight, Arizona, different stadium. It's a big game, it's Sunday night football, and we won," Jackson said. "That's what you look for at the end of the day."

Perhaps this experience will come in handy in October, November and December.
CINCINNATI -- The great purging of players from the Cincinnati Bengals' roster has begun.

On Monday afternoon, the team announced it had waived four players and terminated the contract of another in an attempt to start getting the roster a little closer to Tuesday's 75-man limit, as stipulated by NFL rules. By Saturday, that roster will be trimmed all the way to 53. Currently, the Bengals sit at 81.

The five cuts announced Monday were defensive tackle Larry Black, safety Isaiah Lewis, kicker Quinn Sharp, receiver Ryan Whalen and cornerback R.J. Stanford. As the veteran of the group who had been signed out of free agency this offseason, Stanford was the only one of the five whose contract was terminated. He automatically becomes eligible for free agency while the others must first clear waivers before getting picked up.

None of the cuts ought to be viewed as surprises. Each of the five were left off our latest 53-man roster projection that was published Monday, even if some of them had shown flashes of good play throughout the preseason.

Black's departure will be disappointing to many locally who primarily remember the Cincinnati native for his brief appearance on last year's HBO "Hard Knocks." Lauded by coaches all of last training camp, Black's season came to an immediate halt when he suffered a serious ankle injury in a camp practice. The entire sequence, including Black's emotional phone call with his family after receiving the season-ending diagnosis in the training room, was shown on the show's opening episode. Black had returned this preseason hoping to build on the quality play he had showcased just before the injury.

He was unsuccessful, though. Black didn't appear in Sunday night's Week 3 preseason game at Arizona despite not being listed on the pregame not-expected-to-dress list.

Lewis was an undrafted rookie free agent from Michigan State. The safety had trouble standing out in a crowded secondary. The same went for Stanford, who was a bubble cornerback at best. He did himself no favors Sunday night when he was burned by speedster John Brown on a 30-yard touchdown pass that went down as the Cardinals' only touchdown of the game. The play before, Stanford had been called for defensive pass interference on a pass that sailed well over his and Brown's heads.

Whalen was a sixth-round 2011 draft pick of the Bengals, but he never really clicked. His most prolific season was 2012 when he appeared in a career-high nine games and caught a career-high seven passes. He came into this camp with an injury and, as expected, had difficulty cracking a crowded receivers' room.

Sharp was expected to be cut when he was signed in the offseason. He was added specifically so the Bengals could enter training camp with multiple kickers, in an effort of keeping Mike Nugent's leg fresh throughout the summer. Sharp's strong leg -- he had two field goals on two tries Sunday night, including a 51-yarder -- could make him a highly sought after kicker entering next week's openers.
CINCINNATI -- After a minor health scare Sunday in Phoenix, Cincinnati Bengals president Mike Brown is progressing comfortably back home.

A team spokesman told ESPN.com on Monday that Brown's "minor medical situation" is trending toward resolution, and that the 79-year-old should be resuming his daily duties shortly.

"Everything continues to progress the way we had expected," the spokesman said. "He should be back at his desk soon."

The Bengals still aren't saying what exactly happened to Brown on Sunday morning in Phoenix. The only details they have allowed are that he underwent treatment in Arizona, where he was with the team for Sunday night's Week 3 preseason game against the Cardinals. Out of precaution, it was decided that he wouldn't attend the game, and would travel immediately back to Cincinnati.

"The good thing is everyone acted very quickly to get things headed in the right direction very fast," Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said late Sunday night, following his team's 19-13 win. "We're happy that, hopefully, everything is going in the right direction and hopefully he'll get back with us very quickly."

Brown has owned the Bengals and served as team president since 1991, when his father and team founder, Paul Brown, died. An innovator of the game as it's known today, Paul Brown won seven championships as coach of the Cleveland Browns before establishing the Bengals in 1968.

Late last month, Mike Brown hinted at his forthcoming exit from football when he admitted that his daughter, executive vice president Katie Blackburn, has had a growing role in the team's daily operations. It has been under her guidance that recent multiyear and multimillion-dollar deals with Carlos Dunlap, Geno Atkins and Andy Dalton have been signed the last two summers. Earlier this month, Dalton signed a six-year contract extension that will pay him up to $115 million.

"Oh, you can tell I'm getting old," Mike Brown said in July. "When you get old, your children get impatient with you. Just the way it works in life. I have been blessed to have been able to work with my two kids and my father. That's something that is unusual in America these days, and I realize that roles change. My role changed with my father, just as Katie's role with me changes.

"One time I went up. Now I'm going down and that's just the way it is."
CINCINNATI -- In what had been billed as their "dress rehearsal" preseason game, the Cincinnati Bengals' starters saw their most extended game action in Sunday's 19-13 win at Arizona.

Both the first-team offense and defense -- units that did have some backup players rotated in during certain early-game situations -- played until halftime. It was the deepest either of those units had gone in a preseason game. With Thursday's finale against the Colts more of a tune-up for the final 25 or so players who are battling for back-end roster spots, it's unlikely the first-teamers will see much action in the Week 4 game.

After quarterback Andy Dalton took eight snaps against the Chiefs during the preseason opener at Kansas City, and after he saw 17 plays in Week 2 versus the Jets, he lined up for a team-high 38 offensive snaps. Others on the unit, like offensive linemen Andrew Whitworth, Marshall Newhouse, Clint Boling, Kevin Zeitler and Russell Bodine, and receivers A.J. Green and Brandon Tate, also played 38 offensive snaps.

Two Bengals who weren't listed on the pregame "expected not to dress" list, defensive tackles Larry Black and LaKendrick Ross, didn't play a single snap. Others, like running back James Wilder Jr., linebackers Brandon Joiner and James Davidson, and defensive backs Onterio McCalebb and Isaiah Lewis, only received special teams snaps.

Also of note, defensive tackle Geno Atkins was part of 13 plays in his first action since tearing his ACL last October.

Here's a snapshot of Cincinnati's snap counts from Week 3:

OFFENSE (65 plays)
WR Brandon Tate (38), OG Clint Boling (38), OG Kevin Zeitler (38), OT Andrew Whitworth (38), OT Marshall Newhouse (38), C Russell Bodine (38), WR A.J. Green (38), QB Andy Dalton (38), WR Mohamed Sanu (37), TE Jermaine Gresham (35), OT Will Svitek (32), OT Tanner Hawkinson (32), QB Jason Campbell (32), RB Jeremy Hill (30), RB Giovani Bernard (28), OL T.J. Johnson (26), OL Mike Pollak (24), TE Kevin Brock (22), WR Cobi Hamilton (18), WR James Wright (17), C Trevor Robinson (17), WR Ryan Whalen (15), OG Trey Hopkins (15), WR Colin Lockett (14), OT Dan France (14), RB Cedric Peerman (13), TE Alex Smith (12), H-back Ryan Hewitt (12), FB Nikita Whitlock (9), H-back Orson Charles (8), WR Jasper Collins (4).

DEFENSE (59 plays)
CB Dre Kirkpatrick (37), S Danieal Manning (31), CB Chris Lewis-Harris (31), S Taylor Mays (30), LB Emmanuel Lamur (30), S George Iloka (30), CB Leon Hall (30), S Reggie Nelson (28), DE Carlos Dunlap (27), CB Terence Newman (27), DE Margus Hunt (26), LB Vincent Rey (25), LB Rey Maualuga (25), S Shawn Williams (24), DT Christo Bilukidi (23), DE David King (22), DE Wallace Gilberry (22), DE Dontay Moch (21), DT Domata Peko (20), DT Brandon Thompson (20), DE Will Clarke (20), LB Marquis Flowers (19), CB Adam Jones (19), DE Sam Montgomery (18), LB Sean Porter (17), CB R.J. Stanford (16), DE Robert Geathers (13), DT Geno Atkins (13), CB Victor Hampton (11), LB Jayson DiManche (8), LB Vontaze Burfict (6), DT Devon Still (4),

SPECIAL TEAMS (30 plays)
Tate (4), Boling (3), Zeitler (3), Whitworth (3), Newhouse (3), Gresham (3), Svitek (5), Hawkinson (2), Hill (4), Johnson (2),Brock (2), Hamilton (9), Wright (11), Robinson (2), Whalen (8), Lockett (4), France (2), Peerman (13), Smith (8), Hewitt (8), Whitlock (11), Charles (12), Collins (1), Kirkpatrick (13), Manning (9), Lewis-Harris (9), Mays (14), Lamur (6), Iloka (30), Hall (2), Nelson (5), Dunlap (2), Newman (1), Hunt (4), Rey (12), Maualuga (2), Williams (15), Bilukidi (2), King (4), Gilberry (1), Moch (12), Peko (5), Thompson (2), Clarke (1), Flowers (14), Jones (8), Montgomery (1), Porter (12), Stanford (5), Geathers (1), DiManche (15), LS Clarke Harris (12), P Kevin Huber (12), CB Onterio McCalebb (10), K Quinn Sharp (6), K Mike Nugent (6), RB James Wilder Jr. (5), LB James Davidson (4), LB Brandon Joiner (3), S Isaiah Lewis (2).
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.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Injuries marred the final minutes of the Cincinnati Bengals' 19-13 preseason win over the Cardinals on Sunday night as three Bengals were carted off University of Phoenix Stadium's field in the fourth quarter alone.

Coach Marvin Lewis didn't have any updates on the injured in the locker room after the game, but he did acknowledge that having to deal with the injuries was "the only negative part" of the night. His defensive starters played well and for the third straight preseason game didn't allow a touchdown. His offense played turnover-free football, and his reserves held their own and played well enough to preserve the win.

Throughout the physical game several Bengals needed medical attention, but it was the injuries to James Wright, T.J. Johnson and Trey Hopkins that caused a series of stoppages and had fans hushed. All three were on the ground for several minutes and needed assistance getting off the field after getting banged up late in the ballgame.

All three also find themselves on the bubble, needing every opportunity they can to make the team.

First, it was Hopkins, the undrafted rookie free agent from Texas. He went down with 12:35 remaining in the game after a couple of players rolled on top of his leg. For some time, trainers evaluated his right leg before a cart came onto the field and he was loaded on it. The Bengals later announced that he had a right shin injury. Hopkins was spotted immediately after the game walking through the locker room with his leg already inside a boot.

As if that moment wasn't enough for the Bengals, two plays later, seventh-round draft pick James Wright required a cart when he went down awkwardly at the end of an attempted touchdown reception. While trying to make the 15-yard catch in the back of the end zone, he took what appeared to be a blow to the head from safety Curtis Taylor's forearm before going down hard to the turf. Instantly after his head hit the ground, Wright's body locked up.

A few minutes went by before medical personnel got him to sit up before helping him onto the cart. He was not strapped onto a stretcher.

On the next drive, running back Cedric Peerman received what appeared to be a serious leg injury but walked off on his own power after getting some treatment on the field. On the drive after that, Johnson went down with an undisclosed issue. Like Hopkins and Wright, a cart eased the offensive lineman into the locker room.

In addition to those injuries, linebacker Vontaze Burfict and defensive tackle Devon Still went down in the first half with hamstring injuries.

When asked if Burfict would be available for the season opener in two weeks, Lewis simply said, "Yes."

The Bengals won't have much time to rest the injured before their preseason finale. With days off Monday and Wednesday, they will only practice Tuesday before Thursday's game at home against the Colts.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- It has been seven months and 20 days since the Cincinnati Bengals' first-team defense has given up a touchdown in a game of any kind.

Yes, the offseason occupied a good chunk of that time, but the broader point is this: In roughly four and a half quarters of play this preseason, the Bengals' starters on defense have yet to allow an offensive player to cross a goal line.

Vontaze Burfict
Matt York/Associated PressVontaze Burfict and the Cincinnati defense has been nearly inpenetrable in the preseason.
"I didn't realize that until you told me, honestly," safety George Iloka said to a reporter from inside the Bengals' locker room at University of Phoenix Stadium late Sunday night.

Iloka and the rest of Cincinnati's defensive starters had just wrapped up another touchdown-less performance that aided in the Bengals' 19-13 win over the Cardinals in their third preseason game. The lone touchdown Arizona scored came in the third quarter, long after Cincinnati's first-teamers had left the field at halftime.

As Iloka adjusted the buttons on his white-trimmed navy Ralph Lauren suit jacket, he flatly added that he and the rest of the Bengals' starters can't read too far into the relative success the unit has had to this point in the very early season.

"We know the real test comes in the season," Iloka said. "That's when it counts. It's good and it's good for your morale, but the Baltimore Ravens are a whole other animal."

To be clear, he wasn't insinuating that the Cardinals' offense can't compete with the Ravens'. He was referring to the Bengals' season opener at division-rival Baltimore on Sept. 7.

Cornerback Terence Newman was one of the defensive players who played well at just the right moment Sunday.

After getting burned twice by receivers who sprinted by him only to get overthrown by Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer, Newman had the play of the night for the Bengals when he picked off a pass and returned it 54 yards for a mid-first-quarter touchdown. There appeared to be confusion between Palmer and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who proceeded to run a Go route while Palmer thought he was going to cut it off and finish the route underneath.

Newman, who guessed wrong once on one of the previous overthrows, stopped on this particular pass, guessing that Palmer was going to dump it short. When Palmer did, he threw the ball right into Newman's hands.

"It wasn't like I did anything," Newman said. "Just an errant throw on his part."

When Newman saw linebacker Rey Maualuga and defensive end Robert Geathers dart in front of him to block, he said he knew he would get into the end zone. He did so, untouched.

The 54-yard return was the only touchdown the Bengals had in the game. It, and four field goals, were just enough to hold on for the win.

Only two plays really bugged the Bengals' first-team defenders after the game. Cardinals running back Andre Ellington broke one run for 24 yards early in the second quarter, and Fitzgerald exploded for 44 on a slant that was thrown into a soft spot in the Bengals' coverage. Other than those two plays, the Bengals felt good about their overall performance. When Fitzgerald had the big pickup, Iloka said he and his teammates were stunned.

"We were telling ourselves, 'Really?'" Iloka said.

Remove those two plays and the Cardinals would have netted negative yards in the first half. Without those 68 yards, they would have been at minus-10 through the first two quarters.

"It's the preseason," Newman said, giving a reminder not to think too deeply about these numbers. "We need to keep that up when it gets super serious. When we have actual wins and losses on the table."

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- It took the Cincinnati Bengals three tries, but they finally walked away with a preseason win Sunday night when they knocked off the Cardinals 19-13 at University of Phoenix Stadium.

While the preseason primarily is about the players and their ability to impress coaches in order to earn spots on the 53-man roster, it is also about generating some cohesion, confidence, rhythm and momentum for the entire team entering the regular season. That's the main reason why coaches and players alike were desperate this week to claim a win after two fruitless attempts to start the preseason.

Thanks to the win, momentum was generated. Confidence? Perhaps it was instilled, too. Only time will tell. As for cohesion and rhythm, it seems the Bengals still have some work to do in those areas. At times Sunday they seemed very out of sync both offensively and on special teams. The no-huddle offense that was so fluid last week against the Jets was syncopated against the Cardinals. At times the first-team offense hummed smoothly along. At others, it had trouble getting settled into its normally quick tempo because of penalties and apparent issues with communication.

Here are a few more thoughts on the Bengals' preseason game Sunday:
  • We might as well extend the story line of Cincinnati's arrhythmic starting offense a little further. Here are two occasions when quarterback Andy Dalton didn't seem on the same page with his receivers. Once at the end of the first quarter, A.J. Green opened up to his left after running wide open into the flat. Dalton, seeing Green break open, threw over his right shoulder, clearly expecting the wideout to turn a different way. The pass fell incomplete and stalled a drive on third down. In the second quarter, tight end Jermaine Gresham cut off a route that Dalton proceeded to throw 15 yards downfield. The quarterback expected Gresham to extend the route. Some of the miscommunication could be attributed to the Bengals' mixing of lineups. Backups were inserted as early as the second play of the game as they rotated with starters for individual evaluation purposes.
  • In addition to their sporadic issues with rhythm, the Bengals had difficulty figuring out where and how to run the football early. Starter Giovani Bernard began the game dedicated to bouncing the ball to the edge. Those carries largely proved worthless. Of his 10 first-half carries, five went to the left and right edges. They gained just 3 yards. The other carries in the middle of the field resulted in 14-yard gains. Those runs came around the same time late in the second quarter when rookie Jeremy Hill came in as a backup. All four of his first-half carries went between the tackles. They amassed 23 yards. Power-run football is part of what offensive coordinator Hue Jackson's new offense hinges on, and it's clear the Bengals were better Sunday doing that than when they went away from it.
  • Field position also was an issue for the Bengals who couldn't seem to get out of the shadows of their own end zone. Of the 10 drives they had, seven started at their own 20 or inside it. Of those, four began inside the 10-yard line. With poor field position, the Bengals' starters had trouble moving the football and converting third downs. They were 4-for-15 on third down.
  • As it has for most of the preseason, the Bengals' defense was sound. The starters primarily played through the second quarter, allowing just one Arizona field goal in their time on the field. The base first-team defense has now allowed just four field goals in its three preseason games. Among the defenders of note: defensive tackle Geno Atkins, who saw extended action for the first time this year after returning from an ACL injury from last season.
Burfict
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- A hamstring injury forced Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict's night to come to an end after just one series Sunday in a preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals.

Following the early first-quarter injury, the Bengals announced that he wasn't expected to return. He had two tackles before leaving the game.

Burfict's injury comes at the end of a week in which he didn't participate in the final three practices. He was held out of Wednesday, Thursday and Friday's workouts after falling ill. Coaches said he had the same stomach virus that others, such as running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, have battled in recent days.

In addition to barely practicing, Burfict's week also featured news that he had agreed to a four-year contract extension that would pay him about $20 million. The reports may have been premature, though. Burfict still hasn't signed his contract, and the Bengals have yet to make the extension official.

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