CINCINNATI -- The Cincinnati Bengals released their first depth chart of the regular season on Tuesday, giving a first glimpse at the 53-man pecking order prior to their season opener against the Ravens.
Here are some notable highlights:
Jeremy Hill leads the running backs: Jeremy Hill is listed as the starting running back on the updated depth chart, followed by Giovani Bernard and then rookie Joe Mixon. That's essentially the order it's been in throughout the preseason, so it's not a surprise. The Bengals will likely lean on Hill to start the season, with Bernard and Mixon alternating as the pass-catching and change-of-pace backs. Expect Hill to get the first nod in most situations as the season gets underway.
Trey Hopkins is officially the starting right guard: The Bengals have never outright stated this, but Hopkins won the starting right guard job over Andre Smith a long time ago. He's been practicing in that spot for several weeks. Smith, a lifelong tackle, is the backup right tackle and left tackle. With Smith able to man those two spots, it was easier to let veteran Eric Winston go.
Pat Sims still leads Andrew Billings at NT: Pat Sims has been getting first call at nose tackle ahead of Billings most of the preseason, but it might not really matter. Technically, the veteran Sims is the starter over Billings, who has never taken a snap. However, neither will be playing three all three downs. With the Bengals flexibility at defensive line this year, expect a rotation between the two depending on the package.
Mixon still listed as backup kickoff returner: This one is curious because Mixon has been on the kick return depth chart all preseason, yet never actually returned a kick in a game. It would be a little surprising to see it happen now. Alex Erickson will likely handle most of those duties. Erickson is also listed as the leading punt returner, followed by Tyler Boyd. Adam Jones will likely make an appearance at this position again once he's back from suspension.
John Ross isn't listed at any return position: Ross was never actually listed as a kick returner on the preseason depth chart, but the Bengals were working with him to see if he could return punts. He got few chances to do that in a preseason game because he was recovering from shoulder surgery, so it's likely that has been tabled for now. Ross will likely miss time because of a knee injury suffered in the preseason. Once he does come back, it's unlikely it'll be as a return man.
Backup linebackers are all rookies: With Vontaze Burfict suspended, Vincent Rey will move into his role as starting weakside linebacker. Behind Rey is rookie Jordan Evans, who had an impressive end to the preseason and caught the eye of the coaching staff. Hardy Nickerson will backup Kevin Minter at middle linebacker, and Carl Lawson is technically Nick Vigil's backup at strongside linebacker. Lawson will be used as a hybrid linebacker/defensive end, depending on the package. Expect to see him lined up as an edge rusher in nickel packages.
Michael Johnson is still at base defensive end: The Bengals had some success putting Michael Johnson inside as a defensive tackle, but that won't be his every-down position. In base defense, he'll probably stick to defensive end. However, the Bengals are in nickel more than base these days, so that could open up some possibilities for moving Johnson around. Impressive rookie Jordan Willis is his backup on the base depth chart.
Darqueze Dennard listed as Adam Jones' temporary replacement: With Jones out for one game, it'll come down to Dennard or William Jackson III at his spot. The Bengals do not list nickel packages on their depth chart, but that's not likely be be Jackson's role since he never practiced there. Dennard will likely take Jones' spot in base, but there's potential for him to slide into the slot role with Jackson outside when the Bengals are in nickel.