Watching this team through the years and it's reasonable to conclude that there are essentially three ways for a bubble player (not a lock) to make the 53-man roster: Talent, versatility and special teams contributions. According to Joe Reedy with the Cincinnati Enquirer, undrafted free agent linebacker Vontaze Burfict isn't just the third-team inside linebacker on Cincinnati's defense. He's securing spots on special teams by contributing on all four coverage and return units.
Burfict is currently competing with backup middle linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy for a spot on the team's defense. That competition will take a great leap forward on Friday during Cincinnati's first preseason game against the
ESPN New York Jets. Reedy writes that Burfict is hoping to generate snaps during the first half against the Jets on Friday.
Burfict says he hopes to get some snaps before halftime but he will see a lot of action in the second half. He said during the rookie minicamp that he was eager to prove people wrong, but said on Wednesday that the only thing he could worry about is himself.
"I’m just going to go out and play how I play and take care of what the coaches have been coaching me with," he said.
However, his first step securing a spot will be through his contributions on special teams. This is where players without a definite role on either offense or defense make their greatest contributions. The better you are, the more roles you establish, the likelihood that a bubble player like Burfict makes the 53-man roster.