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James Wilder, Rex Burkhead and the Bengals RB quandary

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Cincinnati had five capable backs in Gio Bernard, Jeremy Hill, Cedric Peerman, Rex Burkhead and BenJarvus Green-Ellis coming into training camp. Things have changed since then.

Jamie Squire

As the Bengals get set for their Week 3 matchup against the Arizona Cardinals, several players are still trying to get noticed in hopes of either making the 53-man roster or earning a spot on the practice squad.

Speaking of which, the great Sigmund Bloom from Football Guys was curious about James Wilder Jr.

Yes, at least that was the plan. The Bengals had five capable running backs in Giovani Bernard, Jeremy Hill, Cedric Peerman, Rex Burkhead and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. However, things have changed since the beginning of camp, and that may lead to Wilder getting more playing time going forward.

Burkhead is out for an unknown amount of time with a knee injury suffered last Saturday night. Dave Lapham speculated that it could be a six to eight week injury at the very least. Butch Hobson, who thinks it could be an MCL sprain, also speculated that would knock him out six to eight weeks.

That potentially puts the number of days he'll miss at 42 calendar days from the date of injury. That's the magic number that allows a team to place a player on Injured Reserve and essentially stash him for a year. As much as the Bengals like Burkhead, he's not worth carrying on the roster for the first 4-6 games with an injury that may limit him even when he comes back. Let him rehab  fully, come back next year with Green-Ellis gone and compete with Wilder and Peerman for the third and fourth RB spots.

In the meantime, Rex's absence means another back will get more reps during practice, though with training camp over, there's already going to be less reps to go around. Still, Burkhead was getting a good amount of reps, and Wilder Jr. could get some of his reps now.

Another thing to consider is the special teams have been a major disappointment. If Wilder can get on the coverage units and show he can be a factor there, he'll not only enhance his odds of making the practice squad, but could sneak onto the 53-man roster.

Green-Ellis offers nothing on special teams, and his $3 million is far too much for a third-string back. Perhaps ,the Bengals go with the younger option and also save $2.3 million by cutting/trading Green-Ellis.

If the Bengals do decide to keep Rex, they could carry five backs to start the year while Burkhead recovers. That means for four to six games, Wilder could be on the 53-man roster, and once Rex returns, they can waive Wilder and try to sign him to the practice squad.

As of now, Gio and Hill are locks to be on the 53-man roster. Green-Ellis is a heavy favorite to be the third RB. Peerman should be the forth, if for no other reason, because he doesn't have practice squad eligibility left, which Wilder does.