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Bengals like James Wilder Jr. but 53-man roster is unlikely

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We're turning our focus to James Wilder Jr., who will compete this summer for a spot on the Bengals' 53-man roster. Despite the competition, he's unlikely to make the final roster.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the general interest orbiting James Wilder Jr. during during spring practices, we shouldn't make the assumption he's ticketed to the 53-man roster. In fact, he would need to "come up big in the preseason to make them make room", writes Geoff Hobson with Bengals.com. Simply put: Cincinnati's situation at running back (and by extension fullback and H-back) is full of capacity... and the train is ready to depart with Jeremy Hill, Giovani Bernard, Cedric Peerman, Rex Burkhead and H-back Ryan Hewitt.

Cincinnati began using Wilder at fullback after asking him to gain weight this spring, which he quickly did, putting on 10 pounds. "I'm drinking protein shakes and [eating] peanut butter and jellies all day," Wilder told ESPN earlier this year, eating five daily meals with "calorie-rich snacks. I don't want to put on bad, sloppy weight. I'm making sure I put on good weight."

If the Bengals keep five backs, Wilder is locked into an "odd man out" scenario. Hill and Bernard are obviously locks for the 53-man roster while Peerman commands devotion as a special teams player and Burkhead is being groomed as a multi-purpose player in Hue Jackson's offense.

"I was pleasantly surprised," Jackson said of Burkhead in May. "Not that I didn't know he had ability, but watching him in person, you get to see a guy in a whole different light. He has extremely quick feet, has really good hands, is very smart, and catches on extremely well. He's just another good player for our room. There's competition all over the backfield and that's what makes it fun and that you know you've got a chance to be pretty good."

Where Wilder could factor in is injury; because we feel a significant jinx factor mentioning such things, we'll ignore this scenario entirely.