Going into the second week of the preseason, we now have a more clear idea of who the starters and primary backups will be. We will see a slight shift in playing time toward those a little higher on the depth chart in the second preseason game when the Bengals travel to Tampa Bay for Monday Night Football. The 75 man cut date is looming a little less than two weeks away as well, so the pressure is on for bubble players to make an impression. Here are five players to look out for in Monday night’s game.
1.) A.J. McCarron
If McCarron wants to be on the 53 man roster this season, he needs to get on the field ASAP. The old adage goes "The best ability is availability", and McCarron has not demonstrated that thus far. While Josh Johnson may not be setting the world on fire, he is on the field getting reps, which is more than can be said for McCarron. If you think his desire to be on the field this week is just a matter of wanting to play, I would argue that he wants to get on the field because he may be fighting for his job at this point. With no game experience in his NFL career, the Bengals wouldn’t be comfortable rolling with him backing up Andy Dalton in the regular season. It’s time to see something.
2.) Terrell Watson
Watson played very well in his Bengals debut, averaging 7.4 yards per carry on seven attempts. While my hope is that the battle for the fourth running back position is inconsequential, Watson, James Wilder Jr., and Cedric Peerman are all looking to grab this slot. With none of them really possessing the ability to challenge any of the Bengals’ top three backs in any offensive phase of the game, be sure to have your eyes on them whenever they are on the field for special teams. Peerman probably has the edge here due to experience, but if Watson can come close to his special teams production while outperforming him in the backfield, there may be a discussion worth having.
3.) Denarius Moore
When the Bengals signed Moore, many assumed he’d slot in as the #4 guy. At this point, I wouldn’t even put him on the final 53. Brandon Tate, Greg Little, and Mario Alford are all ahead of Moore, leaving him on the outside looking in. Like the running back battle, special teams will likely play a role in who separates themselves from the others. The difference between Watson and Moore is that Moore has been outperformed by his competition in every phase of the game.
4.) Troy Hill
Hill officially got my attention last week. Now, let’s see if that was a fluke. Depending on how many DBs the Bengals decide to keep, Hill is most likely competing with Josh Shaw for the fifth (and possibly final) cornerback spot. That seems like an uphill battle based on Shaw’s equally impressive performance, draft position, and physical upside. However, the Bengals could elect to keep 10 DBs if Hill performs well enough that he cannot be cut.
5.) DeShawn Williams
Going into last week, I thought Devon Still might have had the inside track to the last backup DT spot. Then, he went out and got outperformed by basically every single defensive tackle on the roster. While we are all rooting for the guy, his poor game opened up the door for someone like DeShawn Williams to earn a spot. Williams had two QB hits and a sack in his time last week. Pat Sims is more than likely the last DT on the roster currently, but Williams may have earned some earlier playing time to see what he can do against players who are higher on the depth chart this week.