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Bengals vs Bears storylines: the rookies

A look at some of the Cincinnati Bengals rookies heading into Saturday's game against the Chicago Bears.

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One advantage Cincinnati holds over most NFL teams can actually be divided into three equal parts: 1) they're drafting solid players 2) developed an efficient scouting regiment, despite their numbers 3) and have done excellent work re-signing most of their foundation guys to a second contract.

Yet, it obviously starts with their rookies.

The Bengals are expecting their rookies to expand into pivotal roles as versatile backup players; these efforts are molded and developed during the preseason, during game conditions. Let's take a quick look at the team's rookies, all of whom need productive outings against the Bears and the Colts next week to improve their stature on the team's depth chart.

Cedric Ogbuehi: Won't play Saturday against the Chicago Bears, rehabilitating a well-documented ACL that he suffered during college. Cincinnati is approaching their first-round offensive tackle with caution, reserving a spot for him on the team's Physically Unable to Perform List.

Jake Fisher: After missing both preseason games with a shoulder injury, offensive line coach Paul Alexander admitted that he was falling behind. For the sake of clarification, Fisher wasn't at risk of losing a spot on the 53-man roster; rather his scheduled workload where the team had segregated his work, doing work at offensive tackle one week and then training at guard the next. Cincinnati wants Fisher to be a full-time backup across the offensive line, save for center.

Tyler Kroft: Tight end Tyler Kroft has played 45 offensive snaps during the preseason, impressing coaches more for his run blocks than his hands. Kroft has been assigned a route on 25 occasions, posting two receptions (both from AJ McCarron during his touchdown drive against the Buccaneers) for 20 yards. He's been targeted four times.

P.J. Dawson: Despite general praise for Dawson from Pro Football Focus, Cincinnati's former third-rounder has been inconsistent at best. He's made headline-grabbing plays, with a tackle for loss against New York and a goalline stand last week in Tampa. Lewis is happy with the direction of Dawson's development and praises his instincts. Even so, the rookie linebacker has a long way to go.

"At the end of the day, he's certainly going to be a worthwhile linebacker," Lewis said on Wednesday. "He has instinctive things that we can't coach, things he's very natural with. Now we just have to keep coaching him and get him in the right spots and do things the way we want we want to do them, with discipline all the time."

Josh Shaw: Shaw has played 103 snaps during the preseason, second-most behind defensive end Will Clarke, and leads the team with seven solo tackles. Shaw has also defended against six passes targeting receivers he's covered, allowing five receptions for 54 yards receiving and an opposing quarterback rating of 104.2.

Marcus Hardison: Cincinnati's fourth-rounder progressively opened eyes heading into the first preseason game against the Giants, where he generated his first quarterback sack. However, he's played 97 defensive snaps in the preseason, posting one sack, two pressures, there tackles, two stops and a -1.6 PFF score against the run.

C.J. Uzomah: Despite playing 53 snaps on offense, Uzomah's production on offense has been inconsistent (as one should expect from rookies). While he's generated two receptions for 13 yards, he had a drop against New York where he wasn't looking back at the quarterback. He's also the third-worst run blocker on the squad, according to PFF, behind T.J. Johnson and Tanner Hawkinson.

Derron Smith: Smith has quietly pieced together a quality training camp and preseason, accumulating a valuable 70 defensive snaps during the past two weeks. Note: He's only allowed one reception... though his coverages have only been attacked once (a seven-yard pass against the Buccaneers).

Mario Alford: Cincinnati's former seventh-round receiver has posted one reception (13 yards) and two punt returns for an average 22 yards per return -- which is tied for 54th in the NFL. Against the Buccaneers, he was targeted once on 18 routes and added a 23-yard kickoff return.

Troy Hill: If Cincinnati goes deeper in the secondary on their roster development, sticking with only four safeties, Hill has a realistic shot at making the 53-man roster. Hill has allowed six receptions (on 10 attempts to receivers he covered) for 49 yards receiving and an opposing quarterback rating of 72.5.

Deshawn Williams: He probably won't make the 53-man roster out of the gate, but it wouldn't be a surprise if he did. On 22 pass rushes this preseason, Williams has posted a quarterback sack and three additional pressures. Geno Atkins and Chris Carter are the only defensive players with more production as pass rushers.

Jake Kumerow: Only one player has more receptions than Kumerow this preseason, and that man, Cedric Peerman, was AJ McCarron's primary check-down option during Cincinnati's lone touchdown drive against Tampa Bay last week.