The Bengals historically love to have versatile players who can play multiple positions.
It's a smart strategy for an NFL team when they have only 53 players and a 46-man gameday roster. Having a defensive lineman who can play tackle and end, or an offensive lineman who can play tackle and guard are just a few examples of what the Bengals like to add on to their roster each year.
A running back also playing linebacker isn't something you often see though, but that's what Cincinnati is apparently doing with James Wilder Jr., who is currently on the team's practice squad.
It should come as no surprise that during the season #Bengals continue cross-training players at certain positions for emergency purposes.— Coley Harvey (@ColeyHarvey) September 25, 2015
Marvin Lewis mentioned today that one of those trainings include RB James Wilder Jr. getting some chances at LB. Note: he's still a RB.— Coley Harvey (@ColeyHarvey) September 25, 2015
Moving from running back to linebacker is certainly one of the easier position switches to make, though no position change is easy to begin with, especially at the NFL level. If you follow high school recruiting, you'll often see running backs doubling as linebackers for their high school team before committing to one position in college.
It just so happens, Wilder came out of Henry B. Plant High School as an athlete prospect with no defined position. He played running back and linebacker in high school before making the full-time commitment to running back at Florida State. Wilder never lost his physicality or ability to lay the wood on opponents, though at the college level, it came as a power back in the Seminoles' offense.
Wilder finished his final season at FSU with 563 yards and eight scores on 81 carries (7.0 ypc) while working in a committee with Karlos Williams and Devonta Freeman, both of whom are getting significant workloads in their respective NFL team's offenses. Wilder hasn't been as fortunate with the Bengals as they've been stacked at the running back position.
That hasn't kept Cincinnati from keeping Wilder on the practice squad, and it now appears they're trying to find a potential role for him on the 53-man roster by switching his role to be on defense. Someone who could double as an emergency backer and running back while also playing special teams could certainly prove valuable if Wilder is able to get accustomed to a position he hasn't played in more than four years.