Tuesday saw the Bengals cut their roster down to 75 players. While everyone knew that was coming, there were some surprises in the way the Bengals trimmed down the roster.
An established veteran and a few promising youngsters got their pink slips, while other guys on the roster bubble lived to fight another day in the Queen City. Here is a look at our winners and losers from the Bengals’ cutdown to 75 players with the preseason finale looming.
There is no debating who the star of the Bengals preseason has been. Alex Erickson has gone from undrafted afterthought to all but locking up a spot on the Bengals’ roster this year.
There is no debating now that Brandon Tate was cut on Tuesday that the rookie receiver out of Wisconsin will be the Bengals' primary kickoff and punt returner this coming season, or at least he'll be given every opportunity to be.
Erickson may still split reps with Rex Burkhead, Tyler Boyd, Adam Jones, and others for return opportunities, but he is the No. 1 guy for the time being.
Before Tuesday's cut down to 75 players, you had to assume A.J. Green, Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd and Cody Core had their spots locked up. Then you had Erickson, Brandon Tate and James Wright fighting for those last two spots.
With Tate now out of the picture, Wright also appears to have his spot locked up. There was a chance that the Bengals would have opted to keep Tate and Erickson, giving them a veteran returner in Tate and a guy to groom as his replacement in Erickson.
Wright looks like he's almost completely back from his knee surgeries, but he has not done enough to earn a spot over Erickson on offense. With Tate out of the picture, Wright does not have to worry about beating Erickson for his spot. It looks like they'll both be on the final roster.
With Andrew Billings being placed to I.R. due to a meniscus tear, Pat Sims is officially in great position to make the team's final roster. Sims was battling Billings to be the backup nose tackle and designated run-stuffer. Keeping both seemed unlikely, but now Billings is out for the year, leaving Sims in a good spot to win that final defensive tackle spot.
One of the biggest surprises of the first round of cuts was linebacker Jayson DiManche. He was in a close battle with Marquis Flowers for the final linebacker spot on the 53-man roster.
But the Bengals apparently felt like they'd seen enough of DiManche this year and during his previous stint with them that they wanted to give someone else his spot. Flowers had a promising 2014 season before missing 2015 with a shoulder injury.
William Jackson III and Cedric Peerman
It looks like William Jackson III, and Cedric Peerman could still play in 2016. The Bengals had the option of placing one or both of them on I.R. to help get the roster down to 74, but neither ended up there Tuesday. Both are recovering from injuries that may land them on I.R. to start the season, but one could get the designation to return later in the year.
As long as they avoid I.R. before the final roster is made, they'll be eligible to return later in the season with the I.R. designation to return. It looks like there is a small chance the Bengals keep Peerman as the fourth back and hope he returns sometime in mid-late October, depending on how serious his arm injury is. Though, it will need surgery.
The Bengals are making sure Mike Nugent has no competition heading into the regular season. A shaky start to the preseason had Nugent on the hot seat in the eyes of Bengals fans, but the coaches and front office clearly did not feel the same.
They cut Nugent's only competition as Zach Hocker was waived Tuesday. That means Nugent is the undisputed kicker heading into the 2016 season. Hopefully, Nugent rewards the Bengals' faith in him and doesn't have any meltdowns like it appeared he was having in the first two preseason games.
The Bengals are still trying to figure out who their backup center will be this year. T.J. Johnson had the inside track to winning that spot heading into training camp, but different guys have been getting reps there to keep the pressure on Johnson.
Among the guys who've been getting reps at center include undrafted free agents Alex Cooper, Alex Redmond and Trip Thurman. All three players made it through the initial roster cuts and can still push for his job heading into Saturday's cutdown to 53.
Trey Hopkins is also battling for the backup center spot as he too made it through the first wave of cuts. Johnson's roster spot is very much in jeopardy.
Few people saw Mario Alford not even making it through the first wave of cuts. He had a decent training camp, and he looked OK in his one preseason game before suffering an ankle injury.
That ankle injury has kept Alford sidelined for nearly a month now, which led to his ultimate downfall. He was given the waived/injured designation, which means he likely will miss all of 2016 while on the Bengals' I.R. list (assuming he clears waivers today).
While he has yet to show he's a capable NFL receiver, Alford has shown enough promise to think another team would have taken a shot on him if he was healthy. Obviously, that will not happen with him on I.R. for the year.