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Bengals Roster 2016: Mario Alford reverts to I.R. list

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The 2016 season may be over for Mario Alford, but his career with the Bengals is not.

NFL: Preseason-Chicago Bears at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals have managed to hang onto Mario Alford.

After being given the waived/injured designation on Tuesday, Alford went through waivers unclaimed and reverted to the Bengals' Injured Reserve list on Wednesday. Unless the team reaches an injury settlement with him, Alford will remain on IR for the remainder of the year and into 2017.

A second-year wide receiver, Alford was vying for a spot on the Bengals' 53-man roster as both a pass-catcher and return man. However, an ankle injury suffered in the first preseason game has kept him sidelined for a month now. That injury also allowed Alex Erickson to rise up and earn the very role Alford was pushing for.

Alford originally became a Bengal when the team drafted him with their final pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, No. 238 overall out of West Virginia. He was viewed as someone who could make a big of an impact in Cincinnati's offense coming into 2016.

Alford caught 65 passes for 945 yards and a Big 12-leading 11 scores in his senior season. He also returned 37 kickoffs for 972 yards, with a 26.3 yard/return average and two touchdowns.

Alford's biggest strength is something that's been missing in the Bengals' offense, and that's speed. He was viewed as a guy who could take the top off of a defense and not allow defensive coordinators to stack the box while he is on the field.

However, we only saw brief glimpses of this in Alford's first two training camps. Last year, Alford was playing behind A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, and Brandon Tate. This year. Alford was getting more reps in training camp, but his preseason injury prevented him from ever showcasing what he was fully capable of.

Going forward, Alford should have a decent shot at a roster spot in 2017 if he continues to improve and expand his game. Brandon LaFell will be a free agent next offseason, and Tate has already been cut.

Hopefully, Alford is able to get healthy and reach his potential in 2017.