Knee injuries have kept James Wright sidelined for almost two years now, putting his NFL career in jeopardy.
But now, the third-year wide receiver is healthy, cleared to practice, and ready to make a run at one of the final 53-man roster spots on the Bengals' roster. Wright played 11 games for Cincinnati as a rookie during the 2014 season after being a seventh-round pick out of LSU in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Wright finished his rookie year with five catches for 91 yards and three rushes for 30 yards. He made a good impact on special teams, mostly on coverage units, but became a bigger pass-catching option as the season wore on.
Wright was set to take on a bigger role in the offense in 2015 while continuing to make an impact on special teams. However, a knee injury suffered in Week 14 of the 2014 season led to two surgical procedures, one of which being microfracture surgery, have kept Wright sidelined for 20 months before being cleared to practice last week.
The good news is Wright is recovered and now taking part in Bengals training camp. Though, he was held out of the mock scrimmage on Saturday, though the reason for that is unknown. Hopefully, he didn't suffer a setback and was just held out as precaution since he was recently cleared to practice.
Weight: 201 pounds
Hometown: Buras, La.
Experience: 3rd-Year Player
With some key departures at receiver, Wright may very well end up being one of the four best receivers on the final roster in terms of his pass-catching skills and special teams impact. That is, if he's fully healthy and can get back to at least what he was toward the end of the 2014 season, when it looked like he was becoming a reliable weapon among the Bengals offense.
However, being unable to even practice for almost two years due to injury may have led to a steep decline in Wright's level of play, and 2016 will end up being a year used to just get him back to form.
On Thursday at training camp, he made a great catch that turned some heads and could be a good sign that he'll get back quickly to where he was in 2014.
Even though there are plenty of opportunities to make the 53-man roster at a thin receiver position, Wright has simply missed too much time to think he'll come in right away and be back to his old self, so we're calling a 'hold' on his 2016 stock.
As for Wright's odds at making the final roster, it's really a two-fold prediction. If he's simply what he was in 2014 as a rookie, he has about a 70-percent chance of making the final roster. He's too valuable on special teams while offering some impact as a pass-catcher, and I don't think there's much debate as to 2014 James Wright making the 2016 Bengals roster.
But if Wright is rusty and unable to get back to even his 2014 form this year, I'd put his odds more around the 40-percent mark. The Bengals may keep him as the sixth or seventh receiver in hopes he can get back to his old form while continuing to grow off of it, but unless he shows he can make an impact now, potential may not be enough to keep him on the final roster.
However, I do think Wright has a very good chance to remain with the Bengals in 2016, whether it's on the final roster or practice squad, where he still has eligibility remaining.