Week 4 of the preseason if hours away. Depending on who you ask, this is either the most boring or the most exciting week of the preseason. On the one side, some fans hate the final preseason game because we don’t see many (if any) starters. Others, like myself, love the final preseason game because it serves as a final audition for many players trying to make their dream come true, or keep it alive. In this final game against the Colts here’s the five players I’ll be watching.
1.) Rex Burkhead
We’ll start with Burkhead because he isn’t fighting for a job. His spot is safe and we’ll be seeing him on the 53 man roster in 2016. What’s interesting about Burkhead is that it was recently revealed that he and rookie Alex Erickson will be the team’s kick returners this year. While we’ve already seen the potential and skill of Erickson, Burkhead has yet to return an NFL kick in the regular or postseason despite being a veteran. Because of this, I’ll be interested to see if he’s given any opportunities in this preseason game to return as a warm up. If he can show us even a glimpse of the hope Alex Erickson has given us then the Bengals should be in great shape in the return game for 2016.
2.) Rashaun Simonise
Despite having ideal height and speed for an NFL receiver, Simoise really hasn’t caught on to the NFL game right away. This is to be expected having played in Canada for most of his life, but Simonise is certainly not ready to make the 53 man roster. There’s plenty of practice squad room for a developmental project like number 13, but he may have to have a good showing to fight off other young receiver talent like Jake Kumerow. Plus, who knows, maybe he performs so well on Thursday that another team tries to bring them on their practice squad, or better yet their active roster. It’s unlikely, but the chance exists.
3.) Keith Wenning
With Joe Licata being waived in the cuts to 75, Wenning may have bought himself time, but not necessarily the third string quarterback job. He’s had ups as well as downs throughout these preseason games, but plenty of quarterbacks are going to be waived and made available within the next week. If Wenning enjoys being a Bengal he should be looking to put on a show in whatever time he sees this week. Because if he isn’t giving the coaching staff a reason to believe in him, then Marvin Lewis and Ken Zampese could very well look for other young options at the position for the practice squad.
4.) DeShawn Williams
Williams is facing final cuts for his second consecutive year as a pro. He was in this same position just one year ago before being waived by the Bengals when the team needed to cut to 53. He landed on the practice squad where he stayed for the entire year, despite getting an offer to join the Saints’ roster. This year I think Williams is going to make the roster, and injuries to Andrew Billings and Brandon Thompson make that more of a reality than ever. Still, there are plenty of talented defensive lineman in this Bengals group of 75. He should see extensive playing time, maybe as much as a full game, in order to show why he belongs. I’m looking to see what Williams can put in as a body of work over an entire 60 minutes with a year’s experience under his belt. I think he’s going to shine, but time will tell.
5.) Tre Carson
With an unfortunate injury to Cedric Peerman costing the Bengals one of their most dependable veterans, there’s a hole at running back. Some projections see the Bengals now proceeding with only three running backs. I happen to be one of those people, but the team could still decide they’d like to have a fourth back on the roster. They could look to bring in a bigger name who doesn’t make final cuts in another camp, but Carson is also an option. He’s had some nice plays over the course of the last three games, and I’ll be interested to see what he can do with a bigger workload.