Veteran running back Cedric Peerman has meant a lot to the Cincinnati Bengals since they picked him up in the spring of 2010. Even though he’s largely been the team’s No. 4 running back in that time, he’s also been a Pro Bowl special teams player for the squad. That’s why his broken forearm against the Jacksonville Jaguars in preseason Week 3 sent the club scrambling for a viable replacement.
Based on recent moves and the decision yet to come with Peerman’s roster designation, Tra Carson and Bronson Hill have been grinding for what should be one more open running back spot on the final roster. Jeremy Hill, Giovani Bernard and Rex Burkhead are locks, so those two undrafted free agents (Carson in 2016, Hill in 2015) needed to make quite the impression in the preseason finale.
The truth is, there was good and bad from both players, especially when we’re talking about them going up against the backups from the Indianapolis Colts. Here’s a rundown of each players’ nights.
Pros—Yards and Versatility: In the game, Carson showed some good power, coupled with active feet and production. In weaving through the Indy defense, Carson picked up 42 yards on the ground on 14 carries (3.0 yards per carry), as well as adding some nice plays through the air with 3 catches for 34 yards. Not overly impressive on the ground, but not too shabby for a guy behind a backup offensive line, and who weighs in the 230-pound range. Oh, and his dealing of punishment to defensive backs with the football in the open field was a welcomed sight.
Cons—The Fumble: It’s one play, but it’s a big negative on a night that was a big job interview for the young man. Not only was he stifled on a critical 3rd-and-1, but he was stripped of the ball upon getting stuffed by the Colts. While the player who makes the squad as the No. 4 back won’t be called upon to have many carries for the team in the regular season, this still is something Marvin Lewis won’t accept.
Pros—Shiftiness and Production: Hill was a bit more of the dancing running back as opposed to Carson and it worked out, for the most part. Hill finished with similar rushing numbers with 36 yards on 10 carries (3.6 yards per carry) against the Colts on Thursday night.
Cons—Getting the tough yards: There were instances where Hill was given the opportunity to either punch it in the end zone, or get tough yards and he just didn’t get it done. Again, like Carson, Hill was running behind a patchwork line—backup quarterback Keith Wenning can attest to that unit’s play.
Did they do enough to stick around?
Bengals.com editor Geoff Hobson joined Brad Johansen and Anthony Munoz in the broadcast booth and noted the impressiveness Carson has shown in camp. He showed a bit more than Hill as a receiver and lined up back on kickoffs as well, though he didn’t have a return. It’s the special teams aspect in which the coaches are clamoring to replace Peerman, so perhaps Carson has a bit more going for him in that respect.
If the team were to choose from one of the two remaining backs to take Peerman’s spot, it would appear Carson has the upper hand, even with the fumble on Thursday night. But, is Carson the best option, especially with final cuts coming for all 32 teams?
What about waivers?
While Carson may have made a good case for himself to land on the final roster this year, Lewis noted that the team is still keeping its eye on the waiver wire. Though he has five catches on his professional resume and zero his final year at LSU, James Wright is likely to make the Bengals’ final roster because of his special teams ability. That is what Lewis looks for in back-end roster players.
There are a few interesting names currently available, and more will undoubtedly come this weekend. There’s a possibility that old friend James Wilder, Jr. might be let loose by the Bills (he didn’t have a carry in the team’s preseason finale), so could he be an option for the Bengals?
If the Bengals were dead-set on making the decision on the final spot between Carson and Hill, the former likely won the job. However, neither guy really blew anyone’s hair back, so the options should still be open this weekend. Even though one of them might make it through final cuts this weekend, it could be a fluid situation just a few days later.