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Deciding Jake Kumerow’s place on the Bengals’ roster

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Jake Kumerow needed to step up against the Colts and he did. But is it enough?

Indianapolis Colts v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images

One of the most popular fringe players among Bengals coaches and fans alike since 2015 has been former Wisconsin-Whitewater receiver Jake Kumerow. Due to the virtual free-for-all on the wide receiver depth chart this preseason, he had a chance to make his mark and break out this offseason for a roster spot. Unfortunately, he was extremely quiet through the first three weeks due to a nagging injury that kept him limited for parts of training camp and out in preseason Week 2 against the Lions.

He recorded a single catch against the Vikings for seven yards, but he was also unable to come down with a deep ball on another target on that game. Against the Jaguars in the third preseason game, he was targeted twice and unable to reel in either catch. On Tuesday, I wrote about his struggles to maintain relevancy at a crowded receiver position, despite being considered by many, in the offseason, to have one of the best chances to work his way onto the roster.

On Thursday, Kumerow stepped up in a big way against the Indianapolis Colts. He didn’t manage to record a touchdown on the day, despite being targeted once in the endzone. But, he did catch three of the five passes thrown his way for a total of 60 yards. Those three passes were good for 23 yards, 18 yards, and 19 yards a piece. Were it not for an extremely rough day for quarterback Keith Wenning, Kumerow’s efforts might have been enough to give the Bengals a significant chance to win the game.

That said, Kumerow’s performance probably came a bit too late for him to make the final roster. While he was slumping through most of the preseason, guys like James Wright, Alex Erickson, and Cody Core performed well enough to secure the three wide receiver spots behind A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, and Brandon LaFell.

It’s unlikely that the Bengals would keep seven receivers on the roster given the fact that each of the six guys I mentioned appear generally healthy right now. So, there probably isn’t a place on the roster for Kumerow to hope for. His primary competition for the spot would likely have been Alonzo Russell. But, at this point you would have to say that any competition between the two would be for a practice squad role.

In that scenario, Kumerow would be the obvious favorite for the practice squad. Russell has performed well this preseason, recording three catches on six targets for 25 yards and the team’s only touchdown against the Colts. But, like Kumerow, he was virtually absent for the first two preseason games and only really looked particularly impressive in Thursday’s game against the Colts. Kumerow is slightly more experienced, having spent all of the 2015 season on the Bengals’ practice squad.

It’s possible the Bengals keep both Kumerow and Russell on the practice squad if they both clear waivers. Both players have shown the ability to be explosive at times and productive when they absolutely have to be. It’s not enough to justify putting either of them on the final roster. But, the Bengals have every reason to like both players.

Again, if it came down to a choice between Kumerow and Russell, the Bengals would almost undoubtedly select Kumerow after his admirable performance against the Colts. Based on what we saw on Thursday, Kumerow is the clear No. 7 option at wide receiver. Although he likely won’t make the final roster, he will almost certainly make the practice squad and might even get a chance to make an appearance on the active roster as the season progresses and players start to wear down.