Depending on who you are, the fourth preseason game can mean a little, or a whole lot. When it’s over, fans and media rejoice as the fake football is over and another step toward the regular season is taken, but at the same time, the future of 22 players remains unclear. It’s not every year that an undrafted rookie makes the final cut and actually ends up on the 53 man roster. But we know we’ll be seeing one in Alex Erickson, the question remains, will we see another?
In the final preseason Rookie Report, we breakdown the play of three undrafted rookies and one 2016 draft pick.
It wouldn’t be right to not include the young star of the preseason in this piece for the fourth time in a row. After standing out in the first three weeks and beating out veteran Brandon Tate as one of the team’s main punt returners, Erickson had himself a decent day in stripes on Thursday, hauling in three of his six targets for 44 yards and returning two punts for 18 yards. The only faults for him were a couple of drops and his substantial return average taking a hit.
The question for Erickson now is if he see much of the field on offense. While the team typically runs the majority of their plays in 11 personnel (three wide receivers, 1 running back and 1 tight end), the odds of Erickson seeing the field under normal circumstances is unlikely. As of now, he is the back-up for Tyler Boyd, who will be playing in the slot to start the season. In the unfortunate case where Boyd could go down, Erickson would take his role. But sometime this season, it would be nice to see No. 12 get some targets not because of injury. He seemed to have earned the opportunity in August, it will be good to see what he can do against real defenses.
Carson has found himself in a promising situation this week. As the first running back on the field, he’s seemingly ahead of Bronson Hill for the fourth running back spot, assuming the team decides to keep that many. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a very convincing performance, averaging three yards a carry on 14 attempts for a total of 42 yards, but he did make some outstretched grabs out of the backfield, as he caught three passes for 34 yards. However, his second quarter fumble will not help his chances at all.
The running back he presumably competed with, Bronson Hill, didn’t have a much better performance with his 36 yards on 10 carries and only catching a single pass for the same number of yards. Overall, neither of these two look like they belong on an NFL roster yet, and if Carson does end up making the cut, he’ll more than likely be inactive to start out the season, only dressing in case of injury to either Hill, Bernard or Burkhead. However, he’s almost a lock for the practice squad as the Bengals traditionally have one back as part of the 10 that represent that group.
The team could look for external options to find a fourth running back for the final roster to replace Cedric Peerman’s spot for the time being, but if they decide to stick with what they have, it looks like they’ll be going with three.
The man who made the play of the game with his redzone interception, Vigil had another solid outing in his time with the second string linebacking corps. His impressive pick really summarizes his playmaking offseason work in practice and the preseason, and gives him a good argument to see the field more than the coaches expected this season.
Ever since the Vikings game, I’ve made the case that Vigil’s playing style and acumen really gives him an edge to fill in for some of Vontaze Burfict’s snaps during his suspension, or at the very least take snaps on passing downs. He’s one of-if not the best-linebacker the Bengals have in coverage, why not use your assets in their best roles?
Vigil had four tackles and a pass deflection to go with his interception on Thursday, capping off a productive first preseason for the Utah State rookie.
The recipient of the only touchdown for the Bengals on Thursday night, it was also Russell’s first touchdown as a pro. The undrafted rookie out of Toledo, who had a single reception through the first three preseason games, became slightly more involved against the Colts, finishing with preseason highs of two catches for 22 yards and the aforementioned touchdown off four targets.
The wide receiver group is basically set at six with the release of Tate, and Russell will not be one of them, but like Carson, he is good option for the team’s practice squad, provided he doesn’t accept an offer to another team’s squad.
The team will likely keep two receivers at most on the practice squad, and besides Russell, receivers Jake Kumerow and Rashaun Simonise have made good cases for themselves as well. But Russell is the only one out of the three with a touchdown on their 2016 resume, so at least he has that going for him.