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Ranking the Bengals’ roster: 51-60, the roster bubble

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These 10 Bengals are expected to battle for one of the final roster spots. Unfortunately, not all 10 will make the final cut.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals’ final roster cuts will ultimately come down to some tough choices between key depth players. During the course of the offseason, the players who make the cut will have proven their skill and potential talent bring the most to the roster.

The Bengals will hope to bring 10 of the young players who just miss inclusion on the final roster back to the practice squad, providing they are eligible. Though, if a player is good enough, another team might sign them to their active roster after the Bengals waive them.

You could make an argument for any of the players on the below list to make the Bengals’ final roster. Unfortunately, the Bengals will not be able to keep them all.

So far, we’ve ranked the #61-90 players on the Bengals’ roster:

#81-90, the little chance group

#71-80, the dark horses

#61-70, the tough cuts

Now in continuing in our series, the following players are ranked from 51-60, in no particular order, and are all fighting for what is likely only a few roster spots.

Bene Benwikere, cornerback

Bene Benwikere cut his chops in the NFL as fifth round pick for the Carolina Panthers. He quickly became a major contributor in the slot in his rookie season and started strong, receiving high grades from PFF early on. By the end of his rookie year, he made appearances on multiple All-Rookie teams and established himself as a player on the rise. Unfortunately, injuries cut short his 2015 season (as the Panthers made their way to the Super Bowl) and when he was moved from the slot to the boundary in early 2016 he did not fare well. A horrible game matched up against Julio Jones marked his shocking release from the Panthers in early 2016. He then spent time with the Dolphins and Packers before signing with the Bengals in February. He’s in the mix to win the Bengals’ final cornerback spot, although he still needs to prove he can move past his issues to hold off a strong challenge from a young up-and-comer at the position. As the Panthers found, Benwikere is best in the slot and Darqueze Dennard and Josh Shaw are already battling for that job, and both are essentially roster locks. That path to the roster is cloudy for Benwikere.

KeiVarae Russell, cornerback

Benwikere’s biggest threat for a final cornerback spot on the roster is Russell, who entered the NFL as a third round pick for the Chiefs in the 2016 NFL Draft. He was the highest selected player in 2016 to be waived by the team that drafted him. However, the Bengals saw his potential and picked him up off waivers. He spent most of the season sitting on the Bengals’ bench, biding his time until he was given a chance to show what he can do. He finally got that chance on what would be the last defensive play of the Bengals’ season. He lined up to to cover Ravens receiver Breshad Perriman and intercepted the ball thrown by Ryan Mallett, effectively ending any slim hopes of a Ravens comeback attempt. It’s hard to gauge exactly where he fits in the current roster battle, given only one snap of experience with the team, but he clearly has the talent to fight off Benwikere for the final spot. After spending a year with the Bengals, having more years remaining on his contract and having tons of potential as a second-year player, it’s fair to say Russell has the edge over Benwikere, but he’ll have to show that all summer.

Brandon Thompson, defensive tackle

The Bengals’ former third round pick from the 2012 NFL Draft has seen his career hampered by injury. He missed the entire 2016 season with a torn ACL suffered in Week 17 of the 2015 season. Luckily, the season spent on Injured Reserve didn’t count against his one-year contract signed in 2016 (due to a loophole written into the contract) and as a result he will be entering a contract year in 2017. There is plenty of opportunity for Thompson to earn playing time and prove his worthy of sticking around but he will need to step up his performance beyond the 28 total tackles, 1.5 sacks, and pass deflection he put up in his only season with starting experience (2013). There’s a lot of young talent fighting to take away his spot on the roster.

Ryan Glasgow, defensive tackle

The Bengals selected Glasgow in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft because of his incredible work ethic, technical prowess, and relentless motor. Unfortunately, he could stand to improve his power, base, and aggression. He has the look of a player who could easily become a long-term answer on the final roster, but he may need to spend a year on the bench or practice squad before he is ready for NFL-level competition. However, he has enough competitiveness to surprise and supplant someone else for a roster spot and the Bengals will want him to stick around as a rookie draft pick.

Mason Schreck, tight end

The former University at Buffalo tight end’s pro day put him on the map for NFL scouts who were looking for a solid late-round player to gravitate toward. Unfortunately, his route running, slow hands, and inability to fight through coverage are huge detractors, which he will need to overcome to challenge C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Kroft for the third tight end spot. But, his measurables are all ideal for a tight end, and he doesn’t often drop passes. Don’t be shocked to see him make a strong push in the preseason, but the practice squad is his more likely landing spot.

C.J. Uzomah, tight end

Uzomah showed an encouraging amount of development in 2016. He was originally drafted by the Bengals as a third option at tight end and a pass catcher, especially considering Kroft’s primary reputation as a blocker. In his rookie season he barely contributed, but in 2016 he started eight games and recorded 25 catches for 234 yards and a touchdown in the process. He certainly is closer to the 51st ranked player on the roster than 60th and should easily beat out Schreck for the third tight end spot.

J.J. Dielman, center

Although not all Bengals fans agree with this perspective, the team seems happy with its options at center. Russell Bodine is rather inconsistent as a starter, but the coaches seem to love him. Additionally, T.J. Johnson recently signed a contract extension with the Bengals, so it makes sense for him to be the favorite to backup Bodine heading into the preseason. Dielman is a flexible player who can play inside or outside on the offensive line with a very fluid technique to boot. If he can overcome some size issues, he should be exactly the kind of player the Bengals need at center, although it could require a development process that involves plenty of time on the bench. As a fifth round draft pick, the Bengals will want him to stick around and have their investment pay off.

Alex Redmond, guard

With a strong offseason, Redmond could break his way into a roster spot, especially considering the Bengals’ need for players to step up along the offensive line. For now, it appears Christian Westerman and Trey Hopkins are the favorites at backup guard. But, Redmond performed well last offseason, enough to earn a practice squad spot. If he builds on that this offseason, he could challenge for the final backup guard role. As of right now, he is facing an uphill battle, but don’t count him out.

Trey Hopkins, guard

Like Redmond, Hopkins did not hear his name called on draft day. But, he has done a very good job of building a reputation with the coaching staff and showing his tenacity and work ethic, enough to work his way onto the active roster at times during the last three seasons. Hopkins has been practicing at tackle this offseason, in addition to guard, and that versatility could pay off and help him steal a roster spot.

Randy Bullock, kicker

Bullock was signed by the Bengals in Week 14 of the 2016 season and did decently well, making all of his kicks and extra points, other than a 43-yard game-winning attempt. That miss caused the Bengals to lose their Week 16 game against the Texans, which in hindsight wasn’t the worst thing in the world as it helped the Bengals with their draft positioning. But, it also proved the Bengals likely can’t rely on Bullock long-term. He is almost certain to be cut this September after the Bengals spent a fifth round draft pick on Jake Elliott, making him the first kicker drafted by the team during the Marvin Lewis-era and the first kicker selected in the 2017 NFL Draft. The Bengals say they are allowing for a real open competition at the position, but count on Elliott to win the job and Bullock to be looking for a new team come September.