With training camps opening in less than a month and the NFL preseason about five weeks away, we’ll soon learn how the Bengals’ roster will shape up. At linebacker, the Bengals went through a major overhaul, parting ways with two of last year’s starters (Rey Maualuga and Karlos Dansby), and bringing in a plethora of young talent, primarily through free agency.
Unfortunately, in the NFL, nearly half of the players on the roster in late June will not be on the team when the season starts in September. The summer is a great chance for players who make the team to hone their skills against determined competition, but it’s bad news for the guys who don’t make the cut. At linebacker, fans will want to pay close attention to the following players in training camp and the offseason, as they compete for a chance to stick on the roster when September rolls around:
The Bengals’ 2015 third round pick out of TCU was once considered an absolute steal, some projecting him to be selected as high as the late first round. However, questions about his work ethic caused teams to avoid him early in the draft, which seems to have been a smart move. Since coming to the Bengals, those very same work ethic and attitude problems have reared their ugly head, even resulting in him being cut and eventually signed to the practice squad at the beginning of the 2016 season. He returned to the active roster in Week 16 when Vontaze Burfict suffered a concussion, but will need to show much more this summer to last in Cincinnati moving forward.
A sixth round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Evans looks like exactly what you would expect an NFL linebacker to look like. He seems to lack the on-field aggression you’d want from a linebacker, which is something he’ll have to work on. He fell to the Bengals in the sixth round as a result of his weaknesses, although his athleticism, tackling ability, and instincts allow him to provide formidable competition for one of the final linebacker spots. As a rookie, the Bengals will certainly hope he sticks on the roster.
Flowers was a sixth round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft and is entering the final year of his rookie deal. In his NFL career, he has played 32 games and accumulated 15 tackles and 1 pass defended. That's nothing to write home about and he may have a hard time making the roster this year with considerable young talent pushing to take his spot. He'll need to shine this summer to make a push for the roster.
A converted defensive lineman in 2016 with the Buffalo Bills, Albright signed with the Bengals in January. He impressed the Bills’ coaching staff last preseason, but was unable to make it count for anything in his short term on the Bills’ active roster before being demoted to the practice squad. A similarly impressive preseason could see him earn a surprise roster spot with the Bengals. But, he certainly has an uphill battle to crack the roster.
Hardy Nickerson Jr.
The son of Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ five-time Pro Bowl linebacker, Hardy Nickerson, is considered one of the top dark-horse candidates to make the Bengals’ roster this year. Despite limitations due to his size, he has a high motor and was an adept tackler during his college days. He has also received praise for his high football IQ, which could be key to his bid to make the roster as an undrafted free agent.
The Bengals also added former Penn State linebacker Brandon Bell after the draft this year. Size, injuries, and a problem with looking slow on the field scared teams away in the 2017 NFL Draft. But, the Bengals saw a player who produced on-the-field, despite his alleged limitations. He was considered to be one of the top leaders on the team in college, a trait the Bengals have always coveted. It would be a shock, to say the least, for him to make his way onto the Bengals’ final roster. But, the Bengals saw enough in him to give him a chance, so don’t rule him out just yet.
Bengals Linebacker Unit
|49||Albright, Bryson||6-5||225||23||1||Miami (Ohio)|
|52||Bell, Brandon||6-1||229||22||R||Penn State|
|55||Burfict, Vontaze||6-1||255||26||6||Arizona State|
|47||Dawson, P.J.||6-0||240||24||2||Texas Christian|
|59||Vigil, Nick||6-2||239||23||2||Utah State|