It seems to happen every year. Some lesser known Cincinnati Bengals player starts making headlines in training camp due to their impressive performances in shorts. Quite often, those players go on to earn a spot on the roster, despite being all but counted out when they first join the roster. In the past, players like DeShawn Williams, Vincent Rey, Alex Erickson, George Iloka, and Chinedum Ndukwe have all earned respect with solid performances in training camp, leading to more success than may have originally been expected.
With training camp starting this week, many current unestablished players are going to have an opportunity to prove their worth, a few of whom could earn more time with the team or even long-term roles. These three players seem to have among the best opportunity to prove themselves and earn a shot with the Bengals both in the short- and long-term:
Stanley ‘Boom’ Williams, running back
Were it not for his hugely undersized frame at 5’7” and 190 pounds, Williams likely could have been considered a draftable prospect by most scouts. At Kentucky, he was absolutely unstoppable when running to the edge and was very difficult to bring down in space. 171 carries for 1,170 yards in 2016 put him on the map in the SEC.
Unfortunately, due to his size, he isn’t a particularly tough player. Being brought down easily, in addition to drops and fumbles, are big problems for the undrafted player. But, those are all problems that can be worked on. Given the current state of the Bengals’ running back position and the increasing age of Cedric Peerman, Williams could have the opportunity to earn a practice squad spot with a great performance in training camp and the preseason. He has the talent to accomplish that goal, and will establish himself as a top reserve player if he does.
Mason Schreck, tight end
The Bengals picked Schreck up in the seventh round of the 2017 NFL Draft because of his 6’5”, 253 pound frame and sticky hands, although his proficiency as a run blocker certainly helped his case. Unfortunately, he can be easily shut down in coverage and his awareness in the passing game leaves much to be desired, which is why he fell to the seventh round.
The Bengals seem set at the tight end position for now, but former third round pick Tyler Kroft has developed much more slowly than the Bengals would like. He will be a free agent in 2019, which is more than enough time for Schreck to develop into a viable blocking tight end replacement if Kroft cannot step his game up going forward.
With a solid training camp and preseason performance, Schreck likely won’t beat anyone out for a spot on the final roster. But, he could easily earn a practice squad spot to develop and bide time while he waits for a spot to open up at tight end. The Bengals certainly need a boost in the running game, and Schreck’s ability to block for running backs can be easily demonstrated against tackling dummies, preparing him to prove it on the field.
Brandon Wilson, defensive back
Safety is another position the Bengals don’t seem to currently have any room at. But, they still made Wilson the 207th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, trading up to draft the former Houston Cougar. His pro day and ability as a running back caught the eyes of scouts across the NFL, but it was his experience in the defensive backfield that spoke to the Bengals. He is an explosive athlete who seems to have more than enough talent to make an impact in this year’s training camp. He has quite a bit of competition for the last safety spot, with Derron Smith and Clayton Fejedelem both highly qualified for the position.
However, the Bengals don’t typically part with draft picks, especially one they traded up for, so Wilson has a good chance of landing on the 53-man roster. Also helping his stock is that he was actually a cornerback in college and played some running back, too. Additionally, his ability to return kicks helps establish his value to the team, making it impossible for the Bengals to ignore him in training camp. Not many players are fighting through a more crowded path this offseason. It will say a lot about his determination and work ethic if he can find a way to make an impact in training camp and the preseason.