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3 underappreciated Bengals who earned a closer look in preseason opener

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These three Bengals aren’t receiving the recognition they deserve for great performances in the team’s preseason opener.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Cincinnati Bengals saw some excellent performances from specific players in their 23-12 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Friday. Guys like Jeff Driskel, Joe Mixon, Chris Smith, and Jordan Willis rightly earned plenty of praise for their excellent performances. However, there were so many great performances from underappreciated players on Friday, the unfortunate reality is some were swept under the rug.

Here, let’s take a look at three players who did not receive the credit they deserved for the Bengals’ Friday night win.

Tra Carson

Before Friday, it looked like Carson would be lucky to retain his practice squad role from last year. A solid training camp showing from Stanley “Boom” Williams put him in the spotlight over the Bengals’ first year running back.

But, Friday was Carson’s day. He received eight carries and gained 32 yards in the process. By contrast, Williams only recorded two carries for five yards. Furthermore, it was Carson’s 23 yard catch in the second quarter that really highlighted his night.

That said, he impressed in the ground game as well.

Although he didn’t receive as much praise as he should have for his performance, there is no doubt Carson strengthened his bid for more reps and a closer look from the coaching staff. As of right now, he has to be considered the favorite for a practice squad spot, at least.

KeiVarae Russell

Russell led the Bengals in tackles on the night with six and also deflected a pass.

No defensive back on the Bengals’ roster looked better on Friday. Unfortunately, the night ended on a less than exciting note for the young cornerback as he left the game after sustaining some sort of injury. However, he jogged off. Worst case scenario, it was a minor issue the Bengals wanted to ensure wouldn’t turn into a larger one by over extending his night.

However, the minor injury should not take away from the excellent performance Russell put on against the Buccaneers. He was all over their third string offense and made sure the Bengals’ second half comeback stayed intact. His excellent play on Friday should go a long way toward reinforcing his venture to secure the Bengals’ sixth cornerback spot.

Cethan Carter

Aside from a single four yard catch early in the game from Tyler Eifert, the Bengals didn’t see much production from their tight ends against the Buccaneers. Carter, though broke that trend toward the end of the game as he looked impressive with two catches for 14 yards, one of which set the Bengals up in prime positioning for their final touchdown of the game.

Although it seems unlikely Carter will have much of a shot at making the Bengals’ 53-man roster with Tyler Kroft and C.J. Uzomah already entrenched at the backup tight end spots and seventh round pick Mason Schreck looking like the potential wild card, more solid performances like this from Carter could encourage the Bengals to consider him for a practice squad role over or in addition to Schreck. After what he showed on Friday, the Bengals’ coaches have to be excited.

Ultimately, these players are fighting an uphill battle for relevancy. Even Russell, who has a solid shot at the final roster, is looking at a ceiling of the sixth and final spot at the position. However, they each flashed potential on Friday and certainly deserve a closer look from both the coaching staff and fans, despite how little their performances have been discussed so far. The Bengals could have some real hidden gems with these players.