The Cincinnati Bengals are now two games into their 2017 preseason schedule, and the roster battles are starting to heat up. Some players have already made great headway toward their bid to be part of the Bengals’ 53-man roster. However, that also means some players with roster potential are falling behind in the race. These five players will need to step things up if they want to avoid being on the outside looking in when roster cuts occur.
Although Benwikere has performed admirably in the opportunities he has had this preseason, it has been KeiVarae Russell who has looked the better of the two players. They are battling things out for the likely final cornerback spot. Unfortunately, despite Benwikere’s performance and starting resume in the NFL, players have to prove they are more worthy of a roster spot than their competition, a task in which he is falling behind. Benwikere needs to make some big plays in the final preseason games to earn a spot on the roster.
The former sixth round pick out of Arizona has been a piece of the team’s defensive depth since being drafted in 2014, save for missing 2015 due to injury. He contributed to a small extent in his rookie season, even earning a start in one game. However, aside from one fumble recovery, he didn’t record any stats in 2016 and has been nearly as silent this preseason. As an incumbent depth linebacker, he still has to be considered part of the battle, but he is facing stiff competition from Jordan Evans for the final linebacker spot. Against the Chiefs, Evans received 31 snaps to Flowers’ 19. It seems he has some catching up to do and his time to make an impact is running out.
Given the recent emergence of Chris Smith, the battle for one of the last spots at defensive end is much more crowded than it once seemed. Carlos Dunlap and Jordan Willis are virtually guaranteed spots on the final roster, and it would be difficult to see a veteran players like Michael Johnson go. If the Bengals do keep a fifth defensive end, Clarke will need to beat out Marcus Hardison, who received more snaps in the Bengals’ second preseason game. Clarke often looked lost during the contest and he needs to perform better in the two games ahead.
No player on the Bengals’ current roster competing at defensive tackle played less snaps against the Chiefs than Williams, other than Brandon Thompson who was released Sunday. Pat Sims, Ryan Glasgow, Andrew Billings, and Josh Tupou all played more snaps, and the Bengals certainly don’t have enough room on the roster to even keep each of those players. Unless Williams earns more playing time against the Redskins and puts on a good performance, the Bengals simply won’t have room for him on the 53-man roster.
The Bengals typically like to keep their draft picks around through at least their rookie year, but Dielman only received eight snaps on Saturday. Compare those numbers with his competition for the backup center/guard positions, T.J. Johnson, who received 23 snaps, is clearly the favorite to be the backup center and a number of players are competing at guard. At this point, it seems like it would take a herculean effort from Dielman to replace Johnson on the depth chart at center and it is going to be even more difficult to do if the Bengals can’t find time to put him on the field. Eric Winston’s poor play at tackle may lead to him being cut, and ultimately help create another spot for a young offensive lineman to make the roster. The Bengals will surely want Dielman to work out with the team, and it would be nice to see him make strides in the next two games.
Ultimately, the players who win the final spots on the Bengals’ roster will be determined by who brings the most value to the team. The front office and coaching staff will deliberate based on performance and potential, while also likely accounting for things like age and injury history. Performance in the preseason is not the only factor for whether a player stays or goes, but it could make a big difference for these five players.