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Preseason Week 4: 5 Bengals to watch vs Colts

We only have to endure one more week of preseason football, but don’t think there isn’t anything important going on in this game. Here are five players to watch with roster spots on the line.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Cincinnati Bengals David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

We only have to endure one more week of the preseason before we are all rewarded by regular-season football. It has been a long offseason, and it will be nice to see what this Cincinnati Bengals team looks like for a full 60 minutes. Until then, we will watch the Bengals at the bottom of the roster battle for a spot on the 53-man roster, or potentially audition for another team’s roster.

Don’t expect to see any of the team’s major pieces for more than a drive at most. This is usually treated as one last bye week before the long, grueling season starts. However, we should see an extended look at plenty of backup players who we probably won’t see much of until next preseason.

Here are five Bengals to watch during the final preseason game:

Jordan Evans

The Bengals selected Evans in the sixth round of this year’s draft, and I doubt at the time they knew how far along he would come as a rookie. Now I’m not saying he’s fighting for the starting job, but he played well enough that the team knew Marquis Flowers wouldn’t be making the final roster. That allowed them to trade him to the Patriots for a seventh round pick. That trade also came after the news of Vontaze Burfict’s suspension. After appeal, Burfict will miss the first three games of the 2017 NFL season.

Evans he has played surprisingly well against the run. The Bengals knew they were getting a fast athletic linebacker, but I don’t think they thought they were getting this physical of a guy who would be able to take on offensive linemen this well already.

Evans’ spot on the depth chart will probably have him playing special teams most of the season, but with a good showing on Thursday, he could see time during Burfict’s suspension on defense. We shouldn’t be surprised to see more of him in the upcoming seasons though.

Will Clarke

At this point there may not be a more desperate player on the field. Clarke probably knows the sad truth that his position on the Bengals 53-man roster is in jeopardy. The team may choose to keep him while Adam Jones and Burfict serve their suspensions, but he may not last on the roster past that point.

Clarke needs to show teams that they should take a chance on trying to revive what was once such a promising prospect.

The Bengals drafted Jordan Willis and brought in Chris Smith to compete at the defensive end position after Clarke struggled to help the pass rush last season. Willis and Smith have both looked like unstoppable forces coming off the edge. Meanwhile Clarke has struggled to get into the quarterback’s comfort zone.

Tyler Kroft

Kroft has one more shot to really show off his receiving skills with the absence of Tyler Eifert. Last week the Bengals held out Eifert as a precaution (and a minor tendinitis issue), and they will easily do the same thing this week.

There was a lot of talk during the offseason that Kroft had improved this area of his game, but he has shown little proof of it during the preseason. He has only recorded one catch for two yards. He still has another game to show how much his hands have improved, but even if he doesn’t show it, we will at least be able to see him make some killer blocks.

AJ McCarron

It has been a disappointing preseason for the veteran backup. Through three games he has thrown two interceptions and no touchdowns to go along with completing 55 percent of his passes.

At this point in his career McCarron should be lighting up the second units of other NFL rosters, and given how loaded the Bengals are at the skill positions, he doesn’t have the excuse of not having the talent to do it.

It is extra disappointing after the rumors right before the preseason that the Bengals were turning down trade offers, supposedly including a second round pick for him.

Lucky for McCarron it seems like Jeff Driskel isn’t coming for his spot on the depth chart quite yet, but this seems to be his best opportunity to audition for a job once his contract is up in Cincinnati. Right now I’m not sure how many teams are going to take that shot on him, at least for a big money deal.

We shouldn’t see much, if any, of Andy Dalton in this game, so McCarron should have a nice shot at salvaging his preseason.

Jake Elliott

It seemed like Elliott may have been the first to blink in what has been a heated kicking competition between him and Randy Bullock. Last week against Washington, Elliott missed a field goal and while normally it wouldn’t be looked at as a huge deal, right now the coaches are looking at anything that separates the two to make this decision easier.

Elliott has made three of his four field goals, but Bullock has made all five of his including two from beyond 50 yards. The Bengals did spend a fifth round selection on Elliott in the draft, but we will have to see if that factors into the Bengals’ decision at all.

It is clear to see the Bengals have two kickers on their roster who deserve one of the 32 jobs at their position in the NFL. Who ever gets cut will likely quickly get picked up by one of the teams in need of a kicker, so don’t feel too bad for whoever that may be. They have both proved they belong in this league.