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NFL roster cuts: 6 interesting takeaways from Bengals’ 53-man roster

The Bengals seem to be in win-now mode, which is good. But how did four rookie draft picks fail to make the roster? What went wrong? And why?

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals’ roster cuts featured a few surprises and a lot of interesting takeaways.

The Bengals got down to 53 players on Saturday after coming into the weekend with 83 men on the roster.

To get there, the Bengals made one trade, cut two vested veterans, waived 23 players, and placed two young skill players on Injured Reserve. Here are the most interesting takeaways from the initial 53-man roster.

1. Number of draft picks cut

The Bengals are usually all about keeping their rookie draft picks. The last time a rookie draft pick was cut was in 2014 when the Bengals waived seventh round cornerback LaVelle Westbrooks. The Bengals kept all of their rookies in 2015 and 2016 but this year, that changed in a big way.

The Bengals cut offensive lineman J.J. Dielman, kicker Jake Elliott and defensive back Brandon Wilson. Additionally, tight end Mason Schreck was placed on season-ending Injured Reserve.

The Bengals had a league-high 11 draft picks but only seven made the 53-man roster.

Dielman simply didn’t outplay other young offensive linemen, Elliott was beat out by veteran Randy Bullock and Schreck was injured in the third preseason game. The situation with Wilson is the most perplexing.

Wilson spent all summer, up until last week on the Non-Football Injury list. Last week, following the third preseason game, the Bengals activated Wilson off the list. It seemed at the time like that would make him a roster lock. The Bengals could have kept Wilson on NFI, which would have made him ineligible for the first six games of the year, while remaining with the team. Once Week 7 arrived, the Bengals could have allowed him to start practicing, moved him to the roster, left him on NFI or cut him at that point, if they wanted.

Instead, they made him ineligible for the injury list by clearing him to practice, having him play in the final preseason game and then cutting him on Saturday.

This is someone the Bengals traded up (for the fourth time in 50 years) to select. Why they would opt to cut him when they easily could have held onto him via NFI is beyond perplexing.

If he makes it through waivers, look for him to join the practice squad. This is a roster move I’m not going to easily get over.

You can read more on Wilson and his highly impressive college career at Houston here. You can also read some fun facts about him here!

2. Giving up on Will Clarke

The Will Clarke experiment is done in Cincinnati after the team waived him on Saturday. He’s not practice squad eligible and the emergence of young pass rushers pushed him out of the way. Unfortunately, the former third round pick just didn’t work out in Cincinnati, despite a noble effort.

3. Win-now mode

Giving up on rookies, former draft picks and even a veteran like Wallace Gilberry is not typically the way the Bengals do things under Marvin Lewis. Does this signal more of a win-now approach? I think it does. Marvin Lewis’ coaching life is on the line as he enters the 2017 season on the final year of his coaching contract. If the Bengals don’t perform well and make it back to the playoffs, expect to see Lewis out of Cincinnati next year.

It seems like Lewis is trying to win-now, even if that means going against things he typically does, like hanging onto trusted veterans and rookie draft picks.

The next thing to look for is whether defensive rookies play this season... And we’re not talking about special teams. Will Jordan Willis, Carl Lawson and Jordan Evans make an impact on defense? If they do, that will further show Lewis is changing his philosophy in order to win this season.

4. More players on offense than defense

The Bengals currently have 27 guys on offense and 23 on defense. That may change once quarterback Jeff Driskel is moved to Injured Reserve, but that’s a heavy imbalance. The Bengals went with seven wide receivers, as expected, which is more than they’ve had at any point in recent memory. The team also went with four tight ends (plus fullback Ryan Hewitt) due to C.J. Uzomah’s ankle injury. Rookie Cethan Carter made the cut while Uzomah recovers, but he may not last once the third-year tight end is ready for action.

The defensive line only has eight players, which is a bit thin and the cornerback group is at five, when they normally roster six. Once Adam Jones returns, that group will rise to six players, assuming a player at a different position is cut to make room for Jones’ return.

5. Thin at running back

I thought for a while the Bengals would go with just three running backs, and that proved to be the case on Saturday. Since the team is rostering seven receivers and currently four tight ends, the running back position was sacrificed. It also didn’t help that Tra Carson, the best option to be the No. 4 running back (had the Bengals kept as many) was injured in the third preseason game. He was placed on IR on Saturday.

6. Getting something out of nothing

Twice in the last week, once prior to the 53-man roster being created and once on Saturday, the Bengals got something out of nothing.

Marquis Flowers and Bene Benwikere were not making the Bengals’ 53-man roster. Both were going to be cut on Saturday. Early this week, the Patriots inquired about Flowers and the Bengals allowed them to take Flowers’ off their hands in exchange for a seventh round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Then on Saturday, the Cowboys made a call about Benwikere and agreed to give the Bengals a conditional sixth round pick in 2019 for the veteran cornerback. It’s unclear what the conditions are for the Bengals to get the Cowboys’ pick. Either way, the Bengals were going to part ways with both of these guys and instead of getting nothing in return, two draft picks were acquired in exchange for their services. +2 for the Bengals.

What are your 53-man roster takeaways?