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5 Bengals who need a strong finish in training camp

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Training camp isn’t over yet, and these five players need to finish strong going into the preseason.

5 Bengals to watch as training camp is nearing its end

There are still several roles on this Bengals roster that need to be clarified as training camp is winding down, and this final practice could be crucial in doing so.

Most of these players with strong performances could secure their starting spot or role for the season, however, with poor performances they can open the door for other players to step in and either take their spot completely or at least steal away some of their snaps.

These are five players that Bengals fans and the Bengals coaching staff should be closely watching during the final day of training camp.

1. Jake Fisher

Fisher had a heart issue last season that caused him to miss the second half of last year. It was also the reason the offensive tackles rotated during last season when he was active. Now, after a successful procedure which occurred earlier in the offseason, Fisher is hopefully fully healthy and ready to compete.

In his first few years in the league, Fisher has shown some signs of competency and several of his biggest problems were very fixable. If new offensive line coach Frank Pollack can work some magic, then maybe Fisher can claim the starting right tackle spot and live up to his massive potential.

Bobby Hart currently holds that distinction, but Fisher can still push for that spot with a strong preseason.

2. John Ross

With the release of Brandon LaFell, the No. 2 wide receiver spot became officially vacated last week. Though it may have been Ross who was on his way of securing it even with LaFell still in the room.

With LaFell out of the picture, there’s no one between Ross and the flanker (Z) spot opposite of A.J. Green. Of course, Tyler Boyd could end up with more targets coming out of the slot, but Ross will still get his fair share of volume outside. Since the Bengals are up there near the top of the league with their usage of three wide receiver sets, Ross is going to play just as much, if not more, than Boyd.

The only hurdle Ross is dealing with is one with himself. He’s been frequently dropping easy catches at training camp recently, so he needs to shake off those nerves and perform well down the stretch to keep some of the backups from siphoning off snaps that should be going to him. But that won’t be likely anyways.

If both Ross and Boyd play a full season, I wouldn’t be surprised if Boyd gets more targets, but Ross ends up with more yards and touchdowns.

3. Andrew Billings

A lot of fans were very excited when the Bengals got Billings as late as they did, as there was some buzz that he was a late first or early second-round prospect before the draft. However, due to his inability to really get after the quarterback and shorter than ideal height, Billings fell to the fourth round.

Even considering those factors, drafting Billings on Day 3 of the draft was still a steal due to the upside he possessed as a nose tackle. After he lost his rookie season to injury, though, he struggled during his sophomore season. There was some thought that he still may not be fully recovered from the injury, and looking at the reports about how well he is doing at camp, it looks like that may certainly be the case.

Billings has played himself into position to take the starting nose tackle spot even after the Bengals signed Chris Baker in the offseason.

4. Jordan Evans

The starting nickel linebackers in camp have reportedly been Jordan Evans and Nick Vigil, which is certainly a good sign that the Bengals wouldn’t try to put a square peg into a round hole with MIKE linebacker Preston Brown.

Evans’ potential has always been evident after an extremely dominant preseason his rookie year last year. He has great athleticism and size that few other linebackers on the Bengals match and if he can extend his preseason play into the regular season, then he could be the coverage linebacker that the Bengals have been missing.

A strong finish to camp and the preseason should lock him in as a starting linebacker during Burfict’s four-game suspension to start the season, and good play there could increase his regular season snaps beyond Burfict’s absence.

5. Alex Erickson

Erickson was a player that was potentially on the bubble going into training camp, but he has helped himself as much as anyone at any position.

After struggling as a returner in 2017, there were questions whether Erickson was guaranteed the same spot in 2018. It looks like he has been the most sure-handed returner which is the most important thing to the Bengals staff. So, it looks like Erickson has locked down the returner duties, both because of how reliable he has been in practice and how other players have struggled.

On top of that, though, Erickson has also stood out as a receiver, consistently managing to separate and be a reliable option for the quarterback. Typically, the Bengals like to carry two true slot receivers, increasing Erickson’s chances even more with LaFell’s departure.

The preseason will be a key factor in the returning battle, so he needs to be sure he finishes strong.