The Bengals have quite a few position battles going on for both starting and backup roster positions. Several of the players competing in those battles have stood out in the preseason and have taken a step toward securing a role that they may not have otherwise gotten. Every NFL team has injury issues that manifest at a particular position during the course of the season, so the Bengals need to be as confident as possible from top to bottom. The dress rehearsal preseason game is still to come so Bengals players on the bubble still have time to prove themselves. But, here are our top five preseason players for the Bengals through the first two weeks.
1. Andrew Billings
Billings was considered the steal of the draft when the Bengals took him in the fourth round in 2016. At one point he was seen as a first round pick, but he ended up dropping due to concerns that he was a run-first player. However, he ended up injured before his rookie season could even begin and sat out that year as a result. He looked a step slow coming back from injury in 2017 and finally two years removed from the injury he’s beginning to live up to his pre-draft grade. If Billings can play like he has during the preseason during the regular season, it will be a big upgrade over last season’s nose tackle play.
2. Christian Westerman
Westerman has barely seen the field since the Bengals made him a fifth round pick in 2016. It looked like he would have a chance to take over the starting right guard spot this year, yet the Bengals have only played him at left guard this preseason. He’s responded by playing some of the best football of any of the Bengals offensive lineman. It may be a good idea to let him get some snaps with the first team offense at right guard during the third preseason game.
3. KeiVarae Russell
Russell was a player fighting for a roster spot after the Bengals drafted two cornerbacks this year, however, he has really stood out in the first two preseason games. Considering how the other non-starting cornerbacks have struggled, it’s fair to say he not only has locked down a roster spot, but he’s likely locked down the first spot off the bench. For a guy who was talked about as a potential cut candidate all offseason, that is a big rise and a great story for Russell who was cut by the Chiefs in his rookie year after they selected in him in the third round.
4. Tra Carson
Carson just seems to produce every preseason and show the Bengals why he deserves a spot. Depth players like Carson and Brian Hill are a big reason why many were confused when the Bengals used a fourth round draft pick on Mark Walton. Now it seems either Hill or Carson will end up being cut and neither player is making it easily onto the roster. Carson has slightly outplayed Hill, however Hill was actually drafted and higher thought of coming out of college, so that plays in his favor. Of course a big portion of being the team’s fourth running back is contributing on special teams, so the player who can do that better will likely be the one who runs away with the last running back spot.
5. Jeff Driskel
Backup quarterback was one of the biggest question marks coming into training camp with potentially three guys competing for one spot. However, Logan Woodside did not participate much in training camp so the competition came down to free agent signee Matt Barkley and third-year player Jeff Driskel. Throughout camp it seemed like neither was performing particularly well, but Barkley had the upper hand. However, that changed when they got into preseason action. Driskel has looked much more decisive and accurate than Barkley and if he can continue to do so in the next preseason game, he should take the backup spot. There’s also a chance the Bengals end up cutting every backup quarterback on the roster and going after a player someone else cuts as we get closer to the NFL season.