The Bengals’ 2019 season is officially dead. With that sobering thought in mind, Zac Taylor’s team should look ahead to the future by scouting soon to be available free agents, and 2020 NFL Draft prospects.
However, on top of scouting players on other teams the Bengals are also going to have to do some self-scouting to see who on their roster is worth keeping around for the long haul. For some areas, it could be decided whether they need to add a new player in the draft or not in these last eight weeks.
Regardless, the Bengals need to have a firm understanding of the level of talent that they have now. So these are the five players the Bengals need to make sure get more snaps by the end of the season. (Note: Ryan Finley was not included because he has already been named the starter for the next game)
1. Germaine Pratt
Pratt was someone that a lot of Bengals fans were excited about finally bringing athleticism to a linebacker group who desperately needed it. Also, unlike their last linebacker selection he actually looked like he knew how to play football when he was on the field.
While his athletic profile is far from perfect it suggests he should be a lot better than the guys the Bengals are trotting out there now. Despite that, he continues to not see snaps and it is disheartening that even with how bad the Bengals linebackers are he is still not playing. With that in mind though it is time for that to change. If Pratt can play well, it lowers the Bengals need for linebacker—though it doesn’t get rid of it completely.
2. Brandon Wilson
Wilson has largely been playing well this season which has been one of the most shocking surprises so far. Wilson was drafted in the sixth-round largely for what he brought on special teams being thought of as far off in terms of actually being able to help on defense. While he is still far from perfect he has made splash plays on both special teams and defense and should continue to see snaps to see if this can translate to continued success.
Having Wilson continue to develop into a solid player would be a very good development for this defense considering the athleticism he has and the lack of athleticism the Bengals have as a whole.
3. Drew Sample
The athletic second-round pick at tight end was a confusing one with C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Eifert both re-signed including Uzomah inking a three-year deal. It has been even more confusing since as Sample and really none of the tight ends have been big parts of this offense.
Sample is an athletic playmaker and could be a key to what should be a deadly offense with improved quarterback play if he can live up to hit lofty draft status and athletic profile. While the Bengals likely won’t address the tight end position early no matter what happens, Sample could be a key part of their future offense and seeing what he has could be key to building their offensive game plan in 2020.
4. Trayveon Williams
Regardless of how bad the blocking is it has not been Joe Mixon’s year in 2019 and on top of that, the discussion on running back value and it is difficult to make a case for extending him. Before they potentially let Mixon walk or feel confident in not adding another back, seeing how the depth performs is crucial.
Williams is a good player who should continue to see snaps as the season goes on to make the Bengals feel comfortable in their running back room. If Williams plays well and Anderson comes back healthy in 2020 the Bengals will have a running back room where any of the members could start and be successful.
5. Jonah Williams / John Ross III
These two are lumped together because of their similar situation in being injured and potentially coming back late in the season. If they come back sometime soon, both players should be inserted immediately into the starting lineup for evaluation purposes. Ross looked good to start the year, but it would be a good idea to get him more reps both for his confidence and hopefully his long-term health (don’t rush him back either). Seeing what this offense can do with Green, Ross, and Boyd could be an indicator of what they can expect next year with a new quarterback.
Williams, on the other hand, hasn’t played at all and while I have full confidence he will be alright, the Bengals need to get him acclimated into the NFL and seeing what the offensive line can do when everyone is healthy.
If Williams ends up being a solid option at left tackle and Trey Hopkins is retained at center in the offseason, the Bengals would really only have to address the right tackle and left guard spots to round out a solid offensive line. Even for the Bengals, this should be achievable in one year even when taking a quarterback in the first round.