It isn’t easy being a player on the bubble of a 53-man NFL roster.
Your job security is nonexistent, and the idea that your NFL dream could be over at almost any instant during the season looms large. Worst of all, fans constantly look at you with the largest magnifying glass when their training camp darling doesn’t make the team.
This is the life that Cody Core has lived for the last three seasons with the Bengals. His spot has never been guaranteed, and now with Zac Taylor as the new head coach, that hill may be a slightly higher climb.
Hometown: Auburn, AL
Experience: Entering his fourth season
Core is entering his fourth and final season of his rookie contract. He is set to have a $720,000 base salary, according to Sportrac. Core will have a $751,983 cap hit in 2019, and will be an unrestricted free agent following the season.
Core had a solid career at Ole Miss. Most of his receiving stats came during his final two seasons when he caught 78 passes for 1,202 receiving and 10 touchdowns. He also had 20 tackles on special teams during his time in Oxford.
The Bengals took a shot on Core in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, and his rookie year he caught 17 passes for 200 yards, which is still a career high for yards for him. In 2017, he didn’t record a single catch. Last season was highlighted by his first receiving touchdown of his career along with another 13 receptions for 130 yards.
Special teams is where Core makes his mark though. He has seven special team tackles since joining the Bengals, and he has been a staple at the gunner position.
If Core makes the team it won’t be due to his offensive talent, so you shouldn’t expect a sudden outburst in offensive statistics from him even with Green’s injury opening up more snaps for the depth receivers.
Hopefully, Core will be able to make a mark on special teams, but keep your expectations low on him making an impact on the box score. That isn’t the most important thing for a player in Core’s position, though.
Aside from an unlikely contract extension, Darrin Simmons returning as Cincinnati’s special teams coordinator was the best news Core could’ve gotten this offseason. With Simmons remaining in the fold, Core should at least have the advantage on young players trying to make the roster via special teams.
Auden Tate returns as well for his second year and figures to battle Core for one of the last receiving spots. Last season Core edged out Tate based on special teams contributions, but coaches have talked about loving Tate in the red zone, and assistant special teams coordinator Brayden Coombs talked about him not needing blazing speed to contribute on special teams. That may end up working against Core come September.
You could make the argument that even Josh Malone could be thrown in the competition for the final two receiving spots with Tate, Core and their undrafted free agents (Stanley Morgan Jr. and Damion Willis), who shouldn’t be considered out of the running either by any means. Morgan and Willis are actually having good camps, so it’s getting harder to see Core holding on to his roster sport.
Ultimately, Core’s spot may depend entirely on how well the bottom of the receiver depth chart performs in training camp and the preseason, as well as how Tate looks on special teams.
Green’s injury does make it pretty likely that the Bengals will keep seven receivers on their 53-man roster, which is nothing but good news for Core. The class of 2016 is still holding on strong, and Core has survived three offseasons with the rest of the class. Let’s not count him out just yet.
Roster odds: 60%