The Bengals have a lot of tough decisions coming up in regards to who is going to make the 53-man roster.
Unlike previous years, it is a little bit of a mystery what way the coaching staff will go in terms of certain cuts. With a new coaching staff, it will be interesting to see what things are prioritized in terms of final cuts.
However, even now the final decisions are not made, and there are still spots to be won. Cuts are coming up after the third preseason game, so this will be some player’s final chance to impress the coaches.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the five Bengals players who need to impress the most in the third preseason game.
1. Brandon Wilson
A big time speedster, Wilson has a lot of untapped potential as a player but is still extremely raw. If he was pushed into a position where he had to start, the Bengals would find themselves in a very unfavorable position. With that in mind, though, Wilson has one of the best chances of the five players on this list to make the team. This is largely due to the fact that Wilson is a great special teams player, and longtime special teams coach Darrin Simmons has stuck around with the new coaching staff. Under Simmons, the Bengals have placed an emphasis on special teams and there is no reason that that would change now, which will help Brandon Wilson make the team.
2. Damion Willis
On the opposite hand is Willis, someone who might not make the team because of the importance of special teams ability to the Bengals. Cody Core has stuck around for a couple of years now largely due to his special teams ability, and that seems likely to continue. Even though he has outperformed Core as a receiver, it would be going against normal trends for Willis to make the team over Core. This could be one of the positions where we seethe difference between Zac Taylor and Marvin Lewis’ roster construction, or this could be just like usual with Core making the team. Even if Willis doesn’t make the team, he and Stanley Morgan should both get practice squad offers.
3. Mason Schreck
It is impossible to talk about back of the roster battles and not talk about special teams, especially on the Bengals. Schreck is a good player who has flashed before and actually looked on track to make the team last year before his injury. This year though, after the resigning of Eifert and Uzomah, and the drafting of Sample, Schreck may not make the cut. Cethan Carter, while not performing as well as a receiver as Schreck does, is once again a better special teamer than Schreck possibly pushing him off the roster. This is definitely one of the roster battles to watch, but as of now it looks like Carter’s spot to lose.
4. Jeff Driskel
This spot entirely comes down to whether the Bengals want to keep two or three quarterbacks. Driskel played decently in several games as the starter last season after Andy Dalton went down, but then the Bengals drafted Ryan Finley in the fourth round and put some pressure on Driskel. It was looking like Driskel would stick around with the team when Finley had a slow start to camp. In the first two preseason games, however, Finley has looked very sharp and more than capable of being Andy Dalton’s backup. With that in consideration Driskel has to provide the Bengals a reason to keep him around, whether that is in a versatility role, to help on special teams, or something else.
5. Davontae Harris
It would be weird for the Bengals to cut a fifth-round pick so soon into his career, but the Bengals have a very crowded cornerback room. In Dre Kirkpatrick, Jackson III, Webb, and Dennard, there are four roster locks or near locks with Darius Phillips and Tony McRae easy favorites to secure the last two spots. With McRae being one of the team’s best special teamers and Phillips playing well on special teams as a tackler and a returner it would be tough for Harris to make the roster. Especially when Phillips and McRae both filled in for Dennard last season and both played very well in relief. Harris may not be a bad player and more just a victim of the circumstances.
It is nearly impossible to guess exactly who the Bengals like, especially with the new coaching staff in place. With the hints that are available though it is possible to make a good approximation of who will stick around.
The thing is that things could change at any point and the third preseason game is prime proving grounds for players to earn their shot in the NFL. The Bengals will have to cut a lot of talented players, and I would like to wish good luck to every NFL player trying to get their shot this upcoming set of games.