Making the final roster in the NFL is a pretty hard thing to do. It has especially been harder these past couple seasons with the pandemic getting rid of the preseason one year and only having three games this season. Every chance for these bubble players to actually get on the field is incredibly valuable.
We will be taking a look at which of these bubble players have the most to gain for the Cincinnati Bengals going against the Miami Dolphins. Some of them are pushing for a higher spot on the depth chart and some are trying to fight their way onto one of the last roster spots or the practice squad.
Jalen Davis, cornerback
Davis is a journeyman corner who has had quite the preseason with Cincinnati so far. In an offseason where the team brought in names like Mike Hilton, Chidobe Awuzie and Eli Apple, Davis has flown under the radar.
In his first preseason games he had two pass breakups that were tipped up into interceptions. Then he had a couple of really good tackles in the second game. He isn’t in danger of taking a spot away from Awuzie or Hilton, but it will be interesting to see how the competition between Apple, Davis and Darius Phillips plays out.
It is possible all of them will be kept on the roster with Trae Waynes suffering another hamstring injury. However, Davis could work his way up that depth chart pretty easily with yet another strong performance this week.
Pooka Williams, Running back/wide receiver
Williams has been an interesting prospect for this offense. We have seen him get work at running back, wide receiver and even returner during camp.
It is hard to see Williams make the final roster, but right now it could be more of if he has shown enough to get a spot on the practice squad. Even with the first team offense getting some run this game, we should see plenty of the lower depth chart play this week on offense. One of the issues with Williams is we haven’t seen too much from him yet.
Chris Evans and Jacques Patrick have dominated the running back snaps so far. Williams only got one snap against Washington in Week 2. Hopefully he gets more this week to show he is worth keeping around.
D’Ante Smith, Jackson Carman and Michael Jordan, Offensive line
These three are stuck in a battle for the starting positions, but they have seemingly lost out to Quinton Spain and Xavier Su’a-Filo for now. Zac Taylor has been clear that this will be a constant competition through the season, which makes these game reps extremely important for these young players.
Jordan needs not introduction to Cincinnati fans after he was the lineman who was blamed for Joe Burrow’s injury. He has looked very much improved with an offseason under offensive line coach Frank Pollack.
Carman was selected in the second round of this year's draft to start at right guard, but he hasn’t picked it up enough yet after trying to make the switch from playing left tackle at Clemson.
Smith was a rookie that was taken as more of a project player who had to work on getting his weight up, but he played early in the team’s first preseason game after the coaches hyped him up. However, he missed Week 2 with a dehydration issue. Another strong outing could determine how quickly he takes a starting spot in the future.
All three of these young offensive linemen will play most of the game. They all have clearly bought into what Pollack has been preaching. It seems like it is more of a matter of when than if one of these guys takes a starting spot.
Mike Thomas and Trent Taylor, wide receivers
Playing the numbers game, Cincinnati is probably keeping Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins, Ja’Marr Chase, Auden Tate and Stanley Morgan (special team reasons). It is now a matter of whether the team will keep six or seven receivers. Thomas and Taylor are surely fighting for that sixth spot and maybe pushing the team to keep a seventh receiver as well.
Taylor has the added value as a punt returner, but he is far from the most dynamic option. He has however looked good in the slot when given the opportunity.
Thomas spent 2020 on the Bengals roster. However, he has been a mixed bag of good and bad so far. We have seen him be a reliable receiver for this team, but he also fumbled this preseason. It seems that Thomas has a higher ceiling than Taylor as a fifth or sixth wide receiver, but is reliability more valuable at that spot?
Also, Trenton Irwin is worth mentioning in this battle as well.
Ja’Marr Chase, Wide receiver
This is more about gaining confidence than gaining or losing his spot. He had a bit og the yips against Washington with three drops, but he has looked good at practice since then. Having at least a catch from Burrow should do quite a bit for his confidence going into the regular season where he will be relied on quite a bit with Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins.