The Cincinnati Bengals had two promising running backs on their practice squad yesterday, but today, they’re both gone.
Sometimes having a deep roster can actually be a weakness. The Bengals had one of the NFL’s deepest running back groups in 2015, fielding Jeremy Hill, Giovani Bernard, Rex Burkhead and special teams ace Cedric Peerman on their 53-man roster.
But in keeping Burkhead and Peerman on its roster, Cincinnati was forced to stash two promising running backs on the practice squad. And they paid the price.
On Wednesday, James Wilder Jr. signed a reserve/future contract with the Buffalo Bills and Terrell Watson signed with the Cleveland Browns.
Wilder will likely have a tough time vying for playing time in Buffalo, as LeSean McCoy, Karlos Williams, Anthony Dixon and Mike Gillislee all contributing in 2015, but Watson could have a real opportunity to shine for a Browns team that has struggled running the ball for years.
Terrell Watson may be an under-the-radar player to many, but the small school standout could take the NFL by storm next season. In signing with Cleveland, Watson will be reuniting with head coach Hue Jackson, who was the Bengals’ offensive coordinator this season and their running backs coach in previous seasons.
Whether it’s Watson who loves Jackson, Jackson who sees promise in Watson or a mutually positive relationship between the two, one thing is clear: this could be a huge opportunity for Terrell Watson–and potentially, a huge loss for the Cincinnati Bengals.
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Watson rushed for 5,947 yards and 78 touchdowns in four seasons at Azusa Pacific University (Division II). The small-school back impressed scouts with “
.” Watson was the first running back from Azusa Pacific to sign with an NFL team since 1989 NFL rushing leader and two-time Pro BowlerChristian Okoye
, one of the NFL’s most powerful backs of all-time.
And like Okoye, Watson has a huge frame (6’1, 239 pounds) and surprising speed. Watson ran a 4.51 40-yard dash and benched 22 reps (225 pounds).
Watson is an incredibly explosive runner, whose only knock coming into the draft was a lack of experience. With a year of improvement under his belt, Watson is likely much more familiar with NFL schemes, blocking and catching passes.
It’s entirely possible that Hue Jackson has more confidence in Watson than incumbent Browns starter, Isaiah Crowell. If Watson is given the chance to start and wins the job, he could become a star. Don’t take this lightly–I watched him run through defenses for two years, and I’m confident that given an opportunity, the former Bengal will shine.
As for Wilder, only time will tell whether he’ll be able to climb Buffalo’s depth chart or latch on elsewhere. For now, Watson is the guy to keep an eye on.