The Bengals have made moves to determine the 53-man roster. Now, it’s time to see what those cuts will mean for the 2017 campaign.
Over the course of the offseason, OTAs and training camp, the Bengals made moves that were surprising and thought-provoking. Free agent moves could be questioned and draft picks looked at with awe. Even the selection of speedy receiver John Ross made fans scratch their heads. But, it all leads back to the fact that this year will be different. Unlike years past, it seems there’s a premium on winning this season.
To say that the Bengals have never been in win-now mode would be blasphemous. Whenever a franchise has been to the playoffs as many times (recently) as the Bengals, something is being done right. Marvin Lewis and Duke Tobin have been instrumental in building a winner on the banks of the Ohio River. But, winning in the regular season isn’t enough. The NFL is all about big bucks, high-profile players and the ability to win the occasional playoff game and beyond. That’s what these cuts are about.
There were a few surprises. But, based on their preseason performances and how badly the Bengals need to win, their release was inevitable. The cuts made were ones that true fans knew were on the horizon.
Some Of The Reasoning
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When the Bengals made a move for Bene Benwikere, expectations were lukewarm. Personally, I wanted to see him do well after being torched in Carolina. But, it just wasn’t meant to be. He was never able to become the solid defender needed for the secondary.
If your expectations were to see Benwikere pushing out Adam Jones, please move to the back of the class. He was never going to start. He was insurance and depth in case Jones had a lengthy suspension. When he was burned like wheat toast in Week 4, his fate was sealed. The Dallas Cowboys gave the Bengals what they love–an unconditional draft pick–and happily took him off Paul Guenther’s hands.
Remember Margus Hunt? Most fans don’t. Soon, the same feeling will surround Will Clarke. He had flashes of becoming what the Bengals needed, but he never could get over the hump. When Kansas City Chiefs’ rookie QB Patrick Mahomes stiff-armed Clarke on a 3rd-and-1, his ticket was punched. Playtime is over. The awesome preseason performances of Jordan Ellis and Chris Smith also played a role in his departure.
He Put His Foot In It
The big surprise? Randy Bullock beating out Jake Elliott for the kicking gig. Marvin Lewis is usually a stickler for the rookies. If they don’t seriously impress in camp, they can squeeze out a year or two and get some NFL experience.
When Bullock missed the game-winning kick against Houston in Week 16, there was an immediate uproar from fans. But, throughout camp and with his performance during games, Bullock made the cut. Now, it’s time to find out what he can do in those close games.
Last season, the Bengals managed to lose five games that were closer than they should have been. Making those tough field goals could have pushed Cincinnati into the postseason. It’s Bullock’s time to shine.
This Is It
The roster is set, for now, and there’s a feeling of getting the job done. When the Ravens invade Paul Brown Stadium, the 53 men chosen to do battle will be scrutinized and possibly vilified. But, the choices have been made.
Lewis feels good about the latest version of the Cincinnati Bengals.
"“I think it came out very well. I think obviously some injuries shaped some things there toward the last couple weeks. But, I do think we addressed the things that, coming into the offseason, we felt were pertinent and important that we got done as we entered into the 2017 season. You’ve got to feel good about it. Most importantly, the guys that we’ve tapped have gone out there and performed. We can sit back and think about it, but they’ve got to go out and do it and obviously they’ve evidenced that to everybody.”"
It’s time to get into AFC North mode. The 53-man roster has been settled. Additionally, the crown competition could easily have to veer through Cincinnati.