Bengals News

3 Positional Roster Battles to Watch Tomorrow

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TUCSON, AZ - SEPTEMBER 17: Quarterback Brandon Dawkins #13 of the Arizona Wildcats rushes the football past defensive back Trayvon Henderson #39 of the Hawaii Warriors for 29 yards during the second quarter of the college football game at Arizona Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Tucson, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
TUCSON, AZ - SEPTEMBER 17: Quarterback Brandon Dawkins #13 of the Arizona Wildcats rushes the football past defensive back Trayvon Henderson #39 of the Hawaii Warriors for 29 yards during the second quarter of the college football game at Arizona Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Tucson, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /
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There will be some heated competition between players to make the final roster. These are three positions to watch closely when the Bengals play tomorrow.

The Bengals will host the Colts on Thursday in their last preseason game. The starters will not even see the field, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t important things to look for in this game. As the roster crunch fast approaches, there will be many players fighting for the last few spots. There are a few positions that have some extra degree of competition, though, which will be the most interesting to watch.

Safety

The starting safeties will likely not play, although it is possible that Jessie Bates will get some reps. Clayton Fejedelem may not even play. Expect to see Josh Shaw, Brandon Wilson, Trayvon Henderson, and Tyrice Beverette play most of the game. Shaw is the longest tenured of this group, but has seen his play slip in recent seasons. His play in the preseason has been solid, although he has been terrible on special teams. If Shaw can play well against Indy, he should be fine.

The biggest competition is between Brandon Wilson and Trayvon Henderson. The Bengals will likely keep five safeties, and either Wilson or Henderson would be the fifth. Wilson is an incredible athlete who could be a real asset on special teams. He still needs time to adjust to the safety position, but he needs to show some progress tomorrow.

Henderson, on the other hand, has refined ball skills and pass rushing. His performance in the preseason has been stellar, especially against Buffalo. He seems to be an excellent fit in Teryl Austin’s defensive scheme. If he can perform like Wilson on special teams, Henderson will have a strong case to make this roster. While it would be great to keep both safeties, the Bengals will likely have to choose between the two.

Middle Linebacker

This is a two-man race, although this battle has just as much to do with special teams as it does with linebacker. Aside from these two backers, Hardy Nickerson and Junior Joseph, players like Brandon Bell and Chris Worley will also get some work tomorrow. However, the focus should be on Nickerson and Joseph, who have both been solid throughout the preseason.

Nickerson and Joseph have been the best Bengals on special teams so far. Since both are excellent special teamers, the difference will come down to their defense. Nickerson is a great tackler who has great play recognition. Marvin Lewis described Nickerson as a “calming influence” on the field, which is high praise for a backup. Joseph is also a great tackler, but has competency in pass protection as well. Look for the game tomorrow to be the difference maker, although Nickerson likely has a slight advantage right now.

Running Back

This is a position we’ve discussed at length, but tomorrow will be a critical game in determining which backup running backs are the best to keep. Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard will not play, which leaves several guys fighting for one or two spots. Chief among them is Mark Walton, who has struggled mightily so far. Walton has rushed for 2 yards on 12 carries, which is humiliating. On more work, Walton needs to show the Bengals something in order for him to stick on this roster.

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The biggest competition, aside from Walton against himself, is Tra Carson versus Brian Hill. Both have been impressive to this point, and have played very comparably. Carson has ran very powerfully and efficiently, while Hill has been shifty as a rusher and a receiver. Carson gives the Bengals a different look at running back, while Hill has more versatility as a running back. Both could very realistically make this roster, but the Bengals will have to pick which skill set they prefer. This will be a tough decision.

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