1. Raymond Johnson III
Preseason games are important. They are also fun because they give us our first look at recent draft picks. They give us an idea of what the depth charts look like when no official depth chart is available. They offer a glimpse into how players will be used once the season starts.
As we try to romanticize what preseason games should be while justifying their existence, players like Raymond Johnson III prove that the preseason does not actually matter when it comes to who makes the initial roster.
Last season, Raymond Johnson III played well enough to earn a spot on the final 53-man roster. He did everything one could expect of him. This preseason was no different. His hustle, production, and versatility were on display again.
Johnson finished the game versus the Atlanta Falcons with 0.5 sacks, tied for the most takedowns with five tackles, and led the team with three quarterback hits. Against the Packers, he had three tackles, one forced fumble, and was the only player to record a sack.
Johnson leads the team in the preseason with 1.5 sacks and eight tackles.
If the 25-year-old Johnson were a 2022 or 2023 draft pick, everyone would be raving about how far he’s come along, the number of times he’s flashed, getting to the quarterback versus first-round offensive linemen from a year ago, and any other cliches and standard talking points we hear while discussing draft picks.
Johnson is a force to be dealt with as a rush defender. Also, his versatility and ability to rush the passer from the defensive end and tackle spots would be highlighted when it comes to Johnson, crickets.
So, will Johnson make the final roster? The answer is, in all likelihood, no. Moreover, the only way he will be on the active gameday roster is due to injury.
Johnson deserves a better fate than the practice squad. Sometimes the NFL is a meritocracy. Other times, it is not.
The Bengals need to make room for Johnson on the final 53-man roster. Unfortunately, “the numbers” make this highly unlikely, while the numbers that should count suggest he should.
Like Lassiter and Taylor, Cincinnati should not see Johnson as a sure thing to make the practice squad.
The Bengals will have several tough decisions to make on Tuesday. When the coaches are finished, they must make room for Raymond Johnson III, Trent Taylor, or Kwamie Lassiter II.