Although we knew many of the roster spots before the initial Cincinnati Bengals roster was announced, there were still a few surprises. Some of these moves lead to more questions.
By making these surprise roster moves, Cincinnati is taking some risks in several areas of the team. Offense, defense, and special teams each have an element of “a leap of faith” relating to roster construction.
Here are four gambles the Bengals are taking with their 53-man roster cuts.
4. Punt return
One of the most difficult decisions on the part of the Bengals’ brass was to release wide receiver and punt returner Trent Taylor, as he is one of the best at returning punts in the NFL. He led the NFL with the most punt returns over 20 yards in 2022. His 10.3-yard average per return ranked fourth in the league.
The Bengals are counting on rookie wideout Charlie Jones to take over punt return duties. Jones is, without a doubt, a reliable returner. Last year at Purdue, he averaged 6.3 yards on 18 returns. However, if Jones is a better option than Taylor is questionable. In the preseason, Taylor averaged 14.5 yards per return, while Jones averaged 5.4.
Jones is reported to be fighting through a shoulder injury, per Kelsey Conway. Hopefully, the rookie can manage playing with the pain. However, returning punts in the NFL is difficult enough without having to play through what was described as a torn labrum. Week 1 may not be an issue. Week 10 in November could be a different story.
Cincinnati is gambling on Jones as the starting punt returner. They are also taking a chance on Trenton Irwin or Tyler Boyd becoming the primary option if Jones can’t go for some reason.
Because of their roles on offense, Boyd and Irwin serving as the primary punt returners if Jones is not available would not be ideal. That could be a factor in why the team signed Demetric Felton to the practice squad. He has 39 career attempts with an average of 6.9 yards per return.
The team took a gamble that Jones is healthy enough and that his punt return abilities are sufficient to be as good as or better than Taylor’s.