The Bengals have made their first round of cuts, ridding themselves of the likes of Jayson DiManche (LB), Zach Hocker (K), Joe Licata (QB), Jeff Luc (FB), and Antwane Grant (WR). These cuts did little to stem the tide of the most competitive position battle this far in the preseason – wide receiver. Let’s take a look at how this is going to impact the players on the bubble.
First things first, I am impressed with the battle these youngsters are engaged in. I thought that wide receiver was going to be a tough position to hash out, and they have not made it easy. We can count on AJ Green, Tyler Boyd, and Brandon LaFell as locks. Brandon LaFell has not impressed thus far, but he is a seasoned veteran that will contribute and should be a good influence in the locker room. This leaves James Wright, Mario Alford, Cody Core, Alex Erickson, Jake Kumerow and Rashaun Simonise on the bubble.
Of those players, I see Simonise headed to the practice squad, a very good receiver with a ton of raw talent but needing some more experience. Assuming the Bengals keep six receivers on the 53-man roster, that leaves five players competing for three spots. Alex Erickson will make the team. In fact, he could make the team over Brandon Tate (which is why I don’t have Tate as a lock). He is a solid return man, a very good possession receiver, and younger than Tate. Could this spell the end of the line for everyone’s favorite receiver (that was tongue-in-cheek)? We shall see. I don’t see Erickson going to the practice squad – he won’t make it there. His big plays this preseason have garnered him too much attention, and I’m relatively confident in saying some other team will claim him before he hits the practice squad.
So, in my eyes, Erickson is on the team. Now we have Alford, Core, Kumerow, and Wright competing for two spots. Who has shown better in the preseason? Of those four, Core has shown well – he had a very good 53-yard catch against the Jaguars and has put in rather solid work in practice. I think he makes the team; making it Kumerow vs. Alford vs. Wright. I give the edge to James Wright with this caveat – he has had injury issues. I believe he has the talent and the skill to make a difference in this offense. Alford has speed, but he has the misfortune of being the main competitor to Alex Erickson. Kumerow is a big receiver with decent hands, but he is competing with Cody Core.
My projection is a wide receiving corps of Green, LaFell, Boyd, Erickson, Core, and Wright (again, if the Bengals keep six receivers). With Simonise on the practice squad we could see either Kumerow or Alford making the practice squad if the team has two. The absolute wild card is Brandon Tate. What if Marvin and crew keep Tate? Core or Wright are the first two receivers on the chopping block. That is why predicting the final practice squad spot is very difficult.
The bottom line is that the Bengals are in surprisingly good shape at the receiver position, especially after losing Marvin Jones and Mo Sanu. It is nice to have this kind of problem, and I’m sure there are plenty of teams who would trade positions with the Bengals and have to make this difficult call.