6 hardest cuts for Bengals’ projected 53-man roster

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After two preseason games, the Cincinnati Bengals next have to trim the roster to 80 players before the finale.

Those exhibitions provided some more clarity on the progression of battles across the roster, so it makes for a good time to step back and outline where things stand.

In the wake of our latest 53-man roster projection, we decided to highlight the most difficult cuts below.

RB Trayveon Williams

Bengals running back Trayveon Williams led the SEC in rushing yards (1,760) and touchdowns (18) in 2018.
Cincinnati Bengals Training Camp

We experimented with keeping just three running backs on the first 53, the idea being that they can stash one or two on the practice squad for a quick call-up. Still, it stings to lose a player as talented as Williams, but he just hasn't been able to stay healthy, including this summer. Draftee Chris Evans, meanwhile, has looked every bit the part of a RB2.

RB Pooka Williams

Cincinnati Bengals receiver Pooka Williams Jr. (36) catches a pass during an OTA practice at the Paul Brown Stadium practice field in downtown Cincinnati on Tuesday, June 1, 2021.
Cincinnati Bengals Ota

Likewise, it hurts to lose Pooka, provided another team comes in and swoops him up off the practice squad. He's worked hard to learn returning kicks on special teams and playing like a wideout in the base offense and there's big long-term potential with him. But the top three on the depth chart are good and will eat all of the snaps.

WR Mike Thomas

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Mike Thomas (80) and cornerback Winston Rose (39) go for a pass during Cincinnati Bengals training camp at the Paul Brown Stadium practice field in downtown Cincinnati on Friday, Aug. 21, 2020.
Cincinnati Bengals Training Camp

We kept a big number of wideouts on our 53 but Thomas just misses the cut. He's got the Zac Taylor connection but Trent Taylor looks good on special teams and in the base offense and Trenton Irwin is a versatile backup who has impressed in camp.

TE Mason Schreck

Aug 1, 2017; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals tight end Mason Schreck (86) makes a catch during Cincinnati Bengals training camp practice on the practice fields at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kareem Elgazzar/The Cincinnati Enquirer via USA TODAY NETWORK

We also opted to keep a smaller number of tight ends than usual. Schreck hasn't helped himself with drops in practices while Thaddeus Moss excels, but he's still a superb backup-type player it hurts to lose. The saving grace, if any, is that he might have a small bit of trade value before cut-down day.

DL Renell Wren

Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Renell wren participates during practice at the team's NFL football facility, Wednesday, June 12, 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Wren is one of the biggest what if? situations on the roster. His physical upside is absurd, but he hasn't been able to stay healthy. The Bengals got some insurance against this type of problem with several additions this offseason. In our 53-man projections, we kept a double-digit number of defensive linemen as it is, and yet losing Wren hurts.

CB Winston Rose

Oct 25, 2020; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bengals defensive back Winston Rose (39) dances with cornerback LeShaun Sims (38) before the game against the Cleveland Browns at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Rose looks like a better player this year and is still that ball-hawking guy who made waves in the CFL before coming over to the NFL. But he's losing the numbers game thanks to new arrivals like Eli Apple -- plus the sudden must-see breakout of Jalen Davis.

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