Bengals roster bubble players who need big performances in preseason finale vs. Dolphins

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It’s now-or-never mode for Cincinnati Bengals players on the roster bubble.

The team plays its final preseason game Sunday against the Miami Dolphins and the team will quickly cut down the roster to 53 players by the following Tuesday.

By now, it seems pretty clear an undrafted name like Darius Hodge is through to the final roster — we’re on to guessing about his snap counts, not whether he makes it.

As for the rest of the bubble? These guys need big performances.

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

Williams' injury luck means he's fighting for a gig. While he's been out, rookie Chris Evans has put on a show and Pooka Williams and Jacques Patrick have also done well. We know Williams is very talented -- but the coaching staff might need some convincing after repeated injuries.

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

It seems like we can rule out the aforementioned Patrick. But Pooka is a different story -- he spent camp playing his usual spot at running back but also getting reps as a returner on special teams and as a slot wideout. He seems like a practice squad-type, but some big plays might change minds.

TE Thaddeus Moss

Aug 14, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Cincinnati Bengals tight end Thaddeus Moss (81) runs with the ball against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Has Moss shown enough? Two starters in front of him on the depth chart, plus Mason Schreck and Mitchell Wilcox, entered camp ahead of him. He's looked good as a blocker and made some plays, but he might need an extra boost if we're going to be talking about his prior LSU connection with Joe Burrow all season long.

WR Trent Taylor

Cincinnati Bengals receiver Trent Taylor (11) walks back to the line between plays during a training camp practice at the Paul Brown Stadium training field in downtown Cincinnati on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021.
Cincinnati Bengals Training Camp

Has Taylor done enough either? It sounds like Darius Phillips has won the punt-returner job. Taylor's shown well in the base offense and as a returner, but there are only so many spots behind the big three (+Auden Tate). That leaves two, maybe three spots and Taylor's got some big competition from the likes of Mike Thomas, Trenton Irwin and Stanley Morgan.

WR Trenton Irwin

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Trenton Irwin (16) stiff arms Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Eli Apple (20) as he runs down the line during the first day of training camp practices at the Paul Brown Stadium practice facility in downtown Cincinnati on Wednesday, July 28, 2021.
Cincinnati Bengals Training Camp

One would think Mike Thomas squeaks through and Stanley Morgan is valuable on special teams. But after some surprisingly good plays on offense in practices, Irwin could shake up the expected depth chart with a big play or two in the preseason finale, plus acquitting himself well on special teams.

OL Trey Hill

Cincinnati Bengals center Trey Hill runs a drill during an NFL football rookie minicamp in Cincinnati, Friday, May 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

Can the rookie make it? Veterans seem like the starters at guard with Mike Jordan, D'Ante Smith and Jackson Carman as backups. Billy Price could be the backup center who can also reinforce the guard spots. Hill has seen some notable preseason snaps, so there's an outside chance a strong showing in Week 3 could move him past Price.

DE Noah Spence

Nov 27, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Noah Spence (57) reacts after he sacks Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (not pictured) during the first quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals adding Spence after the season-ending injury to Joseph Ossai doesn't guarantee him a roster spot. With rookies like Cam Sample and the undrafted Darius Hodge able to contribute to the rotation, the late-arriving Spence might have a big hill to climb. It's not an ideal situation either way -- it would be best if Ossai was out there -- but Spence has a chance to prove he can fill the gap.

LB Markus Bailey

Aug 27, 2020; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bengals linebackers Markus Bailey(left)and Austin Calitro(47) knock down tight end Jordan Franks(88)during training camp at the teams practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Fans might not want to hear that Bailey is on the roster bubble, but it all comes down to how many 'backers the coaches want to keep. Logan Wilson, Germaine Pratt, Akeem Davis-Gaither and Jordan Evans seem like locks. Bailey could get a roster push from someone like Joe Bachie if he doesn't show well. He has, but the possibility is there.

CB Tony Brown

Cincinnati Bengals defensive back Tony Brown (27) against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half of an NFL preseason football game Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)

Brown could be losing a numbers game at corner after the arrivals of Eli Apple and Ricardo Allen, especially with Jalen Davis playing so well (Davis is in that Darius Hodge category of probably making the roster now). But the coaches love Brown's upside and ability as a backup, so he's still got a chance to make some noise.

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 was a turnover machine before coming over to the NFL but like Brown, he's starting to lose the numbers game. But it's all about production -- a big turnover and play or two could change things in a hurry.

K Austin Seibert

Cincinnati Bengals kicker Austin Seibert (3) kicks off during a mini camp practice inside of Paul Brown Stadium in downtown Cincinnati on Tuesday, June 15, 2021.
Cincinnati Bengals Mini Camp

At this point, we can pretty much write off Seibert. But if the rookie Evan McPherson collapses for some reason, the veteran needs to be there with a steady performance to give coaches something to think about on cut day.

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