- Coley Harvey, ESPN Staff Writer
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For the next four days we're taking a look at Cincinnati Bengals who could be on the dreaded training camp roster bubble later this summer. These are players whom we think you should expect to see fighting for spots when the eventual 75-man preseason roster gets trimmed to the regular-season 53.
As permitted by league rules, the roster currently stands at 89.
We're not going in any particular order. After looking at Taylor Mays, Brandon Tate, J.K. Schaffer, Cobi Hamilton, Rex Burkhead, James Wilder Jr. and Dontay Moch, we look at linebacker Jayson DiManche:
Why he's on the bubble: If there's one player on this list of 11 "bubble" players who has the best chance to make the team, DiManche could be it. Since it's likely he'll see time this year at strongside linebacker as well as the middle linebacker spot, there ought to be a place for him on the 53-man roster. Besides, DiManche was lauded as a special-teamer last season, factoring in one of the best special-teams plays of 2013. His blocked punt against Cleveland contributed to a massive momentum shift and the eventual 41-20 rout that came after the Bengals started down 13-0. Still, DiManche gets on the bubble for a second straight year simply because he's a reserve defender who could have a tough time separating himself from the pack this year. Vincent Rey will surely take snaps away from DiManche, as could Schaffer. Competition with Sean Porter, Brandon Joiner, and rookies Marquis Flowers and James Davidson could challenge DiManche, too.
What he has to do to get off the bubble: DiManche has to make his mark on special teams during training camp. If he can continue showcasing the big impact he can have in that area of the game, he'll end up locking down a roster spot for himself. The defensive opportunities will come, but as we've mentioned before, the days of the Bengals -- and a lot of other teams for that matter -- exclusively using strongside linebackers are gone. We saw it last season when James Harrison had difficulty getting on the field. Since so many offenses are going to more spread formations, nickel defenses are becoming much more the norm. As a result, the strongside linebacker gets used less and less, which means DiManche and others won't be seeing as much action at that spot as they might have in years past. As long as he plays solid enough defense and has real impact on special teams, DiManche will ensure he won't be going anywhere.
Odds he makes the team: High. I'm pretty sure I'll never forget DiManche's joyous reaction to the news last August that the Bengals wanted to keep him. As coach Marvin Lewis made the career-defining phone call, HBO's "Hard Knocks" cameras rolled in DiManche's hotel room. Once he happily accepted Lewis' update, DiManche called his "Mommy," who could barely contain her emotions. It was certainly quality television and one of those moments when as you watched, the room around you suddenly got dusty and your eyes began inexplicably watering. It's always cool to see someone accomplish a dream. The drama around DiManche shouldn't be as high this year, but still, he' has to put in the work or he won't make the team this year.