Bengals bubble watch: James Wright

July, 17, 2014
Jul 17
6:00
PM ET
Late last month and earlier this month we began taking a look at 11 Cincinnati Bengals who could soon be on the dreaded training camp roster bubble. Camp opens next Thursday.

We had a bit of an interruption, but we're finishing off the bubble watch right here. Each of the players on this list were ones 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.

Here are links to the 10 players who we already analyzed: Taylor Mays,Brandon Tate, James Wilder Jr., Cobi Hamilton, J.K. Schaffer, Dontay Moch, Sam Montgomery, Jayson DiManche, Rex Burkhead and BenJarvus-Green-Ellis.

Up right now: James Wright.

Why he's on the bubble: If you happened to catch this story on our Bengals blog earlier this week, you'll know exactly why Wright should and perhaps shouldn't be on the bubble at receiver. Since this section has to do with answering the question "why he's on the bubble?" though, we'll only discuss that. By virtue of his draft position -- seventh round, 239th overall -- and the fact that the depth chart ahead of him already is mostly set, Wright finds himself in roster limbo. But although he was a low-round pickup who plays a position where the Bengals were already deep, he still turned enough heads in minicamps and organized team activities this spring to have a legitimate shot at making the 53-man roster. Considering he hadn't caught a pass in a game since 2012 the rookie was rather consistent on offense in the spring, snatching most everything thrown his way in both intermediate and deep passing drills. In college at LSU he also was lauded as a special-teamer who reveled in recording tackles on coverage teams and forcing and recovering turnovers. That special-teams background will serve him well.

What he has to do to get off the bubble: As long as Wright meets expectations on special teams in practices and preseason games, he has little reason to be concerned with being on the proverbial bubble. Cincinnati, like all NFL teams, is constantly seeking ways to bolster its coverage units with intelligent tacklers. Wright could provide them with that, even if he doesn't catch a pass all preseason. Having said that, though, he still would be best served to pick right up where he left off in the spring, and continue to catch passes that come his way beginning next Thursday.

Odds he makes the team: High. Bengals coaches seem to really like Wright, and from what I saw in minicamp and OTAs, I'm sold. While Wright would factor in the Bengals' numbers at receiver, he also could take the spot of a linebacker or defensive back who also would be making the team primarily for special-teams purposes. And who knows? That could eventually turn into offensive opportunities. Longtime special-teams standout Vincent Rey kept plugging away on those units before finally having a chance to play meaningful snaps in place of the injured Rey Maualuga last year. When Rey was inserted at middle linebacker for parts of those four games, he took full advantage. He ended up posting career highs in sacks and interceptions, and sent a message to management that it had to try to re-sign him when free agency rolled around earlier this offseason. Wright could be next in Cincinnati's line of special-teams additions who took advantage of playing on the unit to earn other breaks.

Coley Harvey

ESPN Cincinnati Bengals reporter

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