With cuts looming, Bengals turn up the intensity

Jake Kumerow came into his second Bengals training camp with higher hopes than a year ago when the receiver position was much more crowded.

After a strong preseason in 2015, the undrafted free agent spent his first year on the practice squad and was expected to contend for a roster spot this season among a thin receiver group.

Now, time could be running out for him and the new class of undrafted players who also are trying to stick around as the first round of cuts approaches.

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Kumerow has yet to play in a preseason game because of a hamstring injury, which is now healed, but the third preseason game — Sunday at Jacksonville — is one where the starters play the most. The roster will be cut to 75 on Tuesday and the final cut to 53 will be made Sept. 3.

“Having been through it already, I came back with more confidence in myself and with what’s going on, so I definitely had higher expectations for myself,” said Kumerow, who started his college career as a walk-on at Illinois before finishing strong at Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater. “Just trying to get on the field is the main thing right now.”

That makes practices especially important this week, Kumerow said, because playing time could be more limited for non-starters Sunday.

Coach Marvin Lewis said he doesn’t have a pre-determined snap count for his starters, but noted the long break between last Thursday’s game at Detroit and Sunday’s game at Jacksonville does allow him to give young players more reps in practice this week than they might otherwise have gotten leading into Game 3.

Still, it’s time to turn up the intensity a little more.

“There’s always a little bit of pressure when you’re out there on the field because you always want to do good and make plays, but with cuts coming up, there’s definitely a little more pressure for all of us young guys,” said Kumerow, who is not one of the top three at either receiver spot on the current depth chart. “I try not to think about it. I just go out and do what they tell me to do and try to do it to the best of my ability.”

Those who make it through the first cuts will get plenty more opportunity next week as starters are held out most of the final preseason game.

Undrafted rookie Alex Erickson, a 6-foot, 195-pound receiver out of Wisconsin, said his approach is the same as its been since Day 1.

“Every day is a chance to impress,” said Erickson, who can return punts and also has three catches for 12 yards and a touchdown while playing 44 offensive snaps in two preseason games. “Every day is an interview, so you’ve got to come to work every day ready to work and you’ve got to be able to execute. I’ll just keep doing that and control what I can control.”

Offensive lineman Trip Thurman, who went undrafted out of Florida, could see more snaps than most other rookies based on his ability to play different positions.

He’s seen reps in practice at his familiar guard and center positions, but also has been working out at tackle to help fill the void left by injured Jake Fisher (knee, ankle) and Cedric Ogbuehi (foot).

“It’s unfortunate Jake and Ced are out,” Thurman said. “I really don’t know the playing time right now, but if I’m able to play tackle, center or guard this coming game, I’ve got to just make the most of my opportunities because you don’t know how many more you have.”

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