Can Alex Erickson do in the regular season what he's done in the preseason?

Posted at 3:45 PM, Sep 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-05 13:59:58-04

This week, John Fay is getting answers to nine questions the Bengals face heading into the regular season. This is the second of the series.

CINCINNATI -- Can Alex Erickson do in the regular season what he’s done in the preseason?

Erickson was unquestionably the Bengals' star in the preseason. His 80-yard punt return for a touchdown against Minnesota was the highlight of the exhibitions.

Erickson is a feel-good story as well. He’s an undrafted free agent out of Wisconsin. He was the only undrafted player to make the 53-man roster. He’s a bit undersized at 6-foot, 195 pounds.

He got the ultimate compliment from Marvin Lewis: “He showed what he’s shown throughout his career at Wisconsin: That he makes football plays. I think he’s a really good football player.”

QUESTION 1: How will Bengals fare without Eifert?

Erickson returned six punts in the preseason and averaged 30.8 yards a pop. He has a good burst and knack for avoiding the first wave of tacklers. He was also the team’s second leading receiver in the preseason, with seven catches for 77 yards and two TDs. His three TDs overall tied him for the NFL lead in the preseason.

For the regular season, punt returning will be key.

“A key thing is that he has been decisive,” special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons said. “He’s made up his mind where he wants to go and has done it, and he hasn’t gone down on just a little contact. ... Maybe we’ve got something here. We’ll see.”

Erickson was a star at Wisconsin and in high school. Erickson caught 77 passes for 978 yards last year at Wisconsin. He rushed for 111 yards on seven attempts. He was a quarterback in high school, where he ran for 57 TDs and threw for 37 more.

He seems a bit ill-at-ease with all the attention he’s gotten so far.

“It is what it is,” Erickson said. “It’s been fun to get out there and play.”

John Fay is a freelance sports columnist; this column represents his opinion.