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Bengals clear path for two-QB offense with Josh Johnson's release

After releasing Josh Johnson, the Bengals should give AJ McCarron more playing time in the final two preseason games. Aaron Doster/USA TODAY Sports

CINCINNATI -- One day after their 25-11 loss at Tampa Bay, the Cincinnati Bengals cut a trio of reserves as they start whittling their way down to the regular season's 53-man roster limit.

Third-team quarterback Josh Johnson was the player with the most name recognition, released outright to free agency. Undrafted free agents Erick Dargan and Kalafitoni Pole were waived. Dargan was a backup safety who appeared in the first two preseason games, and Pole was a reserve defensive tackle who only drew snaps in Monday night's game.

After receiving 57 snaps in the preseason-opening win over the New York Giants, Johnson didn't get on the field Monday. Part of that was the product of the Bengals struggling to get into an offensive rhythm with starting quarterback Andy Dalton at the helm. In order to get him to end his night on a positive a note, the Bengals left their first-team offense in the game until it finally moved the ball for a field goal just before halftime.

AJ McCarron, the No. 2 quarterback who spent nearly all of last season on injury lists with a shoulder ailment, played the entire second half. Johnson's release appears a clear sign the Bengals are planning to go with Dalton and McCarron as their two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster.

Undrafted free agent Keith Wenning also is on the Bengals' depth chart, but if he makes the overall roster, he likely will do so as a practice squad player. A seventh-year player, Johnson had no practice squad eligibility. In releasing Johnson now, it appears the Bengals are hoping to give McCarron extensive playing time in the last two preseason games since he missed the opener with an injury.

Johnson was signed by the Bengals as an unrestricted free agent in April after he was released by the 49ers. Johnson had spent all of last season in San Francisco following a stint with the Bengals in 2013. That year, he was Cincinnati's No. 2 quarterback.

In this year's preseason opener, Johnson was 11-for-21 for 175 yards.

Dargan's most recent claim to fame was that he was the player who got tangled up with tight end Tyler Eifert during a practice last week. As Eifert went up high for a pass from Dalton, Dargan jumped with him. Both came down hard at the end of the play with Eifert taking the brunt of the fall. He simply had his wind knocked out, but rolled on the ground for a few moments, causing fans who were in attendance to go into near complete silence.

Eifert played Monday, catching one 7-yard pass on three targets.

Pole was part of a crowded defensive line room. The large Washington State player had long appeared to be among the first to go in the tight position battle.