Note: This kicks off our Six-Pack of Hu-Dey pieces, which are a series of six topics that we explore. Soon into the regular season, this will be a weekly feature. For now, we'll examine six things that we look for heading into Sunday Night's preseason kickoff against the Dallas Cowboys. Also, if anyone has a six-pack of Hu-Dey beer, can you take a clear picture of those cans so we can use them for this feature? Email me at JoshKirkendall [at] Gmail [dot] com.
Second Team Offense - Ranging from J.T. O'Sullivan to Bernard Scott and Jerome Simpson, the Bengals figure to use their second team units on offense and defense much more exclusively during Sunday's Hall of Fame game. Many figure that the first team will start the game and play a series -- maybe two at the most. After that, we start hitting into undiscovered territory. While we know most of the players on the roster and have seen most of them exclusively, it's always interesting to see how the entire backup unit performs, considering at no point will they every play together as a single unit at any point during the regular season. Well, for the love of god, we hope not.
While I believe it's important to track guys Jerome Simpson, Jordan Shipley, Andre Caldwell, Matt Jones and Dezmon Briscoe, among others, to see how the team's wide receiver lineup will shape up, there's other things that needs attention.
Not only all of that, but how does Jonathan Luigs look, after spending much of the offseason recovering from hip surgery, as a backup center and with Reggie Stephens getting a majority of the backup snaps, has Luigs lost his place as the team's first backup center? Is Otis Hudson ready to play offensive guard? Will O'Sullivan provide some sense that, if worse comes to worse, that he's adjusted to this team and could, at the very least, be a good game manager?
During last year's preseason, O'Sullivan completed 28 of 39 passes for a very respectable 71.8% completion rate. His preseason 125.8 passer rating during the 2009 preseason included three touchdowns and no interceptions.
|1||08/14||@ NO||L 7-17||9||11||81.8||100||9.1||1||0|
|2||08/20||@ NE||W 7-6||10||13||76.9||141||10.8||1||0|
The fullback solution is murky. Last year the Bengals had a handful of fullbacks to choose from, ranging from a rookie named Fui Vakapuna, a miniature mountain named Chris Pressley to the veteran Jeremi Johnson. Eventually Johnson "won" the job and Pressley was signed to the team's practice squad while Vakapuna headed out to Arizona for a quick spell. This year is much different. Johnson is now out of football and Pressley is with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers leaving Cincinnati with the fullback that was the odd man out during final cut-down day last year.
That's not to say Vakapuna isn't miles ahead of where he was last year. All reports suggest he's grown a lot and finally understanding what it may take to be an NFL fullback. And if that's the case, then great. But I also worry that the Bengals completely disregarded fullback this offseason, either expecting Johnson to eventually return (it was his choice not to come back) or hoping that Vakapuna would do the job.
As for Sunday, the question is how much will Vakapuna play and, with Brian Leonard listed as the team's backup fullback, how well Leonard performs in the spot. It makes sense to give Leonard repetitions if he's expected to be the backup fullback without having the need of adding another body; the versatility of a guy that can play both backfield positions is nice. But it makes you wonder, is Leonard a backup to give him reps, or is it because backup fullback Joe Tronzo is that far behind?
However, if Vakapuna disappoints, what's next? You can't expect me to believe that the Bengals will use one of their best third-down weapons as a fullback on first and second downs?
Jermaine Gresham. Bengals Tight End Jermaine Gresham will take his first snap in game conditions less than a week after signing his rookie contract. How quickly will he adapt to the offense? Will he take any passes from Carson Palmer, or will he be mostly the second team unit with O'Sullivan? We suspect that Reggie Kelly will start Sunday and perhaps get a bulk of the first team snaps, which isn't likely to be much. However, Gresham very well could play a majority of the game depending on the team's need to simply give him snaps.
Bengals offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski did say the rookie tight end had a string of "three or four straight plays where he made a mistake."
“We have got him in there going,” Bratkowski said. “We are going to have to live with the mistakes he makes and he is going to have to learn. That is the best way to learn is to do it.”
Said Bratkowski about Gresham on Sunday: “We have to be careful exactly what we are doing with him and not do too much and do things that we know he is comfortable with.”
Battle of the Legs. Tracking conversions between place kickers during Training Camp practices is fun and all. However, how will Dave Rayner and Mike Nugent react to pressure in the fourth quarter? Hopefully the Bengals will be put in a position that they'll each have to make a pressure kick on Sunday.
Well, hopefully we blow out the Cowboys and watch our boys dominate one of the NFC favorites. But, if the latter doesn't work out, then hopefully the former gives us an idea of which kicker is the best suited for this team.
Pressure will be the biggest thing.
How Will Michael Johnson Be Used . Of all the things I've been interested to see since hearing that the team will make a chance, is how effective Michael Johnson will be as an outside linebacker. Since Rey Maualuga tweaked a hamstring earlier this week and Rashad Jeanty residing on the team's active/PUP list, Johnson very well could be the team's starting strong-side linebacker come Sunday. How will Johnson be used? Will he drop into coverage or will he mostly rush the quarterback? Or will the Bengals use more balance and make him a true linebacker?
Either way, with possible two strong-side linebackers injured (no firm word on whether Maualuga will play or not), the Bengals will be a little thin at the position Sunday night, therefore giving Johnson significant playing time. Backing up Johnson on the team's depth chart is Dan Skuta.
The Backup Cornerback Solution. Sunday should give us a clue of the continuing battle between Morgan Trent, Adam Jones and Brandon Ghee. Most reports appear to indicate that Jones has a slight advantage to be the team's third-string cornerback. However, Jones has admitted that he's still a bit rusty, working towards getting his legs back underneath him. Considering he was a sixth round pick in 2009, Trent had a productive enough year and it will be interesting to see how much he's progressed heading into his sophomore year. More exciting perhaps is that Brandon Ghee is an unknown in all of this. I believe that all three will make the team regardless, so this is merely to see how the defense begins to take shape in the grand scheme of things.
What are the things you're looking for?
Note if you have topics you'd like for us to examine, email us your thoughts at JoshKirkendall [at] Gmail [dot] com.