The preseason is upon us and the Cincinnati Bengals are hosting old friend Mike Zimmer and his Minnesota Vikings tonight. It’s been a whirlwind of a training camp in The Queen City, with much of it marked by unfortunate injuries to talented young players.
But, the injuries aren’t where our reader questions are stemming from this week. We were approached with two other popular topics that comes with this time of year: preseason playing time for a promising rookie and trade scenarios. These came from our Twitter account, but feel free to also send us your questions via our Facebook page.
We have been answering your questions in a variety of fashions, be it in these traditional posts, Facebook live sessions or our new podcast, The Orange and Black Insider. So keep your eyes and ears open, as we may be answering your questions on those platforms!
This has to be one of the trickiest situations for any coaching staff in any given year. A rookie who has a big role ahead of him in the regular season needs reps, but do you want to risk an injury?
Unfortunately for the Bengals, their rookie class has been snake-bitten this camp, as evidenced by a serious pectoral injury to William Jackson III and Andrew Billings’ recent injury in joint practices with the Vikings. So, the talk of Boyd getting significant snaps in insignificant games raises a cringe-worthy response because of the possibility of losing another talented rookie slated to contribute in 2016.
The good news for the Bengals is that Boyd has already looked as good as advertised early in camp, catching everything thrown his way. Have a look:
“Silky smooth” is how ESPN NFL Draft gurus Mel Kiper, Jr. and Todd McShay described Boyd as a prospect, and he’s delivered on the description. But, practices are just that and true growth by the rookie wideout will be measured by his ability to make plays against an actual opponent—even if it’s in the preseason.
Now, I’m not an NFL head coach who makes these calls, but I think, including his perceived taking of all snaps with Dalton, Boyd should see about two quarters of play against the Vikings. It’s all about chemistry as the team gets into the regular season and with Boyd playing multiple receiver roles in the offense this year, he needs to be as comfortable as possible in what the unit will be doing.
I understand it’s a big ask for a guy who will be key to the Bengals’ offense in 2016—especially after so many others have been dinged up. The unfortunate truth is that with those injuries comes increased time for others to pick up the slack. Sure, the issues with Jackson and Billings don’t have a bearing on the offense, but Tyler Eifert’s rehab and Tyler Kroft’s injury issue make the receivers’ role even more important.
That being said, what I think will happen and what actually will happen might be two different things. While I’d like to see Boyd get a lot of work in to cut his teeth, I doubt we’ll see him in the second half—especially with so much back end competition at the receiver position and the team unwilling to risk another injury.
Trades have been talked about this offseason, and with the team’s penchant for making some of those kind of moves under Marvin Lewis, it’s an understandable proposition. Since 2009, Brian Leonard, Reggie Nelson, Kelly Jennings and Taylor Mays are some of the players who have been added via trade by the Bengals, so it wouldn’t be unheard of if they do it again. The injuries they have suffered could signal a move, but I think they will let training camp play out a bit more before making a definitive move, if at all.
As for shopping Rey Maualuga around? That’s not going to happen. With Vontaze Burfict facing a three-game suspension and the team sorting out the back end of the depth chart, they aren’t going to randomly shop one of their valued, long-time starters at the position.
I’m likely in the minority, but I feel Maualuga is largely under-appreciated by Bengals fans. Sure, they may have overpaid a bit for him in his last extension, but the team’s defense has been a perennially-solid unit since he came to the Bengals in 2009. Obviously, the success isn’t only on Maualuga, but he has played a key role in the unit in the time span.
Sometimes examining the sum of the parts makes sense when looking at the Bengals’ defense. Sure, Carlos Dunlap, Vontaze Burfict and Adam Jones are popular players because of their talent, but none are in that rarified Luke Kuechly/J.J. Watt-like air. Cincinnati’s defense relies on solid players at every spot to bring a collective physical force to opposing offenses. Even though he’s largely a two-down linebacker, Maualuga mans the middle of the unit with the ability with great physicality, which is something both Zimmer and Paul Guenther have valued with their respective crews.
Maualuga won’t be traded, but that doesn’t mean the Bengals won’t look at other options. Overall though, barring something unforeseen, I think the roster the Bengals brought into training camp is an expanded version of the one we’ll see in September.