Cincinnati Bengals football is upon us.
Friday night’s preseason opener against the Minnesota Vikings is the first look we’ll get at the men in stripes in live game action. Even though many starters won’t play much, if at all, Week 1 of the preseason is just as important as anything that will happen between now and Week 1 at the New York Jets.
Tonight is when guys like Jake Kumerow, Trevor Roach, Clayton Fejedelem and other inexperienced players fight for their NFL lives while also hoping to stick with the Bengals, who’ve given said players a chance to live out their NFL dreams.
However, we’ll likely still see Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, Geno Atkins and other key Bengals for a series or two. I don’t know about you, but seeing those guys play for even a snap gets my blood rushing.
We gathered our staff to see what they’ll be watching for when the Bengals and Vikings kick off in Paul Brown Stadium.
I'll be looking to see if Jake Kumerow gets any snaps early with the first team since he's having a good camp. I'll also be looking to see how Karlos Dansby performs in his first Bengals appearance.
Bengals vs Vikings: How to watch, follow & what to
NFL football returns as the Bengals and Vikings face off in their preseason opener. Here is everything you'll need to watch and follow this contest.
I'm looking forward to seeing two things in particular. One, what the o-line looks like. They've been seemingly struggling in joint practices. And two, I'm curious how Kumerow performs since most of us were all pretty high on him last year as a UDFA who could make the roster.
I'm looking forward to seeing what Kevin Coyle's secondary is shaping up to be. George Iloka and Dre Kirkpatrick have the potential to become great players, and Shawn Williams has big shoes to fill now that Reggie Nelson is gone. The play calling will be bland throughout the preseason, but I'm excited to see what guys like Kirkpatrick, Josh Shaw and Chris Lewis-Harris can do in man coverage.
I'll be watching how well some of the young guys play who are stepping in because of injuries or free agent departures. Two names in particular jump out: Wide receiver Tyler Boyd and tight end C.J. Uzomah. Both need to grow up fast this offseason for different reasons and the upside with both could be huge for the Bengals.
I really want to see how the backup wide receivers perform. We should get a pretty good look at the ones fighting for a roster spot, and I want to see who steps up and puts their name out there.
I don't think it's worth paying much attention to the starters in preseason Week 1, but seeing how Ogbuehi performs will be cool.
Since the starters won't play much, I'll be curious to see how Margus Hunt looks given this could be his last shot with this team. Also how Josh Shaw plays since they'll probably play him at safety and corner.
I'll be interested in seeing how the wide receivers perform as a whole. With the frustration the offense seemed to experience in the joint practice, I'll be looking at how the starters adjust after failing to have much success in practice.
Aside from just that, I want to see what Tyler Boyd is capable of (just like everyone else) and see how Brandon LaFell does in his first game in Bengal stripes.
I'm so excited to see William Jackson III and Andrew Billings take to the field for the Bengals! In 2017...err...
I need to see any signs of life from the tight ends in an actual game. The noise Uzomah is making in practice is promising, but it's just that, noise. The key to this offense functioning on a consistent basis is Eifert, so seeing how Uzomah, Hewitt, Peters or Lengel are used will be one of the most intriguing aspects for me.
I want to see Marcus Hardison get some time against the Vikings' first-team offense. He looked dominant at times last preseason, and with another impressive showing, he might just cut into Peko's snaps this year.
I'm watching for how well the ground game looks overall, mainly the first and second-team units. Seeing Russell Bodine, Jake Fisher, Cedric Ogbuehi, Kevin Zeitler and Clint Boling vs a stout Vikings front seven, even if only for one series, is something I'm really excited for as a trench warfare connoisseur.
But I'm also really interested in seeing who even makes up the second-team unit, not to mention how they do against some quality backups for Minnesota. This should be where we see rookies like Alex Redmond, Christian Westerman, Alex Cooper for the first time. I'm hoping against all hope that one of these guys unseats Bodine as the starting center if he doesn't improve in Year 3.
Through camp, the offense has received the bulk of the attention. I’m looking forward to seeing the defense in action tonight especially guys like Marcus Hardison, DeShawn Williams, P.J. Dawson, Nick Vigil and Clayton Fejedelem. Their play in the preseason will go a long way in determining the final roster and who will receive playing time in 2016.