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Bengals Mailbag: Injury impact on preseason snap count, early record prediction

We take a crack at answering some of the questions on the minds of Bengals fans as the team charges through the 2016 preseason.

NFL: Preseason-Minnesota Vikings at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a bittersweet time for Bengals fans—many are obviously excited because of the opportunity for the team to put the 2015 Wild Card loss behind them, but mounting injuries are now a concern. Aside from questions we have been receiving about the status of various players with ailments, it’s the playing time of others in the preseason that has been on the forefront of our readers’ minds.

And in response to Jared who asked about what superpower we’d want, there are many superpowers to choose from! Flying and super-strength are obvious selections, but I think I’d still go with reading people’s minds. It would be both a fun and disturbing power to have, but even getting past the “What Women Want” movie aspect, some good could be done to prevent evil deeds. Fight on, my friend.

Let’s take a look at some other questions we received this week.

Normally, as the second and third preseason games approach, this probably wouldn’t be an issue. But, as the Bengals were fortunate enough to largely avoid the injury bug in the 2015 preseason, it has been the complete opposite this year. The often-touted deep roster of the Bengals is being tested this summer, so the Bengals need to find a balance between keeping critical players healthy and getting back-end roster players the needed reps.

Regarding the offensive line, I think Mike has a good point of monitoring the snaps of the preseason workload. The primary reason is that though the team seems deep with talent, they usually go a little light on final roster numbers in the group because they employ guys who are “flex players”. For instance, Jake Fisher can theoretically play any spot on the line in a pinch with the exception of center, while Christian Westerman has received work at guard and center.

Versatility and mauler strength are two traits Paul Alexander covets out of his offensive linemen, so losing more guys to injury on the line could really hinder the team. Sure, they have an immense amount of overall talent, but the loss of one player could actually mean a loss of a capable guy at two spots on the line.

If you watched the first preseason game, Marvin Lewis and his staff has already laid out a plan to rest the starters. Most of the starters played one series in the first preseason matchup. It will likely change a tiny bit in the upcoming game and the third preseason game, known as the dress rehearsal, but not too much.

Over the years, Lewis has morphed from a more of a motivator to a roster-builder and “players’ coach”, as evidenced by his veteran rest days and elimination of “The Oklahoma Drill” in training camp. Some could say it’s been fruitful because of the team’s regular season record, while others point to softness as a reason for primetime and postseason failures.

It’s in that Lewis DNA change, the accrued injuries, and the need to decipher the best players to make up the back end of the roster that we’ll likely see more playing time from backups this preseason. There are pros and cons to the method, but given the inordinate amount of injuries to players pegged to have significant roles in 2016 thus far, it might be the best route.


On one hand, I love trying to predict the schedule and record for the team this time of year because it seems to come with the territory of reporting on the Bengals. On the other hand, it can breed so much fan contempt. A prediction for 2016 at this point in time will obviously fan the flames of those on both sides of the fence.

Andy Dalton, who was on his way to an MVP season last year, is back, as are many of the key pieces to the team’s regular season success over the past half-decade, so in that sense, optimism is high. However, some of the players the team seemed to be relying on to fill the voids of offseason attrition are fighting injury. And, perhaps the one position with the most questions is wide receiver, which has been hit hard with ailments.

Look, the regular season doesn’t seem to be a concern anymore with the Bengals. Double-digit wins seem to be the norm in this most recent incarnation of Lewis’ Bengals, regardless of injury. In 2014, Andy Dalton, Jeremy Hill and the defense led the team to a 10-win season in the wake of a number of injuries, while AJ McCarron had a 2-2 record in four starts (including the postseason) last year.

As evidenced with all of the power rankings, quarterback listings and other preseason fodder that comes this time of year, it’s all about past postseason successes and failures. That being said, this season is one of the hardest to predict for a number of factors.

Post-draft and pre-injuries, I would have said this is easily a 10 or 11-win team. For now, I’ll very reluctantly say 10-6 with another Wild Card berth for the Bengals. The beginning of the schedule seems tough, and it remains to be seen as to when some of those critical players will be back for the team this year. Regardless, I have cautious faith in the depth they have built over the past couple of years and the team has seemed to have the uncanny ability to have players step up in critical areas in the wake of injury.