This weekend in Jacksonville is the third preseason game of the season. For those of you uninitiated with common preseason traditions, the third preseason game is usually where we get the longest look at the starters (typically a full half). Next week’s game will usually be a rest week with many starters not coming out at all and others playing for a drive before the backups finish off the game. Roster cuts to 75 men will also take place after this game, so this will be a chance for some guys to make final impressions before the team needs to decide 15 players to release or waive by Tuesday. These are the players who I’ll be playing extra attention to on Sunday night.
1.) Russell Bodine
Since this is our best look at the starters, it’ll be important to see how the man commonly agreed upon as the weak link of the offense plays. He played fairly well last week, save for a particular disastrous play. I covered some of this in-depth in my weekly offensive film room segment. Sunday’s game will be our best chance to estimate how he’ll play when Week 1 rolls around. Malik Jackson should give him some work this weekend, but if Bodine has progressed he should be able to handle him. After all, he played okay last week and had to deal with Haloti Ngata on his own fairly often.
2.) Brandon Tate
We recently heard from Bengals.com editor Geoff Hobson that the final wide receiver spot is likely coming down to Tate vs rookie Alex Erickson. If this is the case, then Tate likely needs to provide some spark in the last few games, as Erickson has given the Bengals staff plenty to be optimistic about since camp started. Tate has been filling in as the #2 receiver with the first team offense with Brandon LaFell out, but with LaFell now ready to play this week, we’ll see how Tate’s workload is impacted.
3.) Dre Kirkpatrick
When the Bengals went to Detroit to face former teammate Marvin Jones, Jones made sure to leave his mark at Kirkpatrick’s expense. Jones essentially had his way with Kirkpatrick for the first drive of the game, with Kirkpatrick looking desperate to catch up with him. With injuries nagging the corner position, a poor performance against the Jaguars likely won’t cost him a starting spot, but it certainly won’t put Bengals fans’ minds at ease heading into a Week 1 matchup against Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. A solid performance from him this week will provide a much needed confidence boost...to all of us.
4.) C.J. Uzomah
While Uzomah had been turning heads in camp he really hasn’t contributed much at all in the preseason, at least in the passing game. With both Tyler Eifert and Tyler Kroft still dealing with injuries it’s of the utmost importance that Uzomah shows that he can contribute. I may be nitpicking here, as there haven’t been many negatives shown by the Bengals first stringers so far, but tight end is a position we’ll need production from. This is especially true when you consider an important divisional game at Pittsburgh and a home contest against a premier defense in Denver will take place before Eifert can return.
5) Keith Wenning/Joe Licata
This might be a bit of a weird one, because I don’t know if we’ll even get to see both guys, but I think there is still a roster battle for a quarterback practice squad role at this point. Wenning has looked fairly poor in the preseason and downright bad against Minnesota. Licata looked great against the Vikings and didn’t get any snaps last week. I really think that with a strong Licata showing (given the chance) he could take the third quarterback spot away from Wenning. That may be a somewhat meaningless position battle in the long run, but I’ll take a quarterback competition any way I can get it and that includes the third string practice squad guy.
Who will you be looking at on Sunday? Do you think there’s anyone in particular that needs to impress with cut day looming? Let us know in the comments.