The Bengals’ most telling game of the preseason is nearly here and we’ll get to see the starters in action for about 30 minutes of play. Brandon LaFell will be making his Bengals debut after sitting out the last two weeks while dealing with a hand injury. And, a bunch of backup players will be playing their final game in stripes before the first round of roster cuts next week. We gathered our staff to share what they’ll be looking for when the Bengals and Jaguars kickoff at 8:00 p.m. ET on Sunday night.
I'm hoping to see consistently good play from the first team guys on both sides of the ball. I'm particularly interested in the offensive line and cornerbacks to see how they'll look in extended play time.
No more injuries! Also hoping to see a sharp offensive performance prior to halftime, for example, a starting o-line that can run block as well as pass block, certain wide receivers showing why they deserve their spots at 2-4 on the depth chart, and a running game with an aggressive forward direction. On the defensive side, I’m wanting to see more spark than just Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap.
I'm looking to see how the secondary performs against Jacksonville's high-powered passing attack. Last week we saw Shawn Williams blow coverage on Marvin Jones, which prompts me to question which safety should be playing behind which corner. I'm hoping Williams will be able to break up deep passes so the corners are able to be more aggressive in coverage.
Primarily two things: Their passing game on paper is much better than our pass defense. We need to see how Dre Kirkpatrick and Adam Jones matchup with Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. Getting an early pass rush on Blake Bortles can help this. Their running game is also much improved with Chris Ivory joining T.J. Yeldon in the backfield, Yeldon brings the elusiveness and three down ability, and Ivory brings the yards after contact and nose for the endzone. I want to see guys getting off blocks in the interior and second level defenders wrapping up and taking these two to the ground.
I'm just hoping to see everyone looking like they're on the same page. It's the preseason so, despite the dress rehearsal aspect, the only thing that matters is the guys getting experience and building chemistry. Just stay healthy and know your role.
I'll be watching for how well the corners do against the Jags' tandem of Hurns and Robinson. Hurns took the Bengals to task in 2014, and Robinson has improved dramatically since then. This will be a great test for Dre Kirkpatrick, Adam Jones and Josh Shaw. I'll also be watching for C.J. Uzomah to step up at tight end. If he tosses up another dud, the Bengals need to seriously consider signing or trading for another tight end.
For me it's all about the receiving weapons this week. Can Tyler Boyd keep up his steady performances? What will the offense look like with Brandon LaFell on the field? My offseason obsession with the tight ends is also continuing, as we need to start seeing production there. With the recent news that Tyler Eifert might miss anywhere from 3-5 games to start the year, C.J. Uzomah needs to start translating his practice success to in-game action.
I’ll leave it simple after all of the above. No injuries. Also, Margus Hunt looking like someone worthy of making an NFL roster would be nice.