The Cincinnati Bengals are ready to put the team’s disappointing outing against the Kansas City Chiefs behind them by impressing during what is arguably the most important week of the preseason.
Week 3 in the preseason usually has teams playing their starters into the second half, which means we’ll get the best look at what the team will look like on Sunday afternoon. It also means the Bengals can rotate in a few preseason standouts with the first team to see if they can impress against someone other than the opposing teams’ second or third units.
Let’s take a look at five players you should be watching during the Bengals’ dress rehearsal on Sunday afternoon.
We received some exciting news when A.J. Green basically confirmed Ross will be making his debut on Sunday. Marvin Lewis won’t say as much, but it seems likely Ross will suit up on Sunday. Assuming he does, it will be our first look at Ross in game action after he was selected with the ninth overall pick in this years draft.
Ross broke the 40-yard dash record with a 4.22 second time at the Combine, but following that, he had shoulder surgery and hasn’t played in a game since. After the combine, he underwent surgery on his shoulder and has spent the offseason recovering from it, up until training camp. Ross was cleared for full contact the first week of the preseason, but obviously the team is being cautious with their most recent first round pick.
Ross has impressed during practice though. He has shown he has the quickness to go along with the speed.
John Ross again pic.twitter.com/pCUOubexSp— James Rapien (@JamesRapien) August 7, 2017
Of course plays like that were against air, so seeing how Ross does against a defense will be pretty interesting. Hopefully Sunday will be the day we see Ross play in a game with the Bengals.
Kroft is entering his third season as a backup tight end for the Bengals, but this could be the year he shows something new. During Kroft’s career he has never really been involved in the passing attack. Obviously, the Bengals have Tyler Eifert, and when he was injured C.J. Uzomah seemed to fill the receiving role at tight end.
However, the team will likely be cautious with Eifert in the remaining preseason contests in order to preserve him for the regular season, and Uzomah is currently recovering from an ankle sprain. That leaves Kroft to step up as a receiving role, and he has seemed to do well so far there this offseason.
“It’s something I worked on the in offseason,” Kroft told Jay Morrison of the Dayton Daily News. “My main focus was on getting bigger and making sure that I was more sure-handed in the passing game so when the opportunities come I can make the most of them.”
He will surely have plenty of opportunities to show off his improved hands, and at the very least, we should see him make some great blocks.
One of the most anticipated picks from last year’s draft will have a chance to earn significant playing time, and potentially a starting role, this season. After missing all of last season, Billings has done well so far this preseason, doing what he was drafted to do, which is push opposing linemen back and take up space. He has also shown some hustle, too.
Andrew Billings (#75) is 330 lbs and is as fast as Vinny Rey and Kevin Minter. He takes a better angle too. pic.twitter.com/dqtIPDOLao— Joe (@JoeGoodberry) August 21, 2017
It is easy to see why fans want to see as much of him as possible next to Geno Atkins, and we could see quite a bit of him against Washington.
Jackson seems to be the favorite to start opposite Dre Kirkpatrick during Week 1 while Adam Jones serves his suspension. Jackson missed all of last season after getting injured during the first week of training camp, but so far he has done a pretty good job showing why he was selected in the first round.
We should still expect to see the Bengals give Darqueze Dennard a shot with the first team as well. The Bengals picked up Dennard’s fifth-year option this offseason, but right now it looks like Jackson is the guy.
It will be a good test for the young corner going up against a guy like Terrelle Pryor, who had a breakout season last year. It will also be nice just to see Jackson get more reps since we’ve waited so long to see him in action.
Smith has easily been the most impressive Bengals player to watch this preseason. The team traded for him during the offseason, but they then drafted two rookie pass rushers. It looked like Smith would have to earn his way onto the 53-man roster, and so far he has done just that. During the first preseason game, he seemed to constantly be in the quarterback’s comfort zone, and last week he finally managed to hit home and get a sack. He has also been getting a ton of praise from Pro Football Focus.
Does Tank Carradine have a breakout season in him? pic.twitter.com/oAWu1ev47f— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) August 23, 2017
He played a little bit with the first team, but don’t be surprised if he plays even more with the first team as he is slowly pushing Michael Johnson for his starting role. It will good to see more and more from Smith to see if he truly is the real deal after three lackluster years with the Jaguars.
Who are you most excited to see in the third preseason game?