The Bengals head to Buffalo to sharpen their skills against the Bills on Sunday night in their third preseason game, which is traditionally the opportunity for the starters to get about 30 minutes of work before calling it quits until the regular season begins.
This week we spoke with Corey Giacovelli of Buffalo Rumblings who offered us some insights into the Bengals’ upcoming opponent.
We asked about the players who switched uniforms this offseason, such as AJ McCarron and Russell Bodine, and asked about rookie quarterback Josh Allen, who was acquired with the help of the No. 12 pick from the Bengals, which went to the Bills in the Cordy Glenn trade.
Scott Schulze: The Bengals and Bills have had an interesting relationship since Week 17 of last season. First there was the Bengals upset of the Ravens, which propelled the Bills into a long-awaited playoff spot. That was followed with hundreds of thousands of dollars being donated by Bills fans to the Andy & Jordan Dalton Foundation. And that was reciprocated recently with Dalton making a $400k donation to the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo. And then, of course, there were the player movements with Bengals backup quarterback AJ McCarron and center Russell Bodine signing as free agents with the Bills, while Bills starting linebacker Preston Brown and left tackle Cordy Glenn both joined the Bengals. Do Bills fans have any general thoughts on all the goings on between Buffalo and Cincinnati? Any specific thoughts on the players who left the Bills and are now with the Bengals?
Corey Giacovelli: What happened at the end of last year was amazing to see. Most people when they picture a football fan picture someone tailgating or drinking and well in the Bills case jumping through tables.
This situation was different though because so many people decided to part their happiness towards something good in this world so I think there will always be mutual respect between Bills and Bengals fans until something like a playoff game happens.
Losing Brown and Glenn were unfortunate given what both have done on offense and defense for the Bills. The team even franchised tagged Glenn one year to prevent him from leaving but the timing spoke for itself.
Glenn was having injury concerns and the play of then rookie Dion Dawkins made the move easier considering the team wanted to put themselves in a better position to trade up in the draft.
Brown, meanwhile, was the general for the defense. Although he was an amazing tackler, he did have some difficulties in coverage at times, so it will be interesting to see how he fits into the team.
SS: Over the past four seasons, Bengals fans have loudly lamented the fact that Russell Bodine spent almost as much time in the backfield as Andy Dalton (although Dalton was supposed to be back there). But sometimes, all a player needs is a change in scenery. So I feel compelled to ask how has Bodine looked for the Bills? is he in line to be the starter?
CG: Bodine has been flying under the radar for the Bills, so it is tough to say if he is in line to be a starter partly due to the tough competition he is having with Ryan Groy. Both players have been receiving time with the first unit during practice, and neither one has pulled away when it comes to reps.
Right now, though, the edge has to go to Groy because Bodine had a rough time in the game against the Browns. He had his chances playing with the starters in that game but he did not make the most of the opportunity.
SS: With former Bengal A.J. McCarron now injured, is the starting quarterback spot essentially Josh Allen’s? How has he looked, and if he is now the starter, has he looked good enough to have won it even without the McCarron injury?
CG: After the announcement of Josh Allen starting in this upcoming game it seems to everyone that he has the path to be the starter, especially since the team did not announce the starter for the first two games until right before kickoff.
Allen has shown all the traits that you want from your quarterback. He has the arm, poise in the pocket, command of the offense, and even his accuracy has shown improvement which was his biggest flaw coming out of school.
The McCarron injury was unfortunate, but based on his performances, it did not appear that he had a chance to be a starter. He has not been bad but he has not been great. The team parted ways with Tyrod Taylor, who was a little above average, much like what McCarron has been, and the team does not want to go through the same thing again.
SS: What exactly is going on with the Bills wide receivers? It seems that Andre Holmes, Zay Jones, and Kelvin Benjamin have all suffered injuries over the past year, and the Browns recently gave away former first round pick Corey Coleman to the Bills. When Week 1 starts, who will be the Bills starters, and what do fans expect from the group as a whole?
CG: The biggest wild card for this Bills team are the receivers because of the boom or bust potential of everyone on the unit. Kelvin Benjamin is the clear number one target and looked real good on the opening drive against the Panthers but will that success blend over into the regular season?
Behind him is a mystery because of guys like Andre Holmes, Zay Jones and Corey Coleman. All of these guys have shown glimpses of how productive they can be, but the majority of the times, their flaws have outweighed the good.
If I had to guess the starting receiver opposite of Benjamin, I would have to go with Jones. He has looked good in camp coming off of his injury and unique off season but if this unit can click then the offense will be a lot better than people think.
SS: How have the Bills rookies looked this year? Any pleasant or disappointing surprises out of the newest members of the Bills roster?
CG: The draft class has looked great mainly in part to the first round picks of Josh Allen and Tremaine Edmunds. The team made sure that they were going to get their franchise cornerstones on both sides of the ball for years to come.
A big surprise has been fifth-round pick OG Wyatt Teller. The lineman has been gaining a lot of praise in practice lately and has been playing well in the preseason. Do not be surprised if he is on the starting line come opening day.
A player that has been struggling has been CB Taron Johnson. The fourth-round pick has been having some trouble lately during the games getting beat on touchdown passes but he has plenty of time to improve in his young career.
SS: Last season was obviously an exciting one with the Bills ending a 17-year playoff drought. Coming off the high of a long-awaited playoff trip, what are the expectations from fans this year?
CG: Expectations for fans this year are mixed, especially after last year. Most people thought that the Bills were going to have a top three selection in the draft last year and they ended up proving everyone wrong by breaking the longest drought in professional sports. Most people got to witness postseason Bills football for the first time while others were reunited with it after the long, tiresome, wait.
This year, fans find themselves in the exact same situation where everyone is doubting the team, so fans are trying to stay positive. Everyone has bought into the process that Sean McDermott has installed, and now with the young gun Josh Allen seemingly ready to start Week 1, fans are excited to see what will happen.
Thanks to Corey Giacovelli for his time. You can check out his work at Buffalo Rumblings.