The preseason is finally over. The Colts won the battle, but the Bengals will have a chance to win the war next week as the teams will face off again as they open up the regular season in Indianapolis on September 9 at 1:00 p.m. ET.
Here’s what the Bengals will be considering in the next 48 hours after they craft an initial 53-man roster and then practice squad.
- Jeff Driskel secured the backup job: Matt Barkley went down with a knee injury, which probably got Driskel wins the job by default, but Driskel didn’t disappoint by going out there and balling. He ran a two-minute drill at the end of the first half the nearly doubled the Bengals’ total yardage up to that point. He finished the game 14 of 20 with 116 yards and a touchdown.
- Auden Tate caught another pass: Tate has been quiet since he caught the game-winning touchdown during the Bengals’ opening preseason game against the Bucs. This week he caught two passes for 33 yards. He also almost brought down an impressive jump ball in the endzone, but he just couldn’t manage to get his second foot down in bounds. Did he do enough to make the 53-man roster? We think so.
- Brian Hill finishing strong: Hill made it pretty clear that if investment wasn’t an issue, he is the better running back in comparison to Mark Walton. Hill had eight rushes for 38 yards (4.75 yards per carry). Meanwhile, Walton finished with 10 rushes for 17 yards. Plus Walton exited the game with an injury; though he’s said to be fine. Will the Bengals continue to have a “Hill” on the roster? He deserves it but that doesn’t mean he’s making the cut.
- SO MANY INJURIES: The Bengals lost safeties Trayvon Henderson and Tyrice Beverette late in the game due to injuries. This left the Bengals with a few options, but the one they went with was playing receiver Jared Murphy at safety. The Colts took advantage of him on a fourth down play, and then got the game-winning touchdown. The result really doesn’t matter, but it is unfortunate that such circumstances led to the loss. I guess we can all breathe a sigh of relief that they didn’t throw John Ross out there to play defense instead.
“Coach Lewis just yelled my name and said I was going in at safety. I kind of had to make sure he was talking to me. When I got out there and it was pretty basic, just Cover 3,” Murphy said of his brief stint at safety. He hadn’t played on defense since high school.
H-back Cethan Carter also left the game with a shoulder injury. You sprinkle in guys like Barkley and KeiVarae Russell leaving the game as well, and it’s clear that the quick turnaround from Sunday wasn’t kind for the Bengals. Some of these injuries will make roster decisions easier, unfortunately, and that’s a big thing the Bengals are weighing right now.
- The offensive line: The fact guys like Cedric Ogbuehi, Jake Fisher and Christian Westerman are playing pretty late into the final preseason game says everything anyone needs to know about the past few years for the Bengals’ offensive line. Ogbuehi’s status as a bust is all but secured at this point. He will still likely end up on the roster as Cincinnati didn’t really bring in any players to compete for his spot on the roster. The final offensive lineman making the roster are likely set and the only question is whether it’s Trey Hopkins or Alex Redmond starting at right guard in Week 1. As of now, we’re leaning toward Redmond.
- John Ross’ drop: I know, he had his arm grabbed and it could have been a pass interference call, but that was still a pass you want to see Ross come down with. Ross has shown he can leave you in awe or leave you scratching your head when the ball comes his way. You would like to see some more consistency, but at this point you take the good with the bad. And that’s why Ross was in the game to begin with. I have a hard time seeing anything positive coming from Ross playing in the preseason finale with the bottom of both teams’ rosters. I mean we all remember Ross getting hurt in the final preseason game last season, right? Lewis has obviously showed it is easy to keep Ross inactive in 2017, so it is pretty weird he’d risk such an important player at all in this instance.
- Knowing countless NFL dreams are about to end: The saddest part of the preseason ending is many players (more than 1,000) seeing their NFL careers come to at least a temporary end. For all the guys like A.J. Green and Geno Atkins who don’t have to worry about job security in the NFL, there are hundreds of players who have no idea if they will even make a practice squad. The guys who played on Thursday put their all into having the chance to stick to any NFL roster. In reality, the preseason finale game gave many players the most action they will see until next year in the preseason. We’re offering the best wishes to everyone who played for the Bengals this offseason!