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2018 Bengals preseason: Biggest questions heading into the first game

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The 2018 preseason is finally here and we have questions, especially about the offensive line.

Cincinnati Bengals v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Each segment on the NFL calendar presents something exciting, before giving way to exhaustive repetition and boredom. These are the moments that occupy our time as fans before games that matter.

For example: The first round of the NFL draft invites enthusiasm and drama; Friday’s segment is still interesting and obviously worth watching. When Saturday rolls around, it starts to drag a little; networks covering the draft stop showing selections — you only know about a new selection when ESPN jingles a notification with “current selection” at the bottom of the screen. Unless you’re a Bengals fan, then you’re watching a Cialis commercials. Having a hard time maintaining an erection? So are we. Because round six is booooooring.

Free agency? In Cincinnati? Fuhgeddaboutit. Interest with spring practices centers around injuries and Tyler Eifert’s quest at becoming mini-Gronk off-the-field. Most of these sessions are restricted to teachings and walkthroughs anyway, without any contact. It’s one reason that major injuries are actually increasing in the NFL, some folks argue.

There’s training camp. As fans, we obviously love it. It’s real football, up close and personal. You can feel the exhilarating sweet steaming off players during post-practice interactions. These Gods of the gridiron smile, talk, leaving lasting impressions on our kids, the precious future of our people. Eventually training camp wears out its welcome. It’s the same format: players have their mistakes broadcast on twitter, when those mistakes should be viewed as learning experiences. Who is practicing? Do we really care about the depth cart right now?

Now the preseason takes precedence. We want our guys hitting other guys. No more orange-on-orange violence. With preseason, comes questions. Questions that evolved from the previous season, the offseason, and through training camp. How about Teryl Austin’s new system? How is this new-look offense that Bill Lazor is integrating. It’s fast and aggressive, we’ve heard. Are we expected to see any foundation of the new offense right now? Probably not. Most of Thursday’s action against the Chicago Bears will be the bare minimum. It’s more about individual battles than team victories. If players do their job, the whole team succeeds.

Eventually, like the draft, free agency, spring practices, and training camp, the preseason will wear out its welcome (usually after half time of preseason game number three):

Until then, there are questions entering Thursday’s opener that need to be addressed.

The War of the Three Candidates: Who is starting at right tackle? Who will claim the vacancy at right guard? Both positions have three legitimate contenders vying for the role.

While practices have offered a limited hint at what the team is planning, Cincinnati offered a pinch of clarity this week when they released their first depth chart. Bobby Hart and Trey Hopkins were named to the first-team squad. How will they do? Will it last or is a play to rotate depth for each preseason game?

Cedric Ogbuehi and Alex Redmond were listed as second-teamers behind Hart and Hopkins while Jack Fisher and Christin Westerman are backing up left tackle and left guard; however, both could bounce between the left and right sides.

Even more intriguing is the overall impact Frank Pollack will have. Defensive players and running backs have each commented on their improvement, from asserting themselves in the trenches with new attitudes and techniques.

For me, a lover of the trench warriors, this is the number one point of interest for preseason game number one.

Is the John Ross training camp hype real? Despite playing 17 snaps on three games, second-year wide receiver John Ross is still looking for his first official reception in the NFL. Since Thursday is an exhibition that will be forgotten about a month from now, any reception this week won’t add to his putrid number of zero. However, it should be noted that Ross did haul in a six-yard reception during last year’s preseason finale against Indianapolis. So, yea.

Despite his recent struggles catching the football, Ross has used his notorious speed to generate NFL-level separation to snag perfect Andy Dalton spirals. How will he do against opposing defenses that he hasn’t seen yet against players he doesn’t know.

Snapping to conclusions? The unwanted attention on Billy Price’s issues snapping the football isn’t surprising. If training camp teaches us anything, it’s that stories tend to receive more attention than necessary. In Price’s case, it makes sense. He’s a center. A first-round pick. And he’s fumbled enough times for Marvin Lewis to express concern.

“I’m concerned that we have to get better with it,” Lewis said following Saturday’s practice. “There’s no question it’s continued to linger. We had one with each quarterback today. Same center and each quarterback. So Billy’s just got to understand how important that is. That’s Step 1.”

That’s right. According to Lewis, it’s important for the center not to fumble an exchange with his quarterback. Thankfully training camp is also designed to help first-year players like Price, who spent most of his collegiate career snapping from shotgun. Now he’s learning how to snap the football with the quarterback gently nestling his taint. That would take time for any man to get used to.

On the bright side, as Nick Manchester noted this week, Price hasn’t dropped a snap since fumbling a handful of them on Saturday.

Will Pro Football Focus tweet another reference of William Jackson III? Since the start of the calendar year, Pro Football Focus has offered at least 19 tweets in reference to William Jackson III.