The Bengals were cautious during Week 1 of the preseason as they held out several key players from even playing at all.
There isn’t anything wrong with that. I think everyone can agree we’d rather see the starters healthy for the regular season rather than miss a few weeks due to a meaningless game.
With that said, there is a delicate balance to giving your players some in-game snaps to help acclimate them to the upcoming season, so you can’t hold them out for the whole preseason.
Clearly head coach Zac Taylor understands that as he talks about the list of players who may be held out of Thursday’s game.
“I think both running backs (Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard) will be available. We’ll create a plan of how much we want to see them play,” Taylor told reporters during his press conference Tuesday. “There are still a couple decisions to make, on (Tyler) Eifert, and the two running backs.”
Having Joe Mixon and Bernard play sparingly should be interesting. This will be the first time we’ll see either of them in Taylor’s new offense as rookie running back Trayveon Williams started last week.
We shouldn’t expect to see too much of either running back, maybe a series or two tops. You also shouldn’t expect the Bengals to reveal any fancy wrinkle the new playbook may have with these two. You should expect some very vanilla runs with them.
Also, don’t expect to see Carl Lawson as he works his way back from last year’s ACL, while Geno Atkins may get what would essentially be a veteran’s rest day off.
“We still won’t play Carl Lawson. We’ll talk defensively about what else we want to do,” said Taylor. “That was the plan coming into training camp with Carl — (rest) him for the first two games and not participate in them, so we’ll stick with that. We’ll talk about Geno (Atkins) as a staff. We’ll make that decision tomorrow.”
Possibly holding out guys like Eifert and Atkins makes sense. Both are veteran players who are well versed in the intensity the regular season brings. Eifert may need some more snaps in the offense, but if the coaches feel like he understands what he is doing then there is no reason to risk injury.
Despite the Bengals having a new defense, Atkins’ role to disrupt opposing offenses won’t change much. Unless Atkins feels like he needs a few snaps to get ready for the season, there is no reason to play him this week.
Taylor spelling out Lawson’s plan to return is pretty refreshing. Lawson has gotten some pretty rave reviews out of training camp and practices already, so it isn’t surprising that his return seems planned out more than others who haven’t been practicing already.
Those waiting to see rookie running back Rodney Anderson in action won’t be waiting much longer.
“Rodney is going to play in the third game. I think it’s fair to get him (involved at this point),” Taylor said. “He had two days of work where he got eased back into things. Next week, he’ll get a chance to get three practices in and be ready to play in the game. Everything has been good with him. The first few days went as expected. He was dialed in and focused. I’m excited to see him get some work.”
Anderson’s recovery from an ACL injury he suffered while at Oklahoma last season has gone much quicker than most expected, but he could provide some important depth for the running back position for the Bengals in 2019. It should also be nice for Anderson to get an opportunity to get over the mental barriers of recovering from such an injury with some in game reps.
A big name we still won’t see Thursday night will be wide receiver John Ross. Taylor talked about why the team is taking such a cautious approach.
“Yeah. He’s anxious to get back. He’s eager. He’s doing all the things that we ask him to do. When he comes back, he’s going to open up and run, and we want to make sure there are no setbacks there,: Taylor said. “It’s very important that we have him back Week 1 against Seattle, so we’ll be patient with that process.
“It’s always good for a receiver to get the chemistry down with the quarterback, and to get a chance to be coached on the field. It is what it is. He has a hamstring injury, and that’s tough to recover from. We’re just going to give him time and make sure he’s 100 percent before we ask him to do anything.”
Taylor also noted he hopes Ross will be able to practice next Monday, which could mean Ross makes his debut in Week 3 of the preseason. Again, avoiding injuries is one of the most important things a coach can try and do during the preseason, so it is hard to argue with this. It may be frustrating to the Fans and Ross himself, but it won’t do anyone any good if he aggravates his hamstring injury in a preseason game.
Taylor didn’t mention this, but we can probably also assume that William Jackson will start this week after tweaking something before last week’s game against the Chiefs. He has practiced all week, so there doesn’t seem to be a reason to think he will miss another game.
Who are you most excited to see play on Thursday night?