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Zac Taylor looks to buck trend of playing time for Bengals’ third preseason game

Don’t expect a traditional dress rehearsal from the Bengals against the Giants on Thursday night.

Cincinnati Bengals v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

When the Bengals hired Zac Taylor to be their head coach, the overwhelming theme was modernizing the Bengals. They wanted to get younger and try to ward off some of the staleness that had crept into the stadium the past few seasons.

Most fans probably just think the Bengals offense is going to get an upgrade in scheme to something that teams like the Chiefs and Rams ran last season. Another aspect has been Taylor’s approach to getting the players prepared for the season.

We have heard Taylor talk about how he wants to keep players fresh and make sure they come back fully healthy for almost the entirety of the offseason, so it should come as no surprise that he is extending that to the famous third preseason game dress rehearsal where starters have traditionally played into the second half of the game.

“You won’t see [the starters] play that long. I feel confident that we will get good work in, however long that is in the first half,” Taylor told reporters on Sunday “Guys will be ready to play against Seattle. We will not play (starters) the first half and into the third quarter like it has been done in the past. I think the trend, and I don’t really care what the trend is, is the guys will play a series-or-two shorter than what has happened in years past. Whether that’s good or bad, that’s what we believe in — keeping our guys fresh and healthy. They’re getting enough work. We feel good about our plan.”

The third preseason game has usually been the time most teams play their starters for an extended period of time. The thinking behind it is it helps players’ bodies prepare to play after sitting for halftime. It also gives them a few extra snaps of practice against a live opponent. The downside is it is also putting players at risk for that many more plays during a game that ultimately means nothing at the end of the season.

For those who have followed Taylor’s statements since joining the team, this should come as no surprise. He has really treated training camp and the preseason as more of a luxury time to allow players who may not be 100 percent to heal properly and get eased back in. We’ve seen it with players like John Ross and Carl Lawson in particular.

He also doesn’t seem to want to place players who have been prone to injuries out there for too long. One such player is tight end Tyler Eifert, who played a single snap against Washington last week. Taylor plans to play more of him against the Giants, but again don’t expect to see too much of him.

“He’ll see a little bit more. Not too much more,” Taylor told Richard Skinner of WKRC. “There’s not a whole lot we need to see from him. The important thing is keeping him fresh and healthy for Week 1 in Seattle.”

If all goes well the Bengals should have a healthy Eifert in Week 1 against the Seahawks, which would be a huge help with wide receiver A.J. Green likely to miss the game. There is no question the Bengals offense is better when Eifert is able to play. It has just a matter of Eifert and Cincinnati not being lucky enough for that to be the case more often. Maybe Taylor’s approach will help curb that trend.

Overall, this is a new approach that I’m sure veteran players especially will enjoy. Some players may be anxious to get as many snaps in as possible before the regular season hits. Although, those extra snaps won’t matter if they lead to an injury that holds them back from being as fresh as possible for Week 1.

Plus, the players on the roster bubble will appreciate the extra opportunities to show off for the Bengals and the NFL just as much.