The first preseason game isn’t known for many notable things, but not many teams are experiencing the kind of change that’s occurring in Cincinnati. Yes, they have essentially a new coaching staff across the board, but it’s the first time they’ve had a new head coach since George W. Bush was in the White House.
Speaking of, the men in stripes take the field for the first time in an actual game this Saturday. In that match, there are a number of things to look for when it comes to forming opinions on the 2019 Bengals team.
Here are some of the more interesting facets and players to watch this Saturday:
Defensive line: Recent draft picks like Andrew Brown and even Jordan Willis may be fighting for their Bengals roster lives. While preseason is part of the equation for coaches to make their evaluations, the guys at the lower end of their positional depth charts will need to make noise against other backups in limited preseason action.
Not many people are saying it, but it seems to be an especially critical summer for Willis. He came in with relatively high expectations back in 2017 and is now in that oh-so-critical year three of his NFL development.
Wide receiver: When The Orange and Black Insider’s co-host John Sheeran recently put out his early roster projection, fan favorite, Auden Tate, was notably omitted. Sheeran’s reasoning is because Damion Willis has become this camp’s version of Tate from last year, in that he is constantly turning heads with his play.
While the duke-out between those two will be something to watch, things like playing time for Alex Erickson and the development of John Ross (if he can get out on the field) are two other major storylines. Josh Malone is stepping up in practice, but a committee will be needed if/when A.J. Green is sidelined at the beginning of the regular season.
Left guard: It’s not often that the interior of an offensive line is one of the most interesting battles in a preseason for a team, but Cincinnati seems to be in a constant state of experimentation up front. Clint Boling has left a huge vacancy and has the team toying with ideas ranging from the youngest player on the team in fourth-round pick, Michael Jordan, to John Jerry, who is 33 years old and didn’t play in the league last year.
Backup quarterback: Some fan bases live by the credo that the backup quarterback is the most popular player on the roster. That isn’t the case with the Bengals, but it is a preseason battle worth watching...we think.
Preseason passing with a slew of backup players isn’t always pretty, but both Ryan Finley and Jeff Driskel have to show their stuff over the next four weeks. Finley seems to have a roster spot sewn up because of his draft status, but will the team need to keep three signal-callers and go light elsewhere when the season starts?
The running backs: As mentioned above, productive, downfield passing often comes at a premium in the summer, so backup running backs tend to receive a lot of work. Giovani Bernard is nicked up, so guys like Trayveon Williams and others will get the ball frequently.
Williams has had a nice camp, and now the team activated Rodney Anderson, so this group is getting very interesting. With a healthy Williams, Anderson and Bernard to join Joe Mixon, this group has to be one of the most talented in the NFL.
Style of play
Marvin Lewis versus Zac Taylor: No, the two aren’t going head-to-head, but they also kind of are, in a weird sense. “Stale”, “rigid” and”lifeless” are words that have been used to describe the recent years of the Lewis era, and we’ve heard for months how Taylor is keeping it fresh—particularly for the veterans.
The time to walk the talk is now. Will the Bengals be buttoned-up, or play loose and have some fun? Will the fundamentals be present, or will bonehead plays that have cursed the team for ages be once again prevalent? We know, we know, it’s only preseason Week 1, but there will be signs.
The coaching staff’s inexperience: Guys like Jim Turner have been around football and in a similar post forever, but Taylor, Lou Anarumo and Brian Callahan are all newbies to their respective positions. Will they look wise beyond their years, or are we going to see the all-too-familiar deer-in-the-highlights look on their faces?
Game management scenarios including before halftime, timeout management and other often-overlooked aspects to a football game will be interesting to see how they are handled.
What are you most looking forward to seeing from the Bengals in their preseason opener? And yes, of course, we all wish for little to no injuries during the contest.
Also on this week’s episode:
- How much does an early roster projection change with a move like taking Rodney Anderson off of PUP?
- Is this 2019 Bengals squad top-heavy and lacking substance?
- How consistent or inconsistent is the team’s talent level from position group to position group?
- We’re with you, Dayton, El Paso and Gilroy.
Our thanks to the listeners who tuned in live! Join us this Friday to kick off the preseason opener with a live Q and A session at 6 p.m. ET!
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