This summer is looking quite different from last in a lot of different ways, and one of the big ones will be on display this Saturday as the Cincinnati Bengals travel to Tampa Bay to take on the Buccaneers.
Helping us break down all of the sights and sounds from training camp is ESPN reporter, Ben Baby. We chatted with him about the new faces, potential panic button points and pleasant surprises.
Unfortunately, when it came to Cincinnati’s offensive line, Baby didn’t pull any punches about their summer performance.
“Here’s what I think: we all like to bag on Jim Turner plenty and I have watched Turner for several years now (in covering the Bengals and monitoring Texas A&M from his native Texas),” Baby said. “One of my biggest gripes with Turner was that he tinkered with the offensive line way too late in training camp and didn’t really give that ‘first five’ that stability they need...Under Frank Pollack, I don’t think it’s tinkering for tinkering’s sake, I think it’s because there is a legit question of what’s going on with the guards—they’re trying to find a guard situation that works.”
The question and its response comes on the heels of the team’s release of its first depth chart this week, wherein Michael Jordan is listed as the starting right guard at the moment. While things could change, it was quite a surprise, given Jordan’s struggles in his first two pro seasons and the fact that he’s had extremely limited time on the right side in the NFL.
“We haven’t really seen what the unit looks like with Trey Hopkins in there, what the starting guards are going to be and I think that’s the caveat with the offensive line—and I hate to come on and just be doom-and-gloom—but, the fact of the matter is, I think that’s part of what we’re talking about,” Baby continued. “We haven’t really seen what that full unit is going to look like. We don’t know who those starting guards are going to be, we don’t know what they’re all going to look like with Trey (Hopkins) in there, with Riley (Reiff) getting a little more footing under him—then we can make a more accurate portrayal and depiction of what this offensive line is going to look like.”
The way Baby and many other media members have seen things, it sounds like very few offensive linemen have been immune to occasional poor play this training camp. Things are improving as practices wear on, but a lethal combination of growing pains, a lack of talent at certain spots and comebacks from injury have plagued the group.
It’s likely to improve as preseason and regular season games wear on, but the national talking points of passing on Penei Sewell at No. 5 and the lack of a high-end free agency addition to the interior of the line will remain atop minds, until this group proves otherwise.
Some other points of our conversation with ESPN’s Ben Baby:
- The defense has looked solid—particularly Sam Hubbard who hasn’t seemed to lose any motivation after signing a big deal a couple of weeks ago.
- With the recent news of the team and Jessie Bates III being far apart on an extension, things may be headed to a 2022 franchise tag situation.
- The wide receivers have definitely flashed high-end talent, but they too have work to do to gain more consistency.
- Baby says the running back group has been one of the most impressive positions in camp.
After our chat with Ben Baby, we had a “Soundbite of the Week” from Joe Burrow. In a bit of a surprise, Burrow admitted in an NFL Network interview that he had been a little skittish during the first week of camp. He says that he’s comfortable in the pocket once again and he’s cleared mental hurdles that inevitably came with his big knee injury.
We also have a Potential Breakout Player and it may be a bit of a surprise. Why? Because many could claim that the player we selected is taking a reduced role in 2021.
Also, we still have our Charity-Fest benefitting the Munoz Foundation, The Ken Riley Foundation and The Ken Anderson Alliance as a celebration for the respective players’ inductions into the inaugural class of the Bengals Ring of Honor. We’re so close to our financial goal, so please donate here. You could win cool prizes!
Get the show on your favorite audio streamer, or on our YouTube channel! Our thanks to Mr. Baby for his time—be sure to keep up with his great Bengals coverage over at ESPN!
If you’re unable to join us live here at Cincy Jungle or YouTube for every episode, all of our podcast content is available here on CJ, the Stitcher, Spotify, iHeart Radio and Google Play Music apps, our Orange and Black Insider YouTube channel, as well as through Megaphone and, as always, on iTunes! Thanks for listening and go subscribe to our channels to be notified when we’re going live and when new episodes are available!