This week, for the first and only time this year, the Cincinnati Bengals will play on a Friday. Usually their Fridays will involve shortened practices with no contact, which is why Wednesday’s practice resembled just that.
After the offense lit the practice field up on Monday and Tuesday, the Bengals put in the final preparations for their preseason matchup against the Washington Football Team (Friday, 8:00 P.M. EST). The defense seemed to respond well Wednesday, specifically cornerback Chidobe Awuzie.
Bengals cornerback Chidobe Awuzie is having another practice where he’s having the best day of anyone on the field.— Charlie Goldsmith (@CharlieG__) August 18, 2021
Multiple pass breakups today in one-one-one coverage.
In just the 3 practices I’ve been able to see, #Bengals CB Chidobe Awuzie has made a number of impressive plays in coverage on Ja’Marr Chase. A positive sign for Cincinnati’s defense— Kelsey Conway (@KelseyLConway) August 18, 2021
Awuzie’s coverage thus far in camp has been nothing short of persistently sticky. The free agent acquisition from Dallas has wasted no time fitting in to the Bengals’ new-look secondary. Wednesday just happens to be the latest afternoon he showcased his prowess.
Awuzie has notably gone up against rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase oftentimes in practice. Chase’s struggles during the beginning of camp were likely amplified due to Awuzie’s impressive coverage ability. To hear Chase improving despite Awuzie’s play not experiencing a drop off is nothing but great news.
What’s not great news is D’Ante Smith missing Wednesday’s practice. The rookie guard never appeared Wednesday, leaving Quinton Spain with all the starting reps at left guard. Xavier Su’a-Filo took the reps at right guard for the second day in a row.
We didn’t learn until after practice what was up with Smith. Per head coach Zac Taylor, Smith was dealing with dehydration from the previous night and was held out of practice because of it.
D'Ante Smith got a rest day after being dehydrated last night. Might not play vs. WAS because of precautionary reasons.— Ben Baby (@Ben_Baby) August 18, 2021
Taylor didn’t rule Smith out for Friday’s game, but our best guess would be he doesn’t play very much or at all after missing Wednesday. They’ll likely play it safe and keep him out of the game.
Zac Taylor says rookie D’Ante Smith is still in the mix for a starting guard spot, and he’s continuing to give “all the guys” a chance.— Charlie Goldsmith (@CharlieG__) August 18, 2021
Smith will likely be back early next week.
As far as the players Taylor did rule out, there were no big surprises. Eli Apple and Ricardo Allen will not play for the second-straight week despite both players returning to practice earlier this week. Neither player should be worried about their roster spots, so this is likely the same situation Larry Ogunjobi dealt with last week. Ogunjobi didn’t play last Saturday despite returning to practice earlier in the week.
Khalid Kareem, Trayveon Williams, Trey Hopkins, Joe Burrow, and Joseph Ossai will also not suit up. When asked about Ossai’s injury, Taylor said they’re still waiting for more information.
Eli Apple, Ricardo Allen, Khalid Kareem, Joseph Ossai, Trayveon Williams and Trey Hopkins won’t play on Friday.— Charlie Goldsmith (@CharlieG__) August 18, 2021
Burrow and Hopkins are still being held out for precautionary purposes. Both players are medically cleared to participate, but Taylor doesn’t want to put them out there before they’re needed.
When asked after practice if he’s been lobbying to play, Burrow responded with a “yes” followed by a laugh. The Bengals’ quarterback told reporters he finally feels like he’s “back to my old self.”
QB1 says all the comfort in the pocket stuff is no longer an issue.— Paul Dehner Jr. (@pauldehnerjr) August 18, 2021
“Back to my old self.” pic.twitter.com/zQv739YwYU
With just over three weeks remaining until Week 1, that’s all the news Taylor and Bengals fans can hope for.