Joe Burrow finally played in a football game, and now all seems right in the world.
Even though Burrow was only in for three plays (on a drive that lost eight yards), it was still great to see him on the field for the first time since his knee injury. If Ja’Marr Chase can figure out how to hold on to the ball, then the Vikings defense had better watch out.
The Cincinnati Bengals will have to cut their roster down to 53 on Tuesday, so we don’t have long before we get answers to a lot of our questions.
Some interesting developments have already happened that might shape the way the roster looks. Trae Waynes’ injury update may affect the final 53-man roster, and the Billy Price trade opens the door for a young lineman to make his way onto the roster.
So between the last preseason game of the year and cut day, what did we learn about the Bengals in their loss to the Miami Dolphins?
Defensive line is deepening
Khalid Kareem got started quickly with a pass breakup and a sack in the first drive. Darius Hodge played nearly the entire game, and totaled three tackles, one for a loss, one sack, one QB hit, and one PBU. Even Cam Sample, who has been overshadowed by Hodge and Joseph Ossai, contributed a sack to the defensive effort.
Noah Spence didn’t do much to move up on the depth chart, so it looks like his time in Cincinnati will be short.
Offensive line veterans
Frank Pollack seems like he is sticking with the veterans.
It’s safe to assume that the starting offensive line from this game will be the Week 1 line against the Vikings. Since Trey Hopkins actually played, he will resume the role of starting center. Besides, Zac Taylor wouldn’t have wanted Joe Burrow to be protected by potential backup guards.
The spots in question have been the two guard spots, and it looks like those are going to Xavier Su’a-Filo and Quinton Spain. The Bengals traded away Billy Price on Monday, and it looks like Michael Jordan is on the chopping block.
The funny thing is that the three backup spots will go to rookies. D’Ante Smith and Jackson Carman will be the two backup guards, and Trey Hill will likely get a shot to play backup center. He came in for Price in the third drive of the game so the coaching staff could see him with the twos. This is good news for Hill but bad news for Jordan.
Coming in for an injured Brandon Wilson, Trayvon Henderson had a TFL and an interception in relief duty. He eventually came in with the third team like he was originally going to, and ended up being the second leading tackler on the team.
Did he earn a roster spot? With Trae Waynes possibly missing a month, there is an extra defensive back spot on the team. The defense allowed 343 yards to a quarterback the Dolphins are going to cut tomorrow, so as a whole, the units’ depth isn’t incredible. Antonio Phillips probably played himself out of a spot, and Winston Rose didn’t play until the threes went in.
So that spot will likely come down to Henderson, Trenton Irwin, Trent Taylor, or another fringe player with special teams potential.
Technically, Waynes will have to be on the initial roster if he plans on returning this year, so whoever takes his spot will be cut. But Henderson might find he gets re-resigned to the active roster. It will come down to who is most valuable in special teams.
The last receivers spot
The last receiver spot will come down to Mike Thomas, Irwin, and Taylor, and they made that decision really difficult on Sunday.
Thomas is the veteran, so he gets the benefit of the doubt. He also had several nice plays from scrimmage. Irwin had a really nice catch, taking a hit immediately while holding onto the ball. Taylor had the heads-up play on fourth down that set not only extended the drive, but set up a short touchdown.
There is no clear choice here. Irwin is a fan favorite because he has taken some big hits, but either one could make their case.