Progress has been slow but steady for the Cincinnati Bengals this month. Quarterback Joe Burrow and right tackle La’el Collins have both made returns to practice amidst several injuries occurring along the offensive line.
Bumps and bruises are inevitable in August, but when looking towards Week 1 in September, the integral pieces are finally coming together.
Most—if not all—of those pieces will once again be watching from the sidelines tonight in the team’s second preseason game. The Bengals’ reserves and roster hopefuls are in the Meadowlands tonight to face the New York Giants, a team with no reason to take the preseason lightly. We’ve got some storylines for you to follow tonight.
All eyes on 67
Cordell Volson was given Quinton Spain’s No. 67 soon after he was drafted, and the Bengals are now counting on the rookie out of North Dakota State to be the answer at Spain’s old position. He passed the first test two Fridays ago against the bottom of the Arizona Cardinals’ defensive line, even if that still was the toughest competition the FCS alum has ever gone up against. He showed great awareness, play strength, and quickness in his first appearance on an NFL field.
A repeat performance would almost surely solidify him as the starter entering the team’s week of practices vs. the Los Angeles Rams. Once that becomes reality, you can pencil him in as the guy lining up between Jonah Williams and Ted Karras in Week 1.
Final spot scramble
If there’s a position the Bengals can go light at to start the season, linebacker has the best case on defense. The top four is very much set with Logan Wilson, Germaine Pratt, Akeem Davis-Gaither, and Markus Bailey, all drafted and developed under coordinator Lou Anarumo. Whomever the fifth player is will likely be the only other backer to make the initial roster, and with Joe Bachie still on the PUP list and unable to show anything, it looks like a three-player race.
Clay Johnston, one of the heroes from the team’s Divisional Round victory over the Tennessee Titans, finds himself in splitting snaps between Keandre Jones and Cincy native Tegray Scales. The snap counts and PFF grades from last week make it hard to separate these three, but when these guys play matters just as much as how much they play. Keep an eye on which two come off the bench first behind Davis-Gaither and Bailey.
All that’s left
It’s a good thing Hayden Hurst has been looking the part in practice because the depth behind him is evaporating. Drew Sample is likely out until the regular season at minimum, and last we heard Mitchell Wilcox was in a walking boot. Wilcox’s injury may not be enough to knock him off the roster, but it does provide a prime opportunity to the Bengals’ remaining tight ends.
As we saw last week, Thaddeus Moss is first in line, and he’ll need to cut down on the holding penalties if he wants to keep it that way. Fortunately for him, it may take incredible showings from Nick Eubanks, Scotty Washington, and Justin Rigg to keep him off Wilcox’s tail.
First mistake loses
No blood has been drawn in the specialists quarrel happening at punter and long snapper. Kevin Huber and Clark Harris split reps last week with Drue Chrisman and Cal Adomitis, respectively, with the former duo getting one more rep each.
The distribution of snaps, in this case, literally, may not change tonight. What matters is what they do with them. A bad hold, snap, or boot may be what swings the tide in any direction, and the veterans.