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Tuesday Trenches: We’re giving out awards!

You get an award, and you get an award, and you get an award......

The Cincinnati Bengals just played their first football game in what seems like 10 years on Friday night when they hosted the Green Bay Packers in the first week of the preseason. They lost the game by a score of 36-19, but there was a lot to be excited about.

None of the starters, outside of Dax Hill, started or even played on Friday, so we didn’t get a clear picture of what the 2023 Bengals will look like, but we got a decent picture of what some of the Bengals depth players are capable of.

And, what they’re not capable of.

Having said all that, let’s give out some awards.

The “Steal of the Draft” award goes to.....

Andrei Iosivas, WR

Obviously, it’s way too early to say anybody from the 2023 draft class is a “bust” or a “steal.” We need to evaluate a couple of years of play before we can accurately make a determination like that, but it certainly seems so far that Iosivas, the wide receiver out of Princeton who stands at 6-foot-3 and weighs more than 200 pounds and has track-star speed, should have been selected before the sixth round.

On Friday, he was targeted 10 times, 3 more times than any other receiver. He caught 4 of those 10 targets for 50 yards, which also led the team. The offense was pretty anemic on Friday night, which had a lot to do with the play of the offensive line and the fact that neither backup quarterback really shined (more on that later), but you could get a sense that Iosivas could be very good with Joe Burrow throwing passes to him.

The “He Was Drafted in the First Round, Why Isn’t He Playing Like a HOFer” award goes to....

Myles Murphy, DE

People were upset that Murphy, the No. 28 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, didn’t sack Jordan Love 15 times, intercept 3 passes, throw a touchdown pass, and kick a field goal. Instead, Murphy had two quarterback pressures and two tackles.

Did he light the world on fire? No.

But nobody said he would.

The Bengals selected Murphy over Michael Mayer and Joey Porter Jr. because the Clemson edge rusher has elite size and speed. He’s a gifted athlete, but he’s raw. The Bengals are going to have to mold him into the pass rusher they want him to be. He’ll get there, and the Bengals have the luxury of time on their side. They already have Sam Hubbard and Trey Hendrickson through the 2025 season, and they also have Joseph Ossai. They don’t need Murphy to be a pass-rushing machine yet.

Be patient. Murphy has potential.

The “I Could Do Better Than That” award goes to.....

Jackson Carman, OT

Before I continue, I want to make it very clear that I cannot play football, or do anything physical, better than Jackson Carman. He’s in the NFL. I am not. If he were to get mad at me and come to my house, he would absolutely fold me in half, and I would barely be able to put up a fight.

Having said that, he was not good at right tackle on Friday, and I’m not the only one who saw it.

But, take a look at these two plays that took place in the fourth quarter on Friday night. Keep in mind, at this point, the Packers are playing guys that may not make the team. Carman has started a fair share of games.

Number 57, who beat Carman on both plays, if you’re curious, is Brenton Cox Jr., an undrafted free agent rookie out of Florida. Now, maybe Cox will be great, and saying he’s an undrafted free agent isn’t meant in any way to disparage him. What I am saying, though, is Carman, a second-round pick entering the third year of his career, should be better than this. Carman finished with a 91.1 grade as a run blocker, but he had an abysmal 37.4 grade as a pass protector.

He’s in competition for the team’s swing tackle position, meaning he could back up at either left tackle or right tackle. If he can’t play on one side, he doesn’t have a lot of value. If Carman doesn’t step it up big time, he could be playing his way out of a position in Cincinnati.

The “Did You Forget About Him” award goes to....

Tycen Anderson, Safety

Anderson was selected in the fifth round in 2022 out of Toledo but spent the first season of his career on IR with what must have been the worst hamstring injury in the history of sports. The team selected Dax Hill as well in 2022, brought in Nick Scott in free agency, and drafted Jordan Battle in the third round this year. The Bengals are replacing Jessie Bates III and Vonn Bell, likely with Hill and Scott as the starters. Battle, a third-round pick isn’t going anywhere, and that leaves Michael Thomas, an 11-year veteran who is a locker room leader and special teams captain, and Anderson.

I figured the team would keep Thomas for his experience, and while it would be unfortunate, Anderson could be out of a job. Well, that was before Anderson picked off two passes on Friday night and returned this one for a touchdown.

I don’t want Thomas going anywhere. He’s too valuable to the team, but I also want Anderson to stick around. Hopefully, the team decides to keep five safeties.

The “Chris Evans” award goes to.....

Chris Evans, Running Back

What even is Chris Evans?

We know what he can do on the field as an extra receiver. He scored a game-winning touchdown against the Chiefs in the 2022 regular season. So why doesn’t he play?

Evans had a good game on Friday. He finished the game with 7 rushing attempts for 49 yards, which included a 33-yard scamper. The running back clearly has some skill, and he’s worked on his pass blocking, evidenced here by stopping a runaway bulldozer from flattening one of the Bengals' backup quarterbacks.

Joe Mixon is going to make the team. Trayveon Williams is going to make the team (pending his ankle). Chase Brown is going to make the team. The Bengals coaches don’t trust Evans for some reason, and despite having a solid game on Friday, he could be on the outside looking in no matter what he does. If he does make the team, we have no clue if he’ll actually play.

So I ask again.... what even is Chris Evans?

Some other things I noticed that I liked or disliked....

  • I really like Tanner Hudson’s potential at the tight end position, which isn’t very deep. He caught 4 passes for 29 yards before he left with a concussion. I hope he clears protocol in time to play on Friday because I’d like to see him on the final 53.
  • Dax Hill is the only starter that played on Friday, which I’m assuming is because he needs experience. This play showcased his athletic ability.
  • I’m a big fan of Joseph Ossai, and on one particular play at defensive end, he set the edge on a sweep, forcing the running back to cut back inside or go out of bounds. The running back cut inside and was stopped near the line by another defender. I can’t find a video (of course), but the play stuck out in my mind. After the way the season ended last year, I’d love to see Ossai go off in 2023.
  • Seeing Joe Burrow run around on the field and go through a pregame warm-up routine without limping and without a sleeve on his calf was fantastic to see!
  • Evan McPherson is money. That is all.
  • Neither Trevor Siemian nor Jake Browning has a leg up to be Burrow’s backup quite yet. They were both subpar on Friday night, but a lot of that has to do with the offensive line play.
  • DJ Turner has insane closing speed and plays with awareness. He’s going to be a good corner, and while I’m happy Chidobe Awuzie is healthy and will start this year, the future of the position is bright.
  • Jeff Gunter, last year’s seventh-round pick, flashed a couple of times. He did a good job knocking down a pass at the line of scrimmage, but he also had two penalties.
  • Keeping Jonah Williams on the sideline and starting Jackson Carman at right tackle tells me there is no battle for the starting right tackle position. It’s Jonah’s spot unless he gets hurt. Based on what we saw Friday night, let’s hope that doesn’t happen.

What did you see Friday night that stood out to you, either good or bad?

Who Dey!