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Tuesday Trenches: Two down, one to go

Just one more preseason game left before the Bengals take the field in Cleveland for a real game.

NFL: Preseason-Cincinnati Bengals at Atlanta Falcons John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

If finishing a game with a tie score is like kissing your sister, then what is finishing a preseason game that never mattered to begin with, with a tie score? Is that like kissing your dog? That’s what the Cincinnati Bengals did on Friday night. They kissed their dog tied with the Atlanta Falcons in a meaningless game.

I don’t know.

What I do know is we only have to watch one more game that doesn’t matter, and that’s on Saturday night against the Washington Commanders on the road.

The Bengals let their starting defense play for a few minutes on Friday night, but the only starter we saw on offense was Jonah Williams at right tackle. Other than that little bit of excitement, the offense struggled to move the ball again. We shouldn’t be surprised. Joe Burrow hasn’t taken any snaps, and we haven’t seen Joe Mixon or any of the big three receivers yet.

At this point, I’m not sure if we will.

Either way, here are a few thoughts on Friday night’s game against the Falcons.

We don’t talk about Chris Evans

Evans has been a question wrapped in an enigma over his short career in Cincinnati so far. We’ve seen him score touchdowns in the passing game, including in some huge games, but we’ve also seen him just never get on the field, even when the running game isn’t working, and the team could use his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.

For some reason, the coaches just don’t trust Evans.

Hopefully, that’s changing. Evans had a pretty decent showing on Friday night, considering he was running behind the backup offensive linemen. What is exciting, though, is he seems to have improved as a pass blocker. He scored a 74.1, per PFF, in pass protection on Friday night, which ain’t too shabby. The Bengals are looking to replace Samaje Perine, their third-down back and pass protector that was lost to the Broncos in free agency, and if Evans can keep this up, he could find himself on the field quite a lot in 2023.

Chasing Greatness

You want to talk about how good a Bengals running back was as a pass blocker? Let’s talk about rookie running back Chase Brown. Evans scored a 74.1, and that was over two reps as a pass protector out of the backfield. Brown took eight such snaps, and he scored an 84.0.

We haven’t really gotten to see anything from either Brown or Evans as runners because they’ve been playing behind a backup offensive line that has underperformed so far. I’m excited to see both Evans and Brown behind the starters for the first time.

To everything, Turner, Turner, Turner

After I heard the news that the Bengals starting defense would begin the game, I was interested to see which cornerback would start opposite Cam Taylor-Britt. It wasn’t Sidney Jones IV, it was rookie DJ Turner, the Bengals’ second-round pick. Turner gave up four receptions on five targets, earning him a 54.3 grade from PFF, which isn’t great, but cornerback can be a tough position for a rookie. The stuff Turner can do, especially with his speed, are things that can’t be taught. Once he develops, and I don’t think that will take a very long time, the Bengals are going to have a very good and young secondary.

God Save the Queen Tight End

I mentioned earlier that the only offensive starter we have seen so far was Williams. While we’ve seen some flashes from the backups at other skill positions, like Andrei Iosivas and Charlie Jones, the backup tight ends, outside of Tanner Hudson, have left something to be desired.

The Bengals cleared Mitch Wilcox to practice, which is good, and hopefully, Hudson comes back from concussion protocol soon. Either way, the gap between Smith and the next guy is pretty big. Smith has had issues with durability in the past, and hopefully, that’s where those issues stay.... the past.

Some other thoughts I had about the Bengals’ second preseason game:

  • The backup quarterback position is a concern. I mean, hopefully it doesn’t matter. Hopefully Joe Burrow plays every offensive snap unless he’s pulled because the Bengals are slaughtering their opponent. Sometimes bad things happen, though, and I’d like the Bengals to have someone backing up Burrow capable of winning a game.
  • I don’t really know what to think about Jackson Carman. He’s a talented run blocker, and he looks good at left tackle at times. However, the Bengals need him to fill the role of swing tackle, meaning he needs to be able to play on the right and the left, and hasn’t shown he can play on the right side. I still don’t see him getting cut, though.
  • I don’t think the Bengals need to let their offensive starters play on Saturday to win a Super Bowl this season, but I also really don’t want the offense to get off to a slow start this year. I would like to see the entire offense, with the exception of Burrow, starting the game on Saturday against the Commanders, even if it’s just for a series or two.
  • Joseph Ossai has been playing like a man possessed. He is poised to have a breakout season, and I can’t wait to see it.
  • Max Scharping taking snaps at center tells me he’s going to make the team. The more versatile a backup lineman can be, the more likely he is to make the team.
  • I was very happy to see Drue Chrisman back on the field. I think Brad Robbins is going to be the team’s punter when the final 53-man roster is released, but I am happy Chrisman will get an opportunity to punt for another team.
  • There are a few guys with outside shots at making the final roster that I’m really rooting for, but none more than Michael Thomas. He is the only safety on the team with any real experience, and he’s a great leader and locker room guy. That’s likely not enough to fend off Tycen Anderson, though. I hope the Bengals keep five safeties, but I kinda doubt it.
  • I was happy to see Desmond Ridder look pretty good on Friday night. I’ll continue to root for him unless he’s playing the Bengals in a game that matters.

Who Dey!