Cincinnati put up a solid effort in last Thursday’s 30-14 win over Detroit. With a trip to Jacksonville to take on the 0-2 Jaguars looming, here are 5 things to watch in the third game of the Bengals’ preseason.
1. Wide receiver battle, part I. News flash: 5-time Pro Bowler A.J. Green commands the top WR position. But there are question marks for the second spot. Brandon LaFell, fresh off a stint with the Patriots, is experienced but has yet to crack the 1,000-yard mark in a season and is battling a hand injury. Rookie Tyler Boyd is versatile … and just now cutting his teeth in the pros.
2. WR battle, part II. There are several candidates trying to fill out the back end of the receiver rotation before the roster is cut to 53 men on September 3rd. Brandon Tate, Alex Erickson, James Wright, Mario Alford, and Jake Kumerow are all battling for spots. You may be wondering “Who Dey?”, but it’s more a question of “Who Make It?” and “Who Don’t?”
3. A banged-up secondary. Darqueze Dennard won’t play because of a sprained ankle, First-round pick William Jackson III has a torn pectoral muscle and will spend most of the season (if not all of it) on Injured Reserve. That’s less-than-good news when facing a pair of 1,000-yard receivers in Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, as well as tight ends Julius Thomas (5 catches of 20+ yards last year) and Mercedes Lewis (14.1 yards per reception).
4. How long will the starters stay in? Getting reps for the No. 1 guys is crucial so they can hit the ground running (or passing) when the regular season kicks off September 11 against the Jets, who won 10 games in 2015. Andy Dalton looked smooth against Detroit, going 7 of 9 and posting a 102.8 QB rating. Does he stay in until the third quarter before coach Marvin Lewis slaps third-year man A.J. McCarron on the shoulder and says ‘Go get ’em.”? And with tight end Tyler Eifert most likely out 4-6 weeks to start the season it will be interesting to see how much playing time other key weapons like Green, Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard get.
5. Can the Bengals avoid the bug? The injury bug, that is. We already mentioned the losses of Dennard and WJIII, which can be enough to put the passing defense behind the proverbial 8-ball. A big goal for the team is to get through the game with the starting lineup intact and keep the team doctors from having a busy night.