- Who does Zac Taylor start for the first unit offensive line?
This will be something significant to look out for in this game. Especially now that Joe Burrow has been announced active. He is on a snap count, but regardless of the unit Taylor puts out, there will most likely be the same line we see in Week 1 against the Vikings. It just wouldn’t make sense that they would throw an offensive line out there in front of Joe Burrow if it weren’t going to be the first team.
The guard play is what to look out for most, though. Jonah Williams and Riley Reiff have the tackle spots on lock, and it seems that Quinton Spain may be narrowing down one of the guard positions, but Zac Taylor has made it very clear Week 1 starter haven’t been set yet. As of right now, Xavier Su’a-Filo is expected to get the nod alongside Spain in this final week three matchup against Miami. And Trey Hopkins is scheduled to make his debut at center behind Burrow.
The race through training camp and preseason has consisted of Quinton Spain, Michael Jordan, Xavier Su’a-Filo, D’Ante Smith, Jackson Carman, and Billy Price. Jordan and Spain have been taking most of the first-team reps, but it looks like Jordan may be losing that spot to Su’a-Filo as long as he performs well against a starting defense this Sunday.
Rookie D’Ante Smith is a name to monitor. He probably won’t win the starting job, but he wasn’t even expected to be in the conversation after being selected in the 4th round of the NFL Draft. But slowly, as training camp has developed, he has shown himself as a competitor for the starting job. So if Su’a-Filo or Spain don’t live up to the expectations, don’t be shocked if Smith gets his opportunity early in the season.
2. How does Ja’Marr Chase respond after a poor performance in Week 2 of the preseason.
Now I’m not worried about Chase. And other Bengals fans shouldn’t be either. He’s a rookie, there will be bumps in the road, and there will be good days and bad days. That is expected from a young player. I don’t anticipate too many snaps and field time in this game, but expect him to be out there with Joe Burrow returning. Still, being the last preseason game before the season opener against the Vikings, I’d only expect maybe a few possessions.
Even if Chase on sees a few targets, it will still be essential to see how he responds from last week after he had multiple drops. With Burrow throwing the ball, seeing how he does in a game-like situation will be even more critical.
So far, through training camp, he has only gotten better; his route running has never been an issue and has been something that has earned him a lot of praise. His ability to create separation right when he needs to is what makes his game partially so appealing. However, it seemed like his frustration got to him last game, which led to his focus not being all there. Nevertheless, even if Chase catches a few passes or one nice ball, it will ease the mind of many Bengals fans.
Do not be worried about Ja’Marr Chase. He will have a terrific rookie season and make a serious impact on the Bengals’ offense. Panic mode was never necessary. Especially since it is preseason, and he had a backup QB throwing him passes which he rarely took reps with.
3. What role does Noah Spence play after being signed earlier this week?
Noah Spence was signed earlier this week after the news that rookie edge rusher Joseph Ossai was done for the season due to a knee injury. Ossai was expected to have a key role on the defense this season after having an impressive training camp and Week 1 of the preseason. On the very first possession, he sacked Tom Brady after blowing by highly talented offensive lineman Tristian Wirfs.
This game will be vital for Spence to show his worth. Being signed earlier this week, he hasn’t had the chance to play in the first two preseason games, so if he doesn’t impress, he puts himself at risk of being cut from the 53-man roster. When watching Spence play, what stands out is his athleticism and ability to play all around the defense. He has been shown working out with Darrin Simmons and the special teams unit and as an edge rusher across the front seven.
Spence’s best season was in 2016 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he managed to have 22 combined tackles, 16 solo tackles, 12 QB hits, 5.5 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles. Although unfortunately, he has yet to get back into form as he has jumped from team to team trying to find that same success.
Cincinnati hopes to be that team where he finds that fit. But a lot will ride on his play against the Miami Dolphins Sunday evening.