Football season is finally upon us! It’s been two years since the last time the Cincinnati Bengals played a preseason game. That changes tomorrow when the reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers host them at 7:30pm EST.
Last year in the week 1 loss to the Chargers, it was very obvious how no preseason and the limited offseason negatively affected the team’s performance. It was ugly. A lack of reps will do that to a team and especially an offense.
The Bengals will be debuting the highly anticipated New Stripes – featuring black jerseys and white pants. And while I’m personally ecstatic to see the new uniforms live and in action, there is plenty more to look out for.
Things to watch for:
- There’s been multiple reports surrounding Ja’Marr Chase’s struggles to separate in training camp. He’s also had drop issues. A lot of eyes will be on Chase on Saturday night. My gut tells me that Chase will perform up to par under the lights in a game situation. Too much can be drawn from early struggles in rookies, but if anyone can turn their level of play to a different notch when they need to, it’s the former Biletnikoff Award Winner. Especially when he’s aware of his issues and routinely stays after practice ends to get extra work.
- Can the Bengals find surprise help in the pass rush department? It’s no secret that this may be the weakest area on the whole roster. Two names to watch out for? Cam Sample and Joseph Ossai. I was extremely high on both of these rookies coming out of college and if either of them are able to hit the ground running, Lou Anarumo’s job gets a lot easier.
- Joe Mixon is going to start, but rumblings around camp are that Chris Evans is impressing the entire team. Can he be what Giovani Bernard was to this offense? As a Michigan fan, I watched just about every Chris Evans snap there is to watch. He’s got all of the athleticism in the world. I believe he’s playing for RB2 this preseason.
- And then there’s the offensive line. Jackson Carman does not seem to be living up to the organization’s expectations thus far. Xavier Sua’Filo is having a bad camp by all accounts and Michael Jordan as of right now is the team’s starting RG. Whew. The positives so far seem to be Jonah Williams and 4th round rookie D’Ante Smith, who is listed as the 2nd LG on the depth chart. The team clearly doesn’t know the best 5 guys to put out there week 1, but these preseason games should give them a much better idea.
- The kicker battle will intensify as both Austin Seibert and Evan McPherson will play. So far, McPherson has kicked lights out. But Seibert hasn’t fallen too far behind. Hopefully, Seibert can make himself a trade target for kicker needy teams like Minnesota and New Orleans.
Fans have to wait to see the return of Joe Burrow as he will sit out along with Trey Hopkins and Larry Ogunjobi.