If the general sentiment is that the NFL preseason can be a bit lack-luster, these first two outings for the Cincinnati Bengals have certainly have gone against the norm… although not in the way that most would prefer. The latter halves against New York and Kansas City proved to be abysmal, causing some, including Head Coach Marvin Lewis, to vocalize concerns about the roster’s positional depth. At this point, such concerns may be a reasonably fair assessment. Once the starters left the field, the errors last Saturday started to pile up. A third and twenty was blown. A punt was blocked for a safety. The offensive line looked like a sieve and the defensive line did not look much better. Indeed, the drop off in talent appeared obvious.
But a closer looks provides solace to more veteran Bengals fans whom may be prone to a Pavlovian degree of cynicism. On the defensive line, David King took 35 snaps; Chris Bilukidi and Sam Montgomery each took more than 40. These players are not second string players, but rather look to be fighting for the practice squad or sixth defensive end spot. Additionally, Darqueze Dennard and Dre Kirkpatrick both sat on Saturday, effectively make the remainder of the cornerbacks in the game the roster scrum for the sixth corner once incumbent starters Leon Hall, Adam Jones, and Terrence Newman retired for the night with the first team. In other words while Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan left his starters in during second quarter, the Bengals fielded their third string players, many of whom are unlikely to make the final cut.
Quarterback was no exception. Matt Scott, the front runner for the practice squad QB, completed only 8 of 22 passes and was sacked four times. However, this too should be taken with a grain of salt. His offensive line was almost entirely second stringers against a Jets defense that was clearly working their blitz packages. Another consideration, Cobi Hamliton was only able to haul in 2 passes (11 yards) when Scott targeted him ten times; Tyler Wilson targeted him three more. Ryan Whalen put up only slightly better numbers, but a cursory glance suggests the Bengals had a game plan: to test their players fighting for those few remaining roster spots.
Accepting this is the preseason and assuming recent injuries are minor, Cincinnati would do well to refrain from hitting the panic button. They are still very deep.