Bengals: 5 Things to Watch vs. Cardinals

6 of 6

Finally…the Return Game

Aug 7, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher (11) dives in for a touchdown against Kansas City Chiefs safety Jerron McMillian (34) in the first half at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

The overall performance of the Bengals’ special teams unit has raised concerns amongst the coaching staff.  It’s ability to block properly and avoid penalties during returns has been difficult so far.  The team has also struggled to cover kicks and punts properly, which has left the offense and defense in difficult situations during the past two games.  Special teams coach Darrin Simmons will need to get his troops in line, but he’ll also need to decide upon his returners in the process.  There are several players in the mix for the job(s) such as Brandon Tate, Dane Sanzenbacher, Adam Jones, and the little known Jasper Collins.  Both Sanzenbacher and Jones are roster locks at their respective positions, but both players can earn additional field time if they prove themselves capable when returning.  Jones was a dangerous punt returner for the Bengals in the past, but had to relinquish this duty last year when the secondary suffered a few injuries and the team chose to use Jones solely in this role.  Sanzenbacher has proven himself a very capable returner both in the past, with a punt return for a TD during last year’s preseason, and with some quality returns during this preseason. Sanzenbacher may be a couple of returns away from locking up the job.  The Bengals value versatility and with a loaded roster, using these players to return kicks would be a win for both players and the team alike.

Brandon Tate has been the team’s primary returner for a few years now and has done a solid job overall.  With each passing year his job has been further put in jeopardy as the team has acquired more depth.  Retaining a roster spot for a one-trick pony such as Tate may be very difficult this year especially when a couple of players, who already hold spots, are performing well.

The long shot here in Jasper Collins.  He’s a little known receiver who the Bengals claimed this off-season after he was cut by the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Collins has three catches (on five targets) for 33 yards in two games and has returned three punts so far.  The team is clearly giving him the opportunity to prove himself.  If Collins can turn a return or two into something impressive and continue making catches, Collins may be the surprise of the preseason.  Keep an eye on this situation come tomorrow.