May 26, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis looks on during OTAs at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
All of the training camp practices finally culminated to the first preseason game on Friday, August 14th. The Cincinnati Bengals will be taking on the New York Giants at Paul Brown Stadium, after participating in intrasquad practices with the Giants throughout the week. The Bengals are a team that are relatively set at the skill positions, as Paul Dehner Jr. of the Enquirer explained in his column before training camp. Despite the relatively set depth chart, there are plenty of story lines for the first preseason game against the Giants.
1) Who will win the backup defensive line spots? Pat Sims, Margus Hunt, Will Clarke, Brandon Thompson, Devon Still, Kwame Geathers, Kalafitoni Pole, DeShawn Williams, Marcus Hardison and Sam Montgomery are all vying for the remaining 4 spots on the defensive line. Thompson and Clarke should be safe, with Thompson being a solid run stopper and Clarke’s upside make them certain locks to make the roster. The last two spots, however, are completely in the air at this point. My picks to make the squad would be Hunt, who will be in a crucial 3rd year for him and Hardison, who was drafted by the Bengals in the 4th round. Unfortunately, the ever popular Devon Still may not have a roster spot with the 2015 Bengals due to the immense competition on the defensive line.
Jun 16, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Mario Alford (15) during minicamp at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
2) Who really wants to be the 4th wide receiver? Currently, the options behind AJ Green, Marvin Jones and Mohammed Sanu are not looking particularly enticing. Mario Alford, the Bengals 7th round pick, has had trouble holding onto punts during Training Camp. Brandon Tate, every Bengals fans whipping boy, has not been a reliable option as a receiver. Denarius Moore has been a speed guy in the past for the Oakland Raiders but his numbers were at a career low in 2014. Greg Little has been brought to camp but he was ineffective last season. The Bengals are even toying with the idea of Rex Burkhead playing wide receiver in certain formations, similar to what the team did against the Indianapolis Colts in the playoffs. My best guess is Moore making the team, with Burkhead being featured occasionally as a the #4 receiver.
3) The Rebirth of Tyler Eifert: Tyler Eifert has been touted as the Bengals answer for a major Tight End threat. Unfortunately, his two seasons have been marred by injuries and inconsistency. Eifert has been fantastic thus far in training camp, hoping to be the missing link for the Bengals pass attack. If Eifert is able to stay on the field, his contributions will be a big boost for the Bengals in 2015. Friday night marks the beginning of his reintroduction to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Perspective is key when we are discussing preseason games, especially the first one. The starters most likely will only play a few series but I think we can all agree on one point: Football season is officially back.