Preseason football is upon the Cincinnati Bengals. If this is the year they move beyond the one-and-done routine, It’s time to make some moves.
It’s that time of year again. Time to see the development.
On Friday, August 11, the Bengals will be strutting their stuff at PBS. The first preseason game will be upon the denizens of Cincinnati and it’ll be judgment day No. 1. Isn’t this too early for forays into how good the team will be over the course of the regular season? Good question. But, that’s what the games are for. Coaches and fans get to witness overhyped expectations and semi-meaningless drama. Yet, it’s the foundation of NFL promotion and marketing.
As Bengals fans know, it’s dangerous to claim any year as the season things line up. For five wonderful years, the Bengals were supposed to be…getting it done. But, it never really turned out the way it was supposed to. Five opportunities to go on deep postseason runs turned into mishandled versions of Jerry Lewis comedies. Each year was a one-and-done disaster that still makes it hard for experts to take anything Bengals seriously.
Fifty years have come and gone, with the Bengals having just two seasons of Super Bowl glory. In all honesty, Cincinnati fans should be honored to have those years to look back on. Hey, at least they made to the fight. But, the feeling among most sports fans (outside the shores of the Ohio River), is virtually unanimous. This current Bengals team will take a step backward in 2017.
Friday Night Pop Quiz
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When the Bengals battle with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it won’t be a matter of life or death. The first preseason skirmish is usually to get the kinks out and get some real action going on. The real key is staying healthy throughout the four games. But, there’s still the question of how the team clicks. Is there a chink in the armor other than what coaches and fans already know?
There are more than the obvious questions of offensive line starters and backfield depth. This season will be a test of passion and pride. Obviously, there’s a boatload of talent on this Bengals squad. But, will it get used to the max? Can Marvin Lewis & Co. put the pieces together that will ensure movement beyond the typical Cincinnati breaking point? With the amount of talent the Bengals have had–and currently boast–there’s no reason for five years of one-and-done results.
Once again, it’s not rocket science. The opportunities have been there. With the weapons available to the Bengals, there should have been at least two Lombardi’s sitting in Paul Brown Stadium.
The Waiting Game
Who should be getting close looks on Friday? If you uttered Joe Mixon before the sentence was complete, you understand the dilemma. Not only should Mixon be getting a nice chunk of snaps, there are other rookies in need of close scrutiny.
Carl Lawson has been a wild man, during the early days of camp. Real time action will show what he’s truly made of. Josh Malone needs to get on the field and show how he can stretch the defense. And though Jeff Driskel isn’t a rookie anymore, he needs to light it up. If the Bengals are even lightweight interested in dealing AJ McCarron, Driskel needs reps with the offense.
If the players able to get the Bengals over the hump are rookies, so be it. The desire was to infuse the team with a shot of youth. Making them “learn” for a year won’t do a thing towards getting deep into the playoffs.
It’s going to take a team effort. The 2017 campaign will have to be about who can do it….not can they do it. How can they easily transition to a second round playoff game? Lewis has to drop all preconceived notions and put the best athletes on the gridiron. They have the speed on both offense and defense.
The players are pumped and ready for a winning year and historic run. As I’ve said before, the window is closing. The Bengals have talent. Tons of it. But, it’s time to stop lighting duds and throw the grenade into the ring. This team has the players needed to make the Big Dance. Now, it’s time to turn them loose.