Bengals need top grades in dress rehearsal against Redskins

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LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 30: George Iloka #43 of the Cincinnati Bengals intercepts a pass during the NFL International Series game against the Washington Redskins at Wembley Stadium on October 30, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 30: George Iloka #43 of the Cincinnati Bengals intercepts a pass during the NFL International Series game against the Washington Redskins at Wembley Stadium on October 30, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images) /
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Week 3 will be the proving grounds for each Cincinnati Bengals starter. Their dress rehearsal will have to be passed with top grades.

As the NFL preseason starts a slow descent into forgetfulness, Week 3 brings the promise of regular season performances. The first two games are usually the rookies getting a feel for NFL action with a few vets thrown in for seasoning. They’re like a lite brewski with no…hops. In other words, the action is there but it’s geared towards the fan that absolutely needs to see football. It appeases that long wait for the return of gridiron battles. The Bengals are past the lite portion of the four game preseason. On Sunday, it’s the dress rehearsal for what fans want to see during the opener on September 10.

It’s been two years since the Bengals and Buccaneers hooked up. That game happened to be a preseason encounter as well. In fact, the Week 1 score (23-12) was almost a complete reversal of what happened in Tampa Bay (25-11).  As far as film, there was none that really mattered. In two years the Bucs have gone through enough changes to make anything almost irrelevant. The same applies to the Bengals. Now, Washington? There’s a chance to do some in-depth study and get prepared. The last clash was last year in London. In other words, this is a return to game day planning.

There should be a marked difference in the way the starters and coaches approach this game. It sets the tone for the regular season.

In The Trenches 

Cincinnati Bengals
Cincinnati Bengals /

Cincinnati Bengals

This has to be the game that proves all Bengals fans wrong. The offensive line has to look like the same unit that protected Andy Dalton in that magical 2014 season. That year, the line ranked No. 3 in the NFL for least sacks allowed. Compare that to the 41 that were surrendered last season and the concern is real. If Dalton is going to be able to use his new weapons, he has to be standing up. Sadly, that’s the joke going around with NFL fans. But, honestly, they’re right. Yet it wasn’t as horrendous as the lowly Browns allowing 66 takedowns.

But, we don’t live in Cleveland…we live in Cincinnati… or something like that. So the concern is Jake Fisher, Cedric Ogbuehi, Clint Boling et al. The O-line needs a sparkling performance against the Hogs. The first two games offered a biased view either way. But, Week 3 will be graded upon solid and near flawless performance.

Grade to be considered ready: B+

A few wrong reads on blitzes can mean Dalton gets injured. Not creating lanes for the backs is a no-no. After spending time with Anthony Munoz and Willie Anderson, the fire should be lit.

Running Back Heaven

Hopefully, Giovani Bernard will get a few touches on Sunday. But, chances are, he’ll be saved for the opener. Actually, he could see a limited amount of time against Washington and a bit longer in Week 4.

Joe Mixon has been an exciting addition to the running back room. But, last week he was shut down. The Chiefs defense was keying on him and it’s not worth a meaningless injury. Jeremy Hill picked up the slack and looked like the Hill of 2014.

There still has to be a good showing by both Hill and Mixon to keep fans from biting their nails.

Grade to be considered ready: A

The backs will be at the mercy of the O-line. But, there should be enough confidence and desire to get good reads. See the hole, hit the hole. The entire season will be based on how well each back’s vision will complement and help the line.

Fly Routes

There’s a good chance John Ross will be able to flaunt his speed against the Redskins. Not only are the Bengals and fans ready to witness him. The football universe wants to be in on the hype.

Ross needs to prove that he has the same ability to separate from NFL secondary coverage as he did in college. Granted, it will be his first time lined up against players just as crafty and quick. But, that’s what the Bengals drafted him for.

Next: Week Three Scenarios

It won’t be about running a 40-yard dash and toasting DBs. In essence, Ross needs to show opposing defenses that he’s able to make them pay if left in single coverage. His primary job is to draw attention from A.J. Green and then capitalize when the blankets flow towards Green.

Grade to be considered ready: B-

If a route or two is blown or broken off, Ross has the speed to recover and make something happen. On the other hand, this will also be his chance to show he’s ready for the league and can take a hit. His injuries have been a concern since the Bengals drafted him. Fans need to know he’s not made of glass.

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