It all comes down to the Week 3 battle. The Bengals will have a chance to make it look good, one last time before it gets real.
As the regular season inches closer, the performances on the field have to become tighter and neater. The mistakes that were passable in the first two games are now looked upon as a sign players aren’t ready. Week 3 has become the universal dress rehearsal for the NFL. Looking sloppy in game three can make the transition to real competition even harder.
The Bengals have been on both sides of the coin. In Week 1, they were able to put together a nice showing on both defense and offense. But, then there was the meltdown against the Chiefs. The response was typical of Bengals fans. Suddenly, the sky was falling and there was no hope on the horizon. That can certainly seem to be the scenario, looking back at the 30-12 drubbing. However, it’s just (in Allen Iverson voice) preseason. Sunday afternoon, when the Bengals and Washington Redskins clash at FedEx Field, is the actual time to panic.
After the kickoff, here’s what Cincinnati needs to be paying close attention to. They were either problem areas in the first two games or things that need to be tuned up for the opener.
Andy Dalton has come under scrutiny each year, as the Bengals’ starting QB. His numbers have steadily improved since he started working with quarterback guru Tom House. But, the one aspect of his game that still bothers fans is his bad timing.
In preseason Week 1, Dalton engineered a beautiful 12-play drive that had Paul Brown Stadium rocking. Thoughts of AFC domination tickled the fancies of Bengals fans. And then it happened. From the Tampa 5-yard line, Dalton tossed a spiral towards Brandon LaFell. It was promptly snatched away by a Bucs defender. Cincy had to settle for a field goal. Dalton was critical of himself after the game, via Bengals.com.
"“I thought we moved the ball well. I thought we ran the ball effectively. We picked up a few third downs. I thought it was a great drive — we just didn’t come away with a touchdown. It was my fault. I can’t make that throw.”"
Dalton rarely throws INTs in the end zone. As stated before, it’s preseason and things get goofy. But, the focus has to be in place for the Redskins.
The Wizard Of Ross
Fans have been waiting to see John Ross on the field since…well, forever. Mr. 422 could get unveiled for the Washington battle. Then again, he could run a few routes, take a hit and be done for the evening. The Bengals don’t want to see their Ferrari damaged in a hit and run.
Bengals’ doctors and trainers have been buzzing around Ross to make sure he’s in top shape to make his debut. Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick wants to see him in action too. Per the Dayton Daily News, he offered his feelings.
"“He’s been holding a lot back. They’re watching him, hovering over him, making sure he’s doing everything correctly. It will be good to go out there and see him blow it out.”"
The Oh Line
There were six $1M bets made on the Mayweather-McGregor fight. Unfortunately, there are Cincinnati fans ready to place those type of bets against the Bengals’ offensive line.
The line has had their share of hideous and shining moments during the preseason. But, overall, they’ve looked steady. So far, Andre Smith has been a no-show with the first unit. Trey Hopkins has been called upon in each preseason game to make the start. The sad and telling part? No one has really missed Smith’s absence from the trenches.
If Hopkins, Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher hold the fort against the Redskins, there could be some partying on Fountain Square. The offensive line has been just that for many fans…offensive. But, a good showing versus Jay Gruden’s Gang would be sweet revenge and a huge shot of adrenaline for worried Bengals fans.