With preseason action starting tonight, the Cincinnati Bengals look to turn a new leaf against the Chicago Bears. These positions will be a must watch.
Today marks the start of preseason action for the rest of the teams and among those looking for fresh starts are the Cincinnati Bengals. This will be the first live action for the 2018 season, and their opponent is the Chicago Bears. There will be plenty of players looking to impress for a roster spot, especially on the second and third team. Here is a thorough rundown of what to look for on this roster tonight.
Arguably the most entertaining and competitive position battle in camp, expect all of these receivers to contribute and wreak havoc on the defense. One receiver that has worked his way into the number two spot is WR Tyler Boyd. Riding the fantastic finish against the Ravens last season, look for Boyd to hold that roster spot with so much talent close behind. This will be the first time seeing speedster John Ross fully healthy and expect a few flashy corner routes or his speed on deep routes.
Josh Malone currently backs up Pro Bowler A.J. Green, a lock to start who rarely sits. Expect to see a lot of throws his way in the preseason. Malone has been very impressive in camp – following a short time out with injury, he has flashed great hands and route running. Other receivers to watch are Alex Erickson, Cody Core, Kermit Whitfield, and impressive rookie Auden Tate as they fight for a roster spot and playing time.
Fingers are crossed and hopes are high that starting Tight End Tyler Eifert stays healthy this season. Since the Bengals want Eifert healthy and active in every regular season game, look for Eifert to have limited playing time tonight. Behind Eifert is proven TE Tyler Kroft, who excelled as a main target last year and a proven red-zone option for Dalton. C.J. Uzomah and Moritz Böehringer also look to get prime playing time and have a chance to impress for a roster spot.
Without a doubt, the biggest need for improvement following last season was the offensive line. The Bengals made it their priority this offseason to upgrade the line through trades and the NFL Draft. First round draft pick Billy Price looks to shake off a rough couple days of low snaps in his first game action and become the leader of this group. Newly acquired Cordy Glenn starts at left tackle, eager to provide protection for Dalton and bounce back from an injury filled career.
Aside from veterans Clint Boling and Trey Hopkins starting at left guard and right guard respectively, the biggest surprise is newcomer Bobby Hart. On the first depth chart, Hart is the starter over veteran Cedric Ogbuehi who struggled mightily last season. Ogbuehi and veteran Jake Fisher could be battling for playing time as a backup to the newcomer. If Hart can hold onto the spot and maintain his play, he could start the opening game against the Colts. Look for Alex Redmond and Christian Westerman to also make it hard on Hopkins and get significant playing time this preseason.
On the other side of the ball, a strength for the Bengals last year was this defense. Led by Pro Bowlers Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins, this line looks to build off last season. Nose tackle Andrew Billings has secured the starting spot for now, but Billings and Chris Baker expect to share snaps throughout the preseason. Another surprise is that rookie sensation Carl Lawson is third on the depth chart behind Michael Johnson and Jordan Willis. Don’t expect that to last long, as Lawson proved he belongs last season leading all Bengals defensive ends and linebackers with 8.5 sacks.
Rookie Sam Hubbard out of Ohio State and veteran Ryan Glasgow are the players to watch, as they will have ample opportunities to showcase their defensive awareness and pass rushing. Hubbard is a local product who expects a huge following not only at this game but every game.
With Vontaze Burfict suspended for the first four games of the regular season, look for other weak-side linebackers to step up and see playing time. Play maker Jordan Evans and rookie Malik Jefferson look to provide pop on the run game and solidify their spots with Burfict out. Preston Brown and Nick Vigil get the start at the other spots, and Vigil has something to prove following a disappointing season last year. Veterans Vincent Rey and Hardy Nickerson look to the preseason to make their mark as well in a talent linebacker group.
In the secondary William Jackson III, a leader and shut-down corner, is the highlight of this group along with veteran hard-hitting safety George IIoka. Veterans Shawn Williams and Dre Kirkpatrick look to provide support in the secondary and continue to improve on coverage. If Darqueze Dennard can stay healthy, expect him to be a factor, but that is a huge “if”. Josh Shaw has had time at both positions, but looks to stay at safety. Currently, he’s behind rookie Jessie Bates, who has been impressive thus far. Clayton Fejedelem also looks to continue his impressive start to earn a spot with the safeties.
Other cornerbacks who are looking to bounce back from injury or just flat out under performing are KeiVarae Russell, Darius Phillips, Davontae Harris, and Tony McRae. With McRae and Sojourn Shelton sidelined due to training camp injuries, someone from this group has to step up. The issue in the past has been health for this group, so these preseason games will be a good test to see who can provide support in the worst case scenarios.