In what could be a final roster push for many players, the Bengals take on the Colts in the preseason finale. Looking to go 4-0, it’s been a fun preseason.
Following an impressive showing by Andy Dalton, John Ross, and the pass rush, the Bengals look to build on the “dress rehearsal” game against the Bills and conclude the preseason in Indianapolis. With the starters expected to not play much, if at all, this is considered a make or break game for players looking to make the depth chart. This game is a sneak peek for both teams, as the Bengals travel to Indianapolis for week 1 of the regular season. Here is what to watch for in this preseason finale.
Players Needing to Make the Cut
The biggest name who has dropped off in terms of making an impression is training camp standout Auden Tate. The receiver was never targeted in week 3 against the Bills and in a crowded receiver group every moment counts. With Cody Core not practicing or playing due to an undisclosed injury, the time is now for Tate to have a huge performance. I expect him to be thrown in early and to be targeted more than usual for him to have a last shot.
With rookie running back Mark Walton presumably being the third running back behind Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard, the last running back spot is up for grabs. Tra Carson and Brian Hill are the forerunners and each will have their carries in this game. With the starters struggling this preseason, both have answered and provided a one-two punch. Mirroring stats against the Bills (4 carries for 24 yards), expect them to each get a fair amount of the carries and continue a dynamic rush.
Offensive Line Mystery Answered
With Trey Hopkins firmly at the right guard position and Clint Boling at left guard, all eyes turn to those behind them. With Alex Redmond currently sitting behind Christian Westerman on the depth chart, expect both to contribute in this game and continue to build on an already impressive preseason. Westerman has continued to shine on a much improved offensive line heading into this season, and is proving a young talent that could see playing time early this season. With his versatility on both sides, it would be no surprise for him to be the go-to option in case of injury on the usually battered line.
Defensive Backs Looking for a “Safety” Blanket
With the departure of George Iloka last week, there will be unexpected players looking to snag those final roster spots. Jessie Bates is the future at the position, and could be joined by others looking to develop. Big performances by Tony McRae and rookie Trayvon Henderson could be enough to knock Josh Shaw out of that final spot. This will be a position to watch throughout the season in coverage.
Also impressive through the preseason has been Darius Phillips. Electrifying on kickoff returns with speed and awareness, Phillips could get a lucky break with injuries to other players competing for the safety position. Highlighting youth depth, this is unusual for a rookie on this team, but Phillips is showing why the Bengals drafted him out of Western Michigan.
Will Releasing a Kicker Come Back to Haunt?
Rookie Jon Brown has been proving his worth this preseason with long distance kicks and showing that his journey from being a soccer player is possible. His 55 yard kick against the Cowboys won’t be forgotten any time soon. With starting kicker Randy Bullock continuing his consistency from last season, Brown will most likely be cut heading into the season. Similar to last year with cutting kicker Jake Elliott, Brown going to a Super Bowl contender would be bittersweet. The guy deserves it though, and has the potential to be successful on the right team in this league.
Thursday night the Indianapolis Colts come to town for the final preseason match up at 7 pm. This foe isn’t going away though, as the Bengals travel to Indianapolis for a Week 1 showdown…this time for real.