Cincinnati Bengals Preseason Week 1 – What to Watch
4. Dominant secondary group set to remain at the fore
The early training camp sessions were dominated by one narrative, which was that the Bengals secondary consistently looked like the best unit on the team. It was quite an achievement for a collection of players with little to no experience in a Bengals jersey.
Chidobe Awuzie’s play has stood out, which should ease the burden of losing one of last year’s more consistent defensive players, William Jackson. The Bengals finished 27th in terms of defensive takeaways in 2020 per ESPN, an area they are keen to address.
Newly signed nickel corner Mike Hilton has helped instil a more aggressive tone on defense, encouraging teammates to punch balls out of the receiver’s hands after the catch. The cornerbacks will need time to gel but the Bengals should have one of the better safety pairs in the league.
Vonn Bell is a fierce tackler whose coverage ability was notably better in practice. At the same time, Jessie Bates is a deep field patroller like no other. Saturday’s game against the Bucs should give a good indication of if the hype surrounding the secondary is justified.
Even though the starters will have limited playing time, it’s a deep group. Darius Phillips and Eli Apple will battle to be first off the bench, something the Bengals know the importance of after last year’s rash of injuries.
Rookie Antonio Phillips faces an uphill task making the roster with Tony Brown, Winston Rose and Jalen Davis hoping to secure the last two roster spots at corner. Saturday will be their chance to get a leg up on the competition.