Scouting the enemy: Bengals preseason opener chat with Raising Zona

Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

In anticipation of the Cincinnati Bengals’ upcoming preseason game with the Arizona Cardinals – and A.J. Green’s return to The Jungle – we sat down with Aarron Van Buren, one of the contributors to the Cardinals’ FanSided site, Raising Zona.  Aarron gave us the down-and-dirty on the Bengals’ Friday night opponent.  Everything you need to know about our upcoming foe is below.

1. Which starting positions are up for grabs for the Cardinals this preseason?  

The biggest spots are the DE/EDGE spot opposite J.J. Watt and the second starting cornerback spot opposite Byron Murphy.  Marco Wilson, a 2021 fourth-round pick, was supposed to step up and take over that CB2 spot, but he recently went down with an injury and may not make it back to play on Friday night.

As for the defensive line, there are so many candidates that are all racing to get that DE2 spot and it’s gonna be a battle royale to see who wins it – especially with only three preseason games. Wide receiver is another one that is also anyone’s guess.

2. Speaking of wide receivers, we’ve seen a lot of Hollywood Brown over the past few years in our division, the AFC North.  How do the Cardinals’ faithful feel about the front office trading this year’s first-round pick for Brown?

Many Cardinals fans were happy to see Brown come to town as he’s a former teammate of Kyler Murray’s at Oklahoma (and some are even still holding out hope the team will trade for CeeDee Lamb, but that needs to stop).

Once DeAndre Hopkins’ suspension was announced, it made more sense why GM Steve Keim traded for him. But the discussion that’s still remaining around Brown is if the team overpaid for someone whose stats were very similar to Christian Kirk, who left for Jacksonville in free agency.

3. Running back James Conner was constantly nicked up when he played for Cincinnati’s division rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Who has the inside track on the #2 running back job behind Conner?

Right now, Eno Benjamin could go from a hardly-used seventh-round pick to an RB2.  Benjamin has been having a great camp and has impressed Kliff Kingsbury to the point that he could beat out former Kansas City Chiefs running back Darrel Williams for [the number 2 job].

There’s a smattering of fans, including myself, who have wanted to see more of Benjamin since he was drafted in 2020. His truck-stick touchdown where he ran over the 49ers’ Dre Kirkpatrick really got those juices flowing last year.

Cincinnati Bengals
Arizona Cardinals (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images) /

4. You mentioned DeAndre Hopkins’ suspension.  Given his suspension for the first six games, who are the projected starting wideouts? In other words, who are we not going to see on Friday night? 

While DeAndre Hopkins isn’t on the injury report, I wouldn’t expect to see him playing on Friday night. The Cardinals kept him and Marquise Brown out of the Red and White intrasquad scrimmage and he only did individual work. I would imagine that A.J. Green suits up against his former team for a series, but there won’t be much past that.

That leaves Rondale Moore, Andy Isabella, Marcell Ateman (signed this week), Andre Baccellia, Greg Dortch, Javonta Payton, and XFL Championship MVP Victor Bolden to take the field for the Cardinals.

5.  One last question: Where does the pass rush come from now that Chandler Jones is in Arizona?  Folks around these parts are pretty familiar with former UC Bearcat Myjai Sanders, and would surely love to see him get an opportunity. 

It’s funny you bring up Myjai Sanders, as he’s been having a quietly good camp. The Cardinals drafted two EDGE/LBs in Sanders and Cam Thomas out of San Diego State, but Sanders has been flashing as of late. The pass rush won’t necessarily come from one person, as Jones’ production numbers since 2020 were a mere 11 sacks, and 10 of those came last season.

Hot. 4 best Bengals rookies from preseason opener vs. Cardinals. light

Vance Joseph will work wonders on this defense as he did in 2020 when Jones tore his bicep in a Week 5 win against the New York Jets. The Cardinals went on to have the fourth-most sacks that season, and that speaks a lot to how good Joseph can lead these lesser-known players to success. But Sanders has the ability to surprise with his length and leveraging skills. It should be fun to watch on Friday Night.