2 Bengals with sneaky good performances in preseason opener
A couple of Cincinnati Bengals shined in the first preseason game that fans might have overlooked.
There were a few obvious encouraging performances from the Cincinnati Bengals‘ first preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals. However, there were also a couple of under-the-radar players you should pay more attention to. The coaches will be doing just that with at least these two.
Who were the two Bengals players who had sneaky good performances?
Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo appears to have increased the urgency to get to opposing quarterbacks. In the draft, the team went after fast and versatile players who can blitz from the secondary in Dax Hill, Cam Taylor-Britt, and Tycen Anderson.
They selected a quick and athletic edge rusher in Jeff Gunter, who has already paid dividends in the first preseason game and they added Zach Carter, a college defensive end who they converted into a three-tech defensive tackle in hopes that he will have a Geno Atkins-like impact in rushing from up the middle.
The one level of defense they did not draft is linebacker.
Enter Clarence Hicks.
Last year at UTSA, he finished the season with 10.5 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss. He brings to the club what no other linebacker does, elite pass-rushing potential. He was able to show off that ability late in the game against the Cardinals.
Yes, it was in the fourth quarter against backups. We all know that narrative, but you can only play against those in front of you. However, Hicks may get more playing time in the upcoming game against the Giants to show the coaching staff what he can do against stiffer competition.
While in college, he also showed that he could drop in coverage and make plays as well. Perhaps the coaches think he can be a versatile linebacker who can get better in the defensive passing game.
In keeping with the defensive theme of acquiring players who can get after quarterbacks, the Bengals need to see what Hicks can do against different colored jerseys. The Giants intend on playing their starters against the Bengals. With Zac Taylor announcing that he does not intend to do the same, Hicks should get ample opportunities to show what he can do against NFL starting caliber players.
Along with pressuring the quarterback, Hicks must also show that he can perform on special teams. He had a promising debut Friday night. Let’s hope that continues going forward in practices and preseason games.
Raymond Johnson III
Another player who should get a more extended look in the next preseason outing is Raymonds Johnson III. The second-year pro displayed the versatility this Bengals coaching staff craves. He played defensive end and defensive tackle throughout the night.
He showed that he can also get to the opposing quarterback. In the fourth quarter, Johnson quickly got around a Cardinals guard to get to the quarterback, where he and Hicks converged on the quarterback.
Johnson also had another play that you can be sure that Marion Hobby, Bengals defensive line coach, highlighted several times. On this particular play at the end of the game, after pass rushing, Johnson III turned and ran 25 yards to track down a scrambling McSorley just short of the end zone.
It is one of those plays that players and coaches notice. It is also a play that could swing a roster spot in one player’s favor over another’s.
Johnson almost had another sack late in the second half off of a twist with Jeff Gunter. However, the elusive Trace McSorley barely escaped, but credit Johnson III a pressure.
Johnson III might have a little bit more motivation this week. He played in 15 games last year with the Giants. He finished the year with one sack, one tackle for loss, and four tackles. It would be great for him to make a more significant impression on the Bengals coaching staff at the expense of his former team.
If he continues to hustle and produce the way he did against Arizona, some difficult decisions will have to be made as to whom Cincinnati keeps on the final 53.
Johnson III showed he can play on the outside and the three-technique. That could be enough to give him a slight edge in a very crowded defensive end competition.
Both Johnson III and Hicks still have some work to do. But if they can keep up the energy and production they had in the first preseason game, they will continue to get more opportunities.
They should both, at least, land on the practice squad, if not on another team’s 53-man roster.
We love the Bengals in every universe, to paraphrase Doctor Stephen Strange. Who Dey?!