This week’s preseason slate will feature the much-anticipated rematch between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals. There’s not a Lombardi at stake for this matchup but that doesn’t mean it’ll be uneventful, as illustrated by the joint practices between the two teams earlier this week.
Luckily for Cincy, Aaron Donald will not be suited up or armed with any tiger-striped helmets by his side this Saturday. To get an in-depth peek across enemy lines, I sent some questions to Patrick Judis over at Cincy Jungle to describe the Bengals outlook heading into this weekend’s preseason finale.
Q - The Bengals lost 25-22 to the New York Giants in their second preseason game Sunday night. Despite the loss, what impressed you most about the team’s effort?
A - The backup offensive line did slightly better than Week 1’s penalty fest. There were still a frustrating amount of penalties but the left side of the line held up okay, which includes rookie left guard Cordell Volson. Volson could very well have won a starting spot last week despite having some rookie moments.
We also saw the young defensive linemen Joseph Ossai, Zac Carter and Cam Sample hustle around the field. None of them will be starters unless there is injury, but they should be rotated in quite frequently, so it is good to see them get some pressure.
Overall, the Giants played there starters for awhile and the Bengals didn’t. The most valuable thing we saw all night were these depth players going up against starters.
Q - On the flip side, what is something that you noticed during the game that the Bengals need to work on before the regular season?
A - While the offensive line did improve, they came up from rock bottom last week. There are still some real issues with the depth at that crucial position. No one expects a team to have 2 starting caliber offensive lines, but if we see an injury or two the Cincinnati could quickly be in the same boat as last season.
Q - Rookie safety Dax Hill, a first-rounder out of Michigan, has shined through the team’s first two preseason games. How has the rest of Cincy’s draft class performed so far during preseason and training camp?
A - Hill has been incredible and it is just impressive how quickly he has flashed his play-making ability. Now that Jessie Bates is back we could see him in even more positions to closer to the line of scrimmage to make impacts on the game.
The rest of the draft class has been solid. Cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt hasn’t seen the field during the preseason due to injury. Carter has already been seen plenty of times 9n the defensive line and Volson could be starting sooner rather than later at left guard.
The jury is still out on a few of the others who are cemented in depth positions currently along the defense. We’ll see a more realistic return on those players in the next few seasons as veterans move on.
Q - Who has been the biggest surprise in camp and who is someone that has disappointed you most this summer?
A - I’ll start with the biggest disappointment. Jackson Carman at left guard has been exactly what we should have been expecting. It has become a tradition that the Bengals hype up an offensive lineman who struggled last year only for them to disappoint. Carman has been no different. He still looks sloppy in pass blocking, and it is only worse when you think about how the Bengals moved back in the second round of the 2021 NFL draft to select him over a number of better prospects who had fallen to their original selection.
The biggest surprise has to be Hill. We knew he would be a weapon for the defense to deploy with his versatility and speed, but he has shown it from the jump. The reality is that Bates won’t be a Bengal in 2023, and that will be a huge loss. I don’t expect Hill to simply become a replacement as a center fielder. However, he will provide a crucial ability to be a game changer from that position and more if Cincinnati allows him to stay multiple.
Q - What has you most excited about the Bengals this season and what is something that worries you about the roster leading up to their season opener against the Steelers?
A - I am overall excited that this is essentially the same roster that took them to a Super Bowl only with a better offensive line.
Because this team was so young when they made it, they didn’t have to worry about several key pieces being vultured at that Super-Bowl-player price tag, and their free agent haul was for multiple years. The biggest loss was Larry Ogunjobi in the middle. He will be missed, but I think we will see Sam Hubbard or one of the young defensive linemen kick inside more often on passing downs.
My biggest concern is that the offensive line and Joe Burrow haven’t had many reps together. They haven’t even had a single preseason snap together yet.
I don’t think that means this new offensive line will be a failure. I just think it means there may be some growing pains early in the season that some Bengals fans aren’t prepared for.