The Cincinnati Bengals will make their 2017 debut on Friday night at Paul Brown Stadium. Okay it is the preseason, but it is our first chance to see this year’s version of the Bengals on a football field for live action.
Since it is the first preseason game, don’t expect to see too much, or much of the starters. Andy Dalton, Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap and A.J. Green will probably play for a series or two, but the large majority of the game will feature backup and bubble players looking to earn their spot on the 53-man roster.
We should see plenty of new faces like linebacker Carl Lawson and defensive end Jordan Willis, the Bengals’ new rookie pass rushers. Also if the Bengals’ first depth chart holds true, we should see plenty of Joe Mixon since he is fourth on the current pecking order.
What we will certainly see a lot of is the players who are on the bubble competing for their right to a spot on the 53-man roster. It is a good chance for players who have struggled during camp to prove themselves during an actual game and for players who have shined to prove the hyper surrounding them is real.
Here are five players we’ll be paying significant attention to as the preseason kicks off.
1) Jeff Driskel
Since Dalton will likely only play a series or two at most, we should see plenty of AJ McCarron and Driskel on Friday night. Driskel isn’t really competing for McCarron’s spot as the backup, but what he is competing for is a spot on this roster.
It isn’t a secret the Bengals are overloaded at several positions like wide receiver and defensive tackle. Since the Bengals may try to keep more players than normal at those positions, they will have to make more cuts at other positions. The first one they would probably look at is the third quarterback. Many teams around the NFL only carry two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster so they can keep an extra player at another position. The Bengals have rarely kept three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster during the last five years, but Driskel stuck as the No. 3 guy for all of 2016.
This year, Driskel needs to prove he is more valuable than keeping, say, a seventh receiver. If he really impresses maybe it’ll also make the Bengals reconsider trading McCarron away before the season begins.
2) Jake Elliott
The Bengals used their fifth round pick on Elliott to the surprise of many. He also gave us all quite the scare last week during the team’s scrimmage when he missed a field goal and extra point in front of 11,000 fans inside Paul Brown Stadium.
Elliott rebounded toward the end of the day by making his final three field goals and he also seemed very eager to get back out there and move past it. Nothing will help him get past it faster than hitting an actual in-game field goal. It will also help prove he deserves the spot over Randy Bullock who had a very good training camp with just one miss recorded.