It’s the regular season dress rehearsal. Preseason game #3 used to be the game where teams would play their starters into the second half. If Thursday night is any indication of things to come, the Bengals starters will be taken out sometime during quarter number two. It is my belief that the offensive line will play the entire half, while stars, such as A.J. Green, Vontaze Burfict, Geno Atkins, and Andy Dalton, will be out after a few series. The risk of injury is too high for veterans during these games. However, here a five things that would make Sunday afternoon’s affair with the Redskins a success:
- No more injuries – This is always at the top of the list. George Iloka and Shawn Williams have already suffered injuries in camp and preseason, respectively. While deep in some position groups, the Bengals cannot afford to lose any more starters. This is a team that is going to be in a lot of close games, where having your best out there is imperative.
- The offense finishes a drive in the endzone – Moving the ball has not been an issue for the first team offense. Led by Dalton, they have gotten into the scoring position on three of the four drives they have played together. However, two have resulted in made field goals and the other ended with a turnover. Redzone struggles killed this group a year ago, but much of that is to blame on the losses of Tyler Eifert and A.J. Green. Their skill players are healthy and there is no reason, with the abundance of options, they shouldn’t be putting the ball into the endzone.
- The defense gets off the field quickly – The Bengals seem to have always relied on a bend-but-don’t-break philosophy on defense. The lack of stops so far though, are almost starting to be concerning. The Redskins project to have a top-10 offense and getting off the field and maintaining field position will be a huge momentum boost heading into the games that matter.
- John Ross makes his debut – The final decision hasn’t been made, but this could be the weekend that we see the speedster from Washington make his debut. He has been practicing full-go for over a week, and the time seems right. There has not been this much excitement and anticipation to see a rookie play since the team drafted Green and Dalton six years ago. Hopefully, we will get to see some explosiveness from #15 on Sunday.
- The O-Line continues to make progress – They won’t be great, but they don’t have to be for this offense to have a good year. The revamped offensive line has been much of the talk this summer and for many, the reason why the Bengals won’t get back to playoff contention. However, through two weeks of the preseason, they have looked average. And with the weapons around them, that should be all they need to be. If they can build off that and hold their own again, some optimism may strike through the fanbase and nay-sayers.
The season is almost here, and this will be the last time we see the starting 22 until Baltimore comes to town in two weeks. Let’s pray for a injury-free afternoon as our Bengals battle the Redskins.