The Cincinnati Bengals have solidified their initial 53-man roster and practice squad and are preparing to face the Indianapolis Colts on the road in Week 1 of the 2018 NFL regular season. "We know the things you have to do to get off to a great start on the road," head coach Marvin Lewis said during his Wednesday press conference. Lewis stated that the key to doing that was to "play fast" and he agreed that playing smart "works" when he was questioned if fast was the only key. Here are the storylines for the Bengals as they head into Week 1.
On Wednesday, the only player that did not practice for the Bengals was receiver Cody Core who sustained a back injury in early August that may lead to him being placed on the injured/reserved list, but Cincinnati has yet to make that move. Tight end Tyler Eifert participated fully despite the back injury he has been nursing back into condition since training camp. While defensive backs Tony McRae and Clayton Fejedelem were limited due to what are considered minor injuries, the only name of concern on the injury report was that of Cordy Glenn. Glenn, who suffered a shoulder injury against the Buffalo Bills during the third week of preseason, was picked up during the offseason and is projected to be Cincinnati's starting left tackle. If Glenn is a scratch on Sunday, Jake Fisher is expected to get the start with the rest of the line consisting of Clint Boling, Billy Price, Alex Redmond, and Bobby Hart respectively.
The offensive line may be set, as in on paper, but this is one squad on the Bengals roster where they have some questions left unanswered. Despite adding Glenn and drafting Price, keeping Cedric Ogbuehi and Fisher - former high round picks - on board, the Bengals ranked No. 22 in rushing offense during the preseason. While the line looks decently prepared for pass protection, the team has had to count on Brian Hill and Tra Carson to make some impressive runs to gain the yards on the ground that the team did.
That has to be a concern moving into the regular season, but quarterback Andy Dalton didn't express that in his press conference this week. "Our line has done great this whole camp," Dalton said. "Anytime the quarterback has time and has the ability to step into his throws, you feel like you are going to put the ball in a good spot. It's a big part of the reason we had the success we did this preseason."
Lewis was asked in his presser what Redmond showed during the preseason that earned him the starting right guard spot. "He's shown consistency in his physicality... a steadiness in understanding the things (offensive line coach) Frank Pollack is teaching up front," Lewis responded. Redmond was penalized in the preseason game in Buffalo and looked like he might get in his own way, something he'd been guilty of in camp and practices as well, but after being given coaching on the sideline Lewis feels he's ready to not hurt the team with mental mistakes. "Alex has grown more than any player in this building as a person, which is great... It's okay to have an edge. We want him to have an edge."
Dalton said of Redmond, "He brings an intensity, and he's a guy that's physical. He has that nastiness to him, which is good to have up front... He plays to the whistle. It's a good thing, as long as it doesn't go past the whistle and it draws a penalty."
The Bengals have possibly the youngest roster in the NFL. Dalton expressed that it has been good to have some younger guys in with veterans that have been with the organization. "We have a lot of guys that have played in a lot of games," Dalton said. "For those young guys, they have good guys to look up to and see how they have done things. I feel like we have a special group here."
Dalton was asked about receiver John Ross and what the team's expectations are in 2018. "We have high expectations for him, and he has high expectations for himself," Dalton said. "For him not having that year (that he expected) last year wore on him some. He's done everything right since we've been back... we expect big plays in the regular season."
The defensive line is one area where veterans - guys like Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, and Michael Johnson - are being asked to step up and help young defenders learn the system. "We're pleased with our depth up front," Lewis said, indicating that he has confidence in Sam Hubbard, Andrew Billings, Josh Tupou, Ryan Glasgow, Jordan Willis, and Carl Lawson. "This group is said to be a year wiser... whereas (Sam) Hubbard comes here as one of the most mature young guys we've had."
Lewis is looking to give Willis a third-down role as a substitute for both Lawson and Johnson - both sides of the defensive line - and the first guy to rotate in at either end in the base defense. "It doesn't matter where you are on the depth chart - it's what you're contributing on Sundays," Lewis said. "Jordan (Willis) is a superior athlete to a lot of players he played against (in college)." Lewis credited Willis with being very analytical in how he has studied the playbook and has been coachable and "conscientious", showing he wants to be a starter.
- Date: September 9 (Sunday)
- Time: 1:00 PM EDT
- Location: Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis)
- Bengals depth chart
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