With your New York Giants beginning joint practices Tuesday with the Cincinnati Bengals, workouts which will be followed by the preseason opener on Friday night, let's learn a little more about this week's opposition. We traded questions with Scott Bantel of Cincy Jungle this week. Here are Scott's answers to my "Five Questions."
Ed: Giants' players have, to be honest, expressed a little nervousness about these joint workouts. They have referred to the Bengals as a "chippy" team. Any thoughts on that and what the Bengals hope to get from these practices?
Scott: I am not sure why the Giants players feel the Bengals are a "chippy" team and I have not heard teams express that in the past. The only player that may bring about such a perception would be Vontaze Burfict and he will not be playing/practicing as he is recovering from micro fracture knee surgery.
That being said, after the dust ups this weekend between the Redskins and Texans, Marvin Lewis and Tom Coughlin talked about the practices and how they want solid work, but none of the extracurricular activities. This will be the third time in the past few years the Bengals have done a joint practice, and to my knowledge, there have never been any issues. I think both teams will simply be looking to get some reps against another team and grow from the additional competition.
Ed: The Bengals have made the playoffs five of the past six years, losing in the wild-card game each time. Can they finally make a jump this year and make a deep playoff run?
Scott: That is the million dollar question. Unfortunately, this team has reached a point where what they do in the regular season really means nothing if they don't win in the playoffs. Dalton has shouldered most of the blame for those failures - both locally and nationally - some of it fair, some not fair. While he has no doubt been terrible in the playoffs for the most part, it has been a collection of team failures that have led to their first round exits. The Bengals receivers have let Dalton down with drops, the defense - which has been very good in the regular season -- seems to fall flat in the playoffs and the coaching staff seems ill-prepared for the playoffs. I will give them a pass for 2014 because the Bengals were decimated with injuries entering the playoffs and a victory was not realistic, but in 2015, anything short of a playoff run (or at least a playoff win) will not sit well with the fans.
Ed: Thoughts on your draft class thus far? The Bengals doubled up on offensive tackles with their first two picks.
Scott: The Bengals had another solid draft and while none of their draftees are likely to start in 2015 (barring injury), they feel they have four or five players that will be contributors and likely start in one to two years. Going with tackles in both the first and second round was an interesting decision (and not a popular one amongst the fans), but I think a wise decision for the long haul. The Bengals two starting tackles (Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith) are in the last year of their respective deals, and while Whithworth is a Pro-Bowl left tackle and still one of the best in the league, he is 33 and not getting any younger. Smith, on the other hand, is 28, and while he is a one of the better right tackles in the league, he has a history of injuries (including 2014) and at times, has been frustrating for the coaching staff - whether due to injuries, weight, effort, maturity, etc. Their first round pick (Cedric Ogbuehi) will start the season on the PUP list as he recovers from ACL surgery and their second round pick (Jake Fisher) will not start, but will likely be their top backup at both guard and both tackle positions along with packages where they have a eligible tackle. Their third round pick, Tyler Kroft (Rutgers), will likely see a lot of playing time as the blocking tight end and their other third round pick (Paul Dawson, LB, TCU) could see some playing time if Burfict ends up on the PUP list as expected.
Ed: Can we expect Bengals starters to play much, if at all, Friday night?
Scott: Yes. If history is any indicator, Marvin Lewis will have most of his starters play the first series or two on both sides of the ball and then start working in the backups.
Ed: Give a couple of undrafted guys who have impressed and have a shot at sticking on the 53-man roster?
Scott: This is a very deep and talented roster, so it will be hard for all of their draft picks to make the roster, let alone any undrafted players, but there are a few who have impressed. At this early point, the only undrafted player who I think has an outside chance to make the 53-man roster is wide receiver Jake Kumerow. The Bengals have some depth issues/and injury concerns at the wide receiver position and Kumerow is a big and impressive athlete. He had 36 touchdowns in his three seasons at Division-III Wisconsin Whitewater, and at 6-foot-5, 206 pounds and a forty time in the 4.4-4.5 range, it is easy to see why. He has been playing very well in camp, but the question with Kumerow will be if he can play against NFL caliber competition.
There are two other players I believe will make the practice squad (assuming they get through waivers) and that would be defensive tackle DeShawn Williams and running back Terrell Watson. Williams was a co-starter his junior and senior year at Clemson but has really impressed the coaching staff with his quickness and ability to disrupt plays. In fact, he is drawing comparisons to another undersized tackle on the Bengals roster - Geno Atkins (a little premature, but a nice compliment). Watson is a big running back out of Azusa Pacific and like Kumerow, dominated the smaller competition. Watson had 29 touchdowns in 2014 and 63 touchdowns over his final three years. The fact that he rewrote the record book at Azusa Pacific may not sound that impressive until you realize that the holder of those records was none other than Christian Okoye. However, the Bengals are so deep at running back that barring an injury (or injuries), Watson won't make the 53-man roster, but he has a good shot at a practice squad spot.
Thanks to Scott for taking a few minutes to enlighten us about the Bengals. Remember to play nice when you visit Cincy Jungle to interact with Bengals' fans this week. See my answers to Scott's questions. Rep BBV with class, the same way you hope Giants' players rep the organization this week.