The Cincinnati Bengals have become one of the most hyped teams in the entire NFL so far this preseason. Even a pundit as well renowned as CBS Sports' Pete Prisco has the Bengals as his favorite to win the Super Bowl.
Aside from the abundant amount of positive press, there are also some unfortunate disappointments within the Bengals organization so far this preseason.
Some players were expected to rise farther up the depth chart than they have to this point, others are simply being outplayed by their counterparts and some have been downright terrible.
Let's take a look at a few players who fall into the latter category.
Emerging in the interior defensive-line rotation in his second year with the Bengals is Devon Still. He will be in the 3-technique rotation with All-Pro Geno Atkins this season. Unfortunately, Still has not lived up to his former second-round billing thus far.
Constantly being forced out of place by physical offensive linemen, Still's 6'5", 320-pound frame is not holding up well in the trenches. This reflects in his negative-2.2 grade and 89th-overall position out of 100 defensive tackles ranked by Pro Football Focus (subscription required) this preseason.
Take a look at this still image—no pun intended—from the Bengals' preseason game against the Tennessee Titans to get a good look at exactly how ineffective Still has been during many of his snaps in 2013.
As you can clearly see here, Still is driven so far away by Titans left guard Andy Levitre that an enormous running lane opens up for Shonn Greene coming out of the backfield. These are the battles in which Still must be able to hold his ground.
Still is inexperienced yet—he did not receive much playing time as a rookie. But he must show some drastic improvement before the regular season begins to keep this solid defensive-line rotation intact.
With A.J. Green sidelined for a good majority of training camp—along with the first two preseason games—second-year receiver Marvin Jones has been given a tremendous opportunity to step up in his place.
So far, he has not taken advantage of his situation.
Jones recorded three catches for 28 yards against the Titans in Week 2 of the preseason. However, he has not been able to recapture the chemistry that he once had with quarterback Andy Dalton toward the end of the 2012 season.
Pro Football Focus (subscription required) ranks Jones at 126th overall in their 2013 preseason wide receiver rankings, which is about right in the middle of the pack. For a player who should be poised for a breakout year, that's just not good enough.
The lack of chemistry between Jones and Dalton was on display against the Titans this past week.
In this screen cap, Dalton is expecting a comeback route from Jones and delivers a back-shoulder throw. However, Jones continues to streak down the field, which does not allow him to make a move on the ball in time, forcing an incomplete pass.
These are the things that Jones must work on in practice and throughout the rest of the preseason if he is to be relied upon in the Bengals offense when the regular season comes around.
Coming into the 2013 season, we all knew that Margus Hunt was going to be a project for the coaching staff. However, he has gotten off to a slower start than most anticipated.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), out of the 82 eligible 4-3 defensive ends, Hunt is ranked a mere 78th overall with a negative-3.9 rating.
Hunt has shown time and time again that he has the physical tools to become a great football player. But as it stands right now, he has more deficiencies to overcome than was initially expected.
He is constantly struggling to get his pads lower in order to keep them over his feet. He is also having trouble learning the proper technique to use his arms and hands effectively when rushing the passer. This gives weaker offensive linemen the advantage over Hunt—using better technique to render him ineffective.
When looking at this still, notice how far away from the quarterback the offensive tackle and running back have pushed Hunt. The remaining three defensive linemen—all backups—are in a relatively good location. However, Hunt's upright posture will not allow him to win in the trenches (identified by the black line next to each player).
Hunt is not expected to contribute this year due to the depth of the team and the amount of growing he must do as an NFL defensive end. However, if he keeps moving at this rate, we may not see any returns on this investment for a couple more years.
George Iloka has been playing well so far—much to the surprise of many—but a temper tantrum during practice in which he punched the helmet of Jordan Campbell, effectively breaking his hand, will cause him to miss time and possibly the starting role at strong safety.
Ryan Whalen has had a very quiet camp and preseason so far. It appears that the once-solid wide receiver is struggling to find his role in the offense. With guys like Dane Sanzenbacher around, Whalen's days in Cincinnati could be numbered.
The first-team offensive line has been average at best throughout two preseason games. Bengals quarterbacks are being pressured and hit way too often. This unit is solid in the run-blocking department but is struggling in pass protection. An improvement here is imperative to the success of the team in 2013.
Josh Johnson and John Skelton have been battling—this term used loosely—for the backup quarterback position. Both players have performed at a less-than-sufficient level so far this preseason—every positive move made seems to be followed up with something negative. One of these men will have to step up and show a consistent effort on the field to gain the upper hand.