New York vs. Cincinnati: Bengals' Preseason Week 2 Game Preview
It is not often that an NFL Week 2 preseason contest comes equipped with superb roster battles and storylines worthy of the regular season, but that is exactly what fans will get when the Cincinnati Bengals host the New York Jets Saturday.
Cincinnati lost its first preseason game to the Kansas City Chiefs, but plenty was revealed about the impressive depth of the roster and what battles to focus on the rest of the way before final cuts.
New York, with head coach Rex Ryan on what should be his final chance, is attempting another rebuild, this time after a .500 affair. The Jets nabbed a meaningless win last week, but hosting Cincinnati appears to be something the players have had circled in red pen all offseason.
Just ask defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, as captured by ESPN.com's Coley Harvey: "We owe them one. We owe them one big time. That was pretty much the only team that dog-walked this defense like that."
Dog-walked indeed, if fans will recall that 49-9 blowout. One Andrew Whitworth is not all that concerned, obviously:
That's good. We want their best. Sometimes for older guys -- especially myself, who have played as much as I have -- it's kind of disheartening when you go out there and guys are playing, but not really playing. You want people to bring their best. You want to get better. That's what [the preseason] is for.
So Saturday's contest has a bit of a kick to it, which should keep the level of play at an entertaining level throughout despite it being an exhibition. Read on for a full breakdown.
Bengals' Preseason Week 1 Recap
Last week the Cincinnati Bengals got offensive production from unexpected places, scored on both sides of the football and still lost.
Good thing it was an exhibition.
"I'm not satisfied with the outcome, but I saw a lot of positives, things we've got to work on and build from," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said, per The Associated Press, via ESPN. "We've got some work to do. Open-field football for the first time gets everybody's attention."
Quarterbacks Jason Campbell and Matt Scott tossed two touchdowns apiece, and Dre Kirkpatrick took an interception back to the house for a score in the 41-39 loss.
Going forward, unexpected standouts from that contest such as wideout James Wright (two catches for 20 yards and a score), tight end Ryan Hewitt (two for 15) and linebacker Marquis Flowers (three tackles) must continue on their current trajectory to make the final roster.
A number of other battles will see significant ground gained against the Jets as well, but getting a head start like the names above did certainly does not hurt.
News and Notes
Mohamed Sanu on the Rise
With the news that Marvin Jones will be sidelined for a number of weeks, beginning Saturday, Mohamed Sanu is going to have a serious shot at gaining ground on the depth chart and solidifying his spot in the lineup regardless of when Jones comes back.
Cincinnati.com's Paul Dehner Jr. put it best:
We spent much of the first 10 days of camp raving about how well Sanu played. He appears re-energized and pushed by watching Jones hop him on the depth chart last year. Possibly the player everyone expected to see last year can come to fruition and fill the Jones void, particularly in the red zone.
Not only has Sanu drawn rave reviews, Brandon Tate, James Wright and a host of others now have more playing time to work with this preseason, meaning one of the deepest spots on the roster gets even more interesting.
Special Teams the Unit to Watch
With the offense set at most positions sans an injury issue and a defense in much of the same situation, the only drama that could have really been created this preseason was on special teams.
The unit did just that against the Chiefs.
Even a casual observer could see the unit struggled mightily last week, but ESPN.com's Coley Harvey explains it well for those who missed the show:
The Bengals have to be somewhat worried about their special teams play. Kickoff coverage and punt coverage were issues early in the ballgame when the leading coverage units were on the field. Regularly, the group overran returners and allowed them to bounce for bigger gains than should have been allowed. That's what happened on the punt return touchdown, and it's also what led to a long kick return in the first quarter that set up Kansas City's first field goal.
It sounds boring, but if there is one unit to watch Saturday, it's special teams. Hiccups are to be expected, but if the problem persists Saturday, things will get quite interesting in Cincinnati.
*All injury reports are from ESPN.com. Will be updated when official report is released.
As mentioned, the absence of Marvin Jones Saturday adds a wrinkle to the offense and gives opportunities to players such as Brandon Tate and James Wright, wideouts who would normally be reserved more for duties on specials teams.
X-Factors and Matchups to Watch
It is the preseason, which means the list of matchups to watch is more expansive than usual as so many men fight for a minuscule 53 spots, but here are a few critical things to key in on as the game progresses.
Jeremy Hill vs. New York Jets Defensive Front
Last week rookie Jeremy Hill was given the nod over BenJarvus Green-Ellis and rumbled for 36 yards on six carries, but he will need to keep performing in that same manner if he is to officially become the full-time complement to Giovani Bernard.
A test against a Rex Ryan defense is a good way to get a barometer of where Hill is really at.
Thanks to a defensive front that includes names such as Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson, yards will be even more difficult to come by this time around if Hill gets a shot at the first-team defense.
Even if he doesn't, Hill has the ability to shake things up in a big way at a key position.
Margus Hunt vs. Michael Vick
Really, that could say "Bengals defensive front" when a unit has to deal with Michael Vick. Young players such as Will Clarke and Brandon Thompson must continue to show improvement, and the speedy Vick is a great way to test the speed and discipline of the linemen.
But it is Margus Hunt who is under the biggest microscope of all after being pegged as the replacement for the departed Michael Johnson. He impressed last week against Kansas City and notched a sack, as described by Cincinnati.com's Paul Dehner Jr. on Twitter: "Margus Hunt with an absolute shotput of Chiefs OT Jeff Linkenbach on that sack."
Vick, regardless of how long he sees the field, is a unique kind of test for Hunt. Not an end-all, be-all sort of test, but one to keep a close eye on nonetheless.
Bengals' X-Factor of the Week: Matt Scott
When one thinks of an X-factor, he or she thinks of a player who can win a game on his own.
Provided this is the preseason, that player might just turn out to be Matt Scott in the late portion of the contest. Last week the Arizona product, who spent 2013 on the Jacksonville Jaguars practice squad, threw for 66 yards and two scores and added another 68 yards on the ground.
Against other backups, Scott is the player who can keep a defense on its toes and get his offense into scoring range more often than not. It likely won't be enough to get him a spot on the final 53 due to the names in front of him, but Saturday another electric performance will put the Bengals in a position to win.
Just going down the depth charts, one has to like the Cincinnati Bengals' chances best come Saturday.
After Michael Vick, things get pretty dicey for the New York Jets under center and end with an impressionable rookie in Tajh Boyd, who will surely struggle against the deep defensive line and secondary the Bengals bring to the table.
The New York defense has some intriguing depth, but the Bengals are quite literally six deep at running back right now, with even Cedric Peerman, Rex Burkhead and James Wilder Jr. having shots at the final roster.
In Cincinnati, with a deeper roster at critical spots, the Bengals should have no issues coming away with a win. It won't be the ugly blowout last season's meeting was, but the end result should be the same.
Prediction: Bengals 35, Jets 30
Note: Preseason stats courtesy of NFL.com.