Indianapolis vs. Cincinnati: Bengals' Preseason Week 4 Game Preview
The Cincinnati Bengals return home to host the Indianapolis Colts in a contest that will finish off their preseason and give the staff one final look at the players on the fringe of making the roster before cuts.
Sunday, the Bengals picked up their first win of the preseason in Arizona but once again suffered a slew of injuries in the process. The good news is, though, that the offense continues to roll right along and the defensive depth seemed to take a step in the right direction.
Thursday's opponent, led by quarterback Andrew Luck, has yet to win a contest, although all three losses have come by less than a touchdown. That offense in particular figures to give the Cincinnati defense one final quality check before things actually begin to matter.
The exact lineup Cincinnati will field Thursday is somewhat of a mystery at this point. Injury updates seem sparse as well, although what is known is names who have already been shown the door.
Those details and more are within as we break down the final preseason contest in detail. Let's take a look.
Bengals Preseason Week 3 Recap
As every coach and fan hopes for, preseason Week 3 was one of progress for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Andy Dalton still looked good under center and threw for 157 yards. A.J. Green was his usual self, catching five passes for 53 yards. Mohamed Sanu continued his hot streak with Marvin Jones out of the picture, picking up several first downs and leading the team in receiving with five grabs for 70 yards.
But two of the bigger notes on offense were from rookie back Jeremy Hill and wideout Cobi Hamilton. The former looked great on 12 carries, which he turned into 48 yards. The latter made a bit of a name for himself with three grabs for 42 yards.
Perhaps the best news came on the defensive side of the football, though. The depth along the defensive line had looked poor at best through the first two games, but the Bengals managed to hold Arizona to just 82 rushing yards on the day.
Even better, rookie end Will Clarke also showed signs of life and picked up a sack.
It was a sloppy affair in a 19-13 win. What matters most is that the Bengals mostly got what they needed in terms of progress in key areas. All that remains is to continue on that trajectory for one more exhibition.
News and Notes
Such a simple word, yet an intrinsic part of the process for each team this time of year. Several names will not be with the team now that the staff has made cuts to meet the 75-player requirement. They are as follows, according to Paul Dehner Jr. of Cincinnati.com and the team's transaction page:
- Tight end Kevin Brock
- Wide receiver Jasper Collins
- Linebacker James Davidson
- Quarterback Matt Scott
- Cornerback Lavelle Westbrooks (inj.)
- Linebacker JK Schaffer (inj.)
- Cornerback R.J. Stanford
- Defensive tackle Larry Black
- Safety Isaiah Lewis
- Kicker Quinn Sharp
- Wide receiver Ryan Whalen
Perhaps the only real surprise on the list is JK Schaffer, who showed flashes last season when given the opportunity to contribute. But considering he was injured, he will rejoin the roster in that capacity if he clears waivers.
The next batch of cuts will be much more difficult to digest, but the majority of these names were already known.
The preseason is so basic in a way when it comes to news.
Cincinnati suffered a wealth of injuries last week in Arizona, but the most notable names to pop up in this regard are defensive tackle Geno Atkins and linebacker Vontaze Burfict.
Atkins played in only 13 snaps against Arizona in what was his first game back after an ACL injury last season. Burfict played a handful of snaps but left the game with a hamstring issue and did not return.
As it pertains to Atkins, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther likes what he saw.
“He’s been practicing, which is different than real live football,” Guenther said, per Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. “From my eye he looks fine. As he continues to take more reps with the team, he’ll grow more confident.”
According to Hobson, both are unlikely to play in the final preseason game but are sure things for the opener.
*All injury reports are from ESPN.com. Will be updated when official report is released.
Nothing too crazy here so far, especially since the preseason comes with more lenient rules in regards to reports. All three of the names above figure to be good to go come Week 1.
X-Factors and Matchups to Watch
While we might not know for sure who will actually partake in the contest against the Indianapolis Colts, the most pertinent things to watch on the Cincinnati Bengals' end are rather obvious. Here are three keys.
Bengals Offensive Line vs. Indianapolis Pass Rush
To be frank, Cincinnati's offensive line was a mess against Arizona. It was not all bad, but overall it was not an encouraging sign for a unit that needs to protect a quarterback who in the past has been a bit jittery in the pocket.
Thursday presents a good test for the unit as a whole, as well as the critical depth. The Colts come equipped with a variety of sound pass-rushers such as Robert Mathis, Bjoern Werner and more.
To Andy Dalton's credit, he did look mostly comfortable in the pocket under pressure against Arizona. But until that sort of calm play becomes a lengthy trend, this will continue to be something to watch.
Bengals Secondary vs. Indianapolis Quarterbacks
This one has a few layers to it.
For one, there is a serious roster battle going on in the Bengals secondary that will finally have an answer sooner rather than later. Names such as Chris Lewis-Harris might be fighting for a limited number of spots.
In addition to that, there is only so much playing time to go around, which would explain why someone like Dre Kirkpatrick was still in the contest last week deep into the fourth quarter.
This is all helped by the fact that the Colts are deep under center. Luck is a known commodity, but don't forget veteran signal-caller Matt Hasselbeck is right behind him and can still provide a quality test to fringe Cincinnati defensive backs.
Bengals X-Factor of the Week: Russell Bodine
Normally an X-factor is reserved for someone who can decide the fate of a game on his own, but let's take a different route for at least this week.
Rookie center Russell Bodine was miserable last week. Bottom line. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), he has ranked No. 72 out of 76 players at his position this preseason, with his performance against Arizona actually his lowest grade to date.
It seems after trading up for him in the draft, the Bengals staff are dead-set on using him as a starter right away, but the North Carolina product has struggled with snaps right on up the list this preseason.
Bodine's performance—the safe bet is he gets a lengthy look again this week—decides a number of things. Whether he can come around impacts the entire offense, and it might also mean the staff is forced to start veteran guard Mike Pollak at the spot instead.
Many players are under pressure Thursday, and more than a few have a roster spot on the line, but few can match the scrutiny and expectations of Bodine with the clock ticking.
A surefire prediction is nearly impossible in this scenario given the unpredictability of which players will actually see the field.
But when push comes to shove, Cincinnati clearly has a deeper roster than Indianapolis, which is all that tends to matter in exhibition contests.
The Bengals will be able to continue to run strong all night thanks to the presence of Jeremy Hill and the always-effective Cedric Peerman, but so will the Colts thanks to Ahmad Bradshaw and former Bengals reserve Dan Herron.
What sets this contest apart is the defensive depth. Cincinnati is deep at every single unit on the defensive side of the football, which should equate to a win in front of a friendly crowd. If not, it's about the journey, not the result anyway.
Note: Preseason stats courtesy of NFL.com.