Tonight the Bengals face their final preseason foe, the familiar tilt with Indianapolis. The team plays them yearly, most likely due to the very short travel distance between Cincy and Indy.
It’s the last preseason game for both squads, so don’t look for starters to play more than a series or two. The purpose for this game is mainly to determine who will fill the bottom end of the roster. Its the last chance the fringe players have to prove they should be practicing next week instead of bagging groceries.
No one cares about the final score. It’s all about the tape. Here’s a look at the individuals who need a strong performance tonight to have a job by Sunday afternoon:
- Mike Nugent & Dave Rayner: The kicking competition has been touted as a heavy-weight slugfest with no clear cut leader after 4 games. Rayner has been more impressive with his kick-offs, and has been healthy all camp. He’s hit most of his attempts. Nugent was injured and doesn’t have as many kicks on tape. Plus his kick-offs are shorter so far than Rayners. However, the guy nailed a 54-yarder (something Shayne Graham could never do) and supposedly has the bigger leg. He’s also an OSU alum and former high draft pick, so I think this competition is close based more on external factors than on-field performance. Nugent will have to win the job tonight or it just might be Rayner on the final 53.
- Jerome Simpson, Dez Briscoe and Matt Jones: Figure six wide receivers for the Bengals. Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens are the superstar starters. Jordan Shipley is in. Andre Caldwell is now probably in based upon Antonio Bryant’s dismissal. And call me crazy, but I say Quan Cosby is in based upon not just his excellent special teams play, but his abilities as a receiver. That leaves one spot for these three guys to fight for. Jones brings the experience, Simpson brings the potential of a high-round pick, and Briscoe’s been quietly productive. Simpson is on his last chance with the team and is making a late push with work on teams. Briscoe could be stashed on the practice squad. Jones needs a big night to save any chance of sticking.
- Daniel Coats: Most of the Bengal universe wants this guy out of town on a rail. The general consensus from people I talk to is he has questionable hands, fumblitis, and is only marginally successful as a blocker. Nonetheless, he’s the Bengal bad penny. He keeps turning up and things tend to fall in place year after year allowing him to keep a job. This year, it’s been the injuries to Fui Vakapuna and Dan Skuta that have opened the door to this former golden-domer again. Vakapuna is as good as gone, and Skuta may end up back at linebacker. But can the Bengals really keep this guy around another year? He better look good tonight.
- Cedric Peerman and James Johnson: If these two are lucky, the team will keep one of them. Both have flashed some ability in the preseason. Peerman looks stronger, and more of the work-horse type while Johnson is clearly faster. It will all depend on if one of them separates tonight, and what offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski wants for his schemes.
- J.T. O’Sullivan & Jordan Palmer: Marvin Lewis said in his news conference this week he was looking for more “calmness” from his back-up QB’s, which mirrors what I’ve been saying for weeks. O’Sullivan seems excessively jittery and frazzled out there, but he’s responded to the pressure lately. Palmer looks like his brother, but hasn’t played anything like him yet. The #2 job is up for grabs and it might be decided tonight.
As always, let’s pray for no injuries and some good tape for the coaches to evaluate. I always prefer to see the cream rise to the top, and for players to win or lose jobs based upon their body of work–not their potential or history. It doesn’t always work out that way. Hopefully it will after tonight.
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