With their second exhibition game in 2021 under their belt, the Cincinnati Bengals are now almost finished with the 2021 preseason. There is still a game left to play, but the majority of the opportunities for players to make their mark before final cutdowns are now in the books.
The Bengals played a close game with the Washington Football Team this week and ultimately were unable to finish with a win. But, as we discussed in last week’s article, the results aren’t particularly important. What is important is how individual players performed and how the roster is taking shape. This week, we learned a lot about a few players who stood out for both good and bad reasons.
EDGE Darius Hodge
Another solid night from the undrafted rookie out of Marshall University. With extra opportunities as a result of Joseph Ossai’s injury this week, he absolutely delivered again. He didn’t record any tackles or sacks to get on the stat sheet, but he was still all over the field pressuring the quarterback and generally disrupting the backfield.
Hodge has a difficult road to the Bengals’ 53-man roster with guys like Khalid Kareem, Joseph Ossai, and Cameron Sample shoring up the edge depth. But, another night like the ones he had against Tampa Bay and Washington, and the Bengals might be forced to find some room for him.
OG Jackson Carman
There are still a few glaring issues in Carman’s game, so it’s understandable why the Bengals’ coaching staff still haven’t entrusted him to run with the first team yet. But, on the whole, he seems to be holding his own in the preseason action he does get.
In particular, this week, he looked impressive as a run blocker. Even as a pass blocker, he rarely looked out of place.
Carman is finishing plays tonight. Playing nasty. Credit him for that.— Jake Liscow (@JakeLiscow) August 21, 2021
“Playing nasty” is what you want to hear from the Bengals’ second round pick. There’s still a few issues to iron out, but for the most part he looks to be on track to earning his place on this team.
CB Jalen Davis
Jalen Davis absolutely looked like one of those players demanding a spot on the final roster this week. His two tackles for loss on the day massively disrupted Washington’s offensive rhythm and had to catch the attention of the coaching staff. At one point, he absolutely blew up a screen pass that directly lead to the defense getting off the field.
At this point, if you’re assuming Awuzie, Waynes, Hilton, Phillips, and Apple are the first five cornerbacks, it should leave one spot open in the CB room. No one has been more deserving of that spot than Davis so far.
DC Lou Anarumo
Bengals fans have been debating Lou Anarumo’s selection as defensive coordinator since he was hired. As a bottom-10 unit by most metrics both of the last two seasons, that skepticism has been getting more and more credible. With the spending spree the Bengals have put toward the defense over the last two offseasons, he is running out of excuses for poor performance.
So far this offseason, the investments appear to be paying off. We’ll have to see if they can keep up the impressive play once the season starts, but Anarumo’s unit has looked good both of the past two weeks in addition to training camp.
Against Washington, the Bengals’ defense vastly outperformed the offense. It wasn’t perfect, but Washington struggled to get anything going much of the day. In fact, the Washington offense didn’t really start moving the ball at all until the Bengals took their first team defense out.
LB Jordan Evans
For a player who once looked like a promising young rotational piece, Jordan Evans has looked more and more expendable by the week. This week, he regularly looked lost in coverage.
In his defense, he made more tackles on the night than most other players on the team. It seems unlikely he’ll completely fall out of contention for a roster spot. But, at this rate, he could easily end up on the back end of the roster with guys like Markus Bailey and Akeem Davis-Gaither looking much better.
WR Ja’Marr Chase
To be clear, Ja’Marr Chase is not fighting for a roster spot. He will be a focal point of the 2021 gameplan regardless of how he performs in the preseason. But, when you’re targeted three times in a game, the ball is perfectly on target each time, and you drop all three passes, you look really bad.
It wasn’t the best look for the Bengals’ No. 5 overall selection. It’s not even close to time to hit the panic button. But, after reports of Chase struggling with drops in camp, the Bengals should at least be taking notice. This is a very correctable issue at this very early stage. But, it certainly will need to be corrected.
QB Brandon Allen
While Allen isn’t in any real danger of losing his job, performances like this do little to instill any confidence.
Allen finished the night with just eight completions on 17 attempts. He played all but the final three drives of the game and only managed 70 yards passing. Granted, his receivers didn’t seem to be doing him any favors with drops being one of the biggest storylines of the day. But, he still looked totally out of sync. For as good as the Bengals’ defense looked, the offense looked equally bad this week. Allen’s inability to generate much of a passing game was the prime culprit.
WR Trenton Irwin
You have to give credit where credit is due. Irwin recorded more yards than any other Bengals receiver on the night. The problem? He was targeted twice as often as the next most targeted receiver on the team, and only caught two passes. One of those targets very nearly preceded a goal line turnover. But, a personal foul overturned the fumble.
In Irwin’s defense, the Bengals did not have the best quarterback play on the night. It’s hard to make plays on the ball when your quarterback is struggling to get it to you. But, it takes two to tango, and Irwin regularly looked out of place as well. At this stage, he has proven himself worthy of consideration for the final WR roster spot. But, consistency is one of the biggest factors when it comes to those decisions. He’s likely not out of the running yet, but he certainly didn’t make his case for a roster spot this week.