NFL

W2L4: Bengals Rookies Look To Impress in 2023 Preseason Opener vs. Packers

Packers (8-9, 3rd NFC North in 2022) at Bengals (14-5, AFC Championship finalist in 2022) Friday, Aug. 11 at Paycor Stadium (Field Turf), 7 p.m. ET, TV: Bengals Preseason Network Ch. 12 WKRC-TV (Cincinnati) Mike Watts, Anthony Munoz, Marisa Contipelli. Radio: Dan Hoard, Dave Lapham. WEBN-FM (102.7 FM), ESPN1530

CINCINNATI – Now the games finally begin.

After months of roster building through free agency and the draft and then offseason practice, OTAs, minicamp, training camp and an obligatory training camp scuffle or two, it’s time to see what the twos and threes in game action.

The only starters who could see action for the Bengals are safeties Dax Hill and Nick Scott, if only to give them some time together in game action to get communication down. But don’t be surprised if it’s rookie Jordan Battle and Tycen Anderson out there to start the game against Green Bay quarterback Jordan Love.

“There will be a high number of starters that won’t play,” Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said Wednesday. “I won’t get into the specifics yet. And then there will be some younger guys that maybe we’re really counting on that will play that still need some of those reps. Doesn’t mean that there’s going to be a high volume of reps, but they’ll still get some work. We think that’s needed.”

That’s code for Dax Hill, who didn’t get much action to start the 2022 season as he was learning and Tycen Anderson, who took a red-shirt season in 2022 with the Bengals.

Offensively, Trent Taylor, rookies Charlie Jones and Andrei Iosivas are going to see a lot of the field.

Rookies who figure to contribute will likely be on with the backups, as coaches want to create some synergy for the rookies with players who figure to be on the roster. The free agent skill players are usually on the field with the third team line and the same can be said of the defense.

Rookie defensive players usually get integrated into games with backups while the third team defense is usually comprised of undrafted free agents.

As for the game itself, the Bengals open the preseason at home on Friday night when they host the Green Bay Packers at Paycor Stadium.

Friday will mark Cincinnati’s first game action since the AFC Championship at Kansas City on Jan. 29. The Bengals fell short to the Chiefs, 23-20, in their second straight appearance in the conference title game, but they enter the 2023 campaign with much of the same young core still intact for another potential postseason run.

Without further ado:

Here’s what to look for:

  • When the Bengals have the ball:
  • Brian Callahan:
    Like he did in the joint practice Wednesday, the Bengals offensive coordinator could get some reps as the play caller.

    “We’ve done this for three years now with Brian. There’s games he calls, practices he calls,” Zac Taylor said before Wednesday’s practice. “So again, that’s an ongoing process from game to game, sometimes I just really feel like calling a game and want to call it but Brian has done that Brian will continue to do that, for us, this preseason. Lou (Anarumo) has done the same thing on defense, those guys have called quarters halves, different than Lou. Again, it’s not something we broadcast. And I won’t broadcast when and how, but it’s something that we continue to work on.”

    Trevor Siemian/Jake Browning/Reid Sinnett: All three quarterbacks could use a good effort after an uneven camp of tossing the ball around the training camp field. This has been most evident in the lack of timing, getting the ball out at the right time on receiver breaks, the kind of stuff that is taken for granted when Joe Burrow is on the field.

    Running backs: Chris Evans could use a big preseason to show he still has value to the Bengals with Trayveon Williams and Joe Mixon assuming their roles on the roster. Rookie Chase Brown has flashed speed and burst in practice. Can he do it in a game and on special teams. Calvin Tyler Jr. and Jacob Saylors will get their chance to make a statement as well.

    Jackson Carman, D’Ante Smith: Working on the assumption that Jonah Williams is the starting right tackle and La’el Collins will not be traded and will be insurance at tackle, it’s up to Jackson Carman to exert his will at tackle, something that has slipped in the last week. Smith, on the other hand, has looked quick and solid with quick feet.

    Trey Hill, Cody Ford, Jaxson Kirkland, Max Scharping: How will this group shake out? Hill was getting first team reps at right guard with Alex Cappa out with a lower body strain. Frank Pollack wants to see the versatility potential in his line so Hill, the assumed back-up center, gets a shot at right guard along with Cody Ford, who has had his moments where it appears he could use more conditioning. Jaxson Kirkland has impressed as an undrafted rookie out of Washington and should see reps at guard and tackle. Max Scharping was Alex Cappa’s backup last year at right guard but this camp he’s getting reps as a center, something we should see in the preseason.

  • When the Packers have the ball:
  • Tycen Anderson: This is similar to what happened with Joseph Ossai in 2021. He had a red-shirt season and broke out last year. Anderson was hurt in the preseason last year and now gets a chance to show off the athleticism that made him a fifth-round pick out of Toledo in 2022.

    “Tycen didn’t get a chance to get any reps the way the whole thing shook out over the course of the season,” head coach Zac Taylor told me. “He was able to practice the last two weeks of the playoffs. Aside from that he was confined to conditioning. We told him when it occurred this is a mental year for you. You get a chance to sit in these meetings and make sure you ask the questions you need to ask and next year will be the physical year for you. We try to get him as many reps as we can to try to accelerate his growth and see how he can help us.

    “I think he has gotten better every day is what I have seen. We still haven’t played a game yet. There is a lot of weeks left for these guys to continue to grow. But Tycen it is important to him and I know he is really working at it.”

    Zach Carter, Jeff Gunter: These two draft picks from 2022 get a chance to show they’ve grown as defensive linemen heading into their second season. This could be critical considering the quality ahead of them on the depth chart. There’s no assuming either of their spots on the roster. Games like this could go a long way to selling coaches of their value, either on the 53-man roster or the practice squad down the road.

    Defensive backs: This has the chance to be the most fascinating group to watch for the Bengals. Are the DJs ready for primetime? DJ Turner II and DJ Ivey have flashed a high level of ball skills and have speed to burn. Throw in Allan George, veteran free agent Sidney Jones IV and Jalen Davis, and you have the makings of a high level of competition in the secondary for spots behind Chido Awuzie, Cam Taylor-Britt and Mike Hilton.

    Sean Clifford: The St. Xavier high school product figures to get a boatload of playing time for the Packers in this game in front of friends and family in the stadium he grew up watching and rooting for the Bengals. The Penn State quarterback actually worked out informally in April for the Bengals as the team needed players to throw passes. He is second on the Packers depth chart behind Jordan Love.

  • Bottom Line:
  • This is a big game for the rookies and second-year players looking to finally show what they can do in a game. But for fans watching, always keep in mind that both teams are trying to hammer down the mechanics of play calling, substitutions and seeing who are the best tacklers in space and who can make someone miss on offense. Defensive play calls are very basic. Perhaps special teams is the most important unit to keep an eye on as often rookies that don’t have a chance of playing on offense or defense right away make their mark on Darrin Simmons’ units. Could be a good game for Evan McPherson to warm up that leg for the regular season.

    Bengals 25, Packers 22

    Mike Petraglia

    Joined CLNS Media in 2017. Covered Boston sports as a radio broadcaster, reporter, columnist and TV and video talent since 1993. Covered Boston Red Sox for MLB.com from 2000-2007 and the New England Patriots for ESPN Radio, WBZ-AM, SiriusXM, WEEI, WEEI.com and CLNS since 1993. Featured columnist for the Boston Celtics on CelticsBlog.

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