The Cincinnati Bengals are about to kick off the 2019 season as they travel to Seattle to take on the Seahawks. With every game of the season there will be things to watch. Here are 5 things to watch for in week 1.
1. The Offensive Line
Cincinnati’s offensive line has been a hot mess over the last few seasons. It doesn’t look like it will get much better this season either. First-round pick Jonah Williams has already been lost for the season with an injury, Clint Boling retired and Billy Price has been benched. That doesn’t leave much room for optimism.
This game will feature some problems for the offensive line. The Seahawks will have newly acquired Jadeveon Clowney rushing the passer. Seattle also has an average rush defense, ranking 16th in the league last season. Cordy Glenn, Michael Jordan, Trey Hopkins, John Miller and Bobby Hart, the players listed as starters on the depth chart, have their work cut out for them.
*Glenn has missed practice this week.
2. Zac Taylor’s Play-Calling
Fans got a taste of Zac Taylor’s play-calling in the preseason, but he likely didn’t reveal anything that was revolutionary, as most teams don’t. The first game of his head coaching tenure does produce optimism that the play-calling will be better in past seasons. Only time will tell.
Against the Seahawks, with a patch-work offensive line, Taylor will have to call plays designed to beat their zone defense. A lot of the passing plays he calls will have to get the ball out of Andy Dalton’s quickly, because of the troubles on the offensive line. The worst-case scenario for the Bengals is to have Clowney breathing down Dalton’s neck all game.
3. Damion Willis’ Debut
The Bengals signed Willis to a deal after he went undrafted. Now, because of A.J. Green’s injury, Willis is set to start in the opening game of the season. He has already exceeded all expectations for an undrafted rookie, but could really make a name for himself with a big game against the Seahawks.
Willis is a big-bodied wide receiver who stands 6-foot-3 and 204 pounds. He appeared on Netflix’s “Last Chance U” while he attended East Mississippi Community College. His last two years of college football were spent with the Troy Trojans, where he totaled 98 catches for 1,496 yards and 13 touchdowns. He’ll have to find the soft spots in the zone defense for the Seahawks in order to produce.
4. The Run Defense
While the Seahawks are not known for having a great offensive line, they led the league in rushing yards last season. Chirs Carson led the way for Seattle with 1,151 yards and nine touchdowns. Second-leading rusher Mike Davis is gone, but Rashad Penny helped the cause last season and will be back. That is enough reason for the Bengals to focus on stopping the run.
The Bengals gave up the fourth-most rushing yards per game last year, so they could have a tough time stopping the Seahawks on the ground. With the defense generally pretty healthy, they should be able to at least put up a fight. The defensive line has a solid rotation, but linebacker Preston Brown will likely need to make plenty of plays to slow down the Seahawks rushing attack.
5. Joe Mixon’s Start to the Season
With a bad offensive line last season, Joe Mixon was still able to lead the AFC in total rushing yards. While that is an impressive feat, the line won’t be very much improved this year. The question now becomes whether he can produce again and stay healthy.
In this game, Mixon is likely the x-factor. If he can have a big game, it will take pressure off of Andy Dalton and the passing game. It will also help the defense if the Bengals can control the clock. It will be hard for Mixon to replicate his stats this season, but it will also be interesting to see how Mixon is used in Taylor’s offense.