The Cincinnati Bengals have made an interesting about-face, going from a long-time head coach who had arguably gone stale to a newcomer without a load of experience who can be considered to be part of a “new wave” in the profession. So will Zac Taylor bring a certain freshness to the situation? We may start to find that out in the pre-season.
The Kansas City Chiefs provide the opposition in the opener, and the mission on their hands, as they try to make that leap toward the Super Bowl, is to improve upon a defensive unit that was not championship-caliber.
Both teams continue laying the groundwork on Saturday night, with kickoff scheduled for 8 PM ET at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.
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The Chiefs, of course, are coming off an offensive bonanza that saw them score more than 35 points a game in 2018. And what’s interesting about it is that they find themselves in a position where they will have to establish either a viable “go-to” back or a very capable “committee.” This was necessitated by the dismissal of Kareem Hunt, after he assaulted a woman last year.
Carlos Hyde has been getting first-team snaps as Damien Williams has been slowed by injuries in camp. Hyde has been a first option at times, and maybe he gets revived here, but he needs some support. Maybe the guy to emerge in Saturday night’s game is Darwin Williams, who played one season of major college ball and averaged 6.8 yards a carry in the up-tempo offense at Utah State.
Patrick Mahomes will play a full quarter, according to coach Andy Reid. Then it will be Chad Henne in the second quarter. In the second half, you’ll see Chase Litton and Kyle Shurmur, who is the son of New York Giants coach Pat Shurmur. If Mahomes is playing an entire quarter, we’re thinking that could be a productive one.
And we just wonder whether the Chiefs will be in a position to stop anybody.
In the NFL pre-season betting odds on this game, the Chiefs are the favorites:
Kansas City Chiefs -3.5 (-103)
Cincinnati Bengals +3.5 (-107)
Over 36.5 points (-103)
Under 36.5 points (-107)
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Obviously when Cincinnati’s management reached out to Taylor as the head coach, they were hoping that they could get some of the formula that propelled the Los Angeles Rams to the Super Bowl, as Taylor was an assistant. Surely the Bengals needed an injection of something, but can they get it with Andy Dalton remaining at quarterback? That’s a good question. Backups who may see action include Jeff Driskel, who started a number of games last season, and rookie Ryan Finley, who may be a future consideration if he looks good in the pre-season.
We’ll see at least one very interesting offensive participant for Cincinnati in Saturday night’s game. The Bengals took a shot at a couple of potential sleepers at running back, drafting them in the sixth round. One of them, Rodney Anderson (Oklahoma) is sidelined with injuries, but the other guy is given a genuine shot to be a backfield contributor. Trayveon Williams lacks size, but at Texas A&M he led the SEC in rushing, and his offensive line coach with the Aggies, Jim Turner, was hired to the same job with the Bengals. And Turner is absolutely certain about his abilities to make it in the NFL. He’ll have opportunity, as Joe Mixon and Giovanni Bernard are expected to be held out. But one of the other guys Turner would have been counting on – offensive tackle Jonah Williams, the first-round draft pick – is out for the foreseeable future with a torn labrum, and that’s s downer.
The Chiefs need to figure out a way to rush the passer better, even though they’ll need to effectively replace Dee Ford and Justin Houston. They like to think they have really upgraded in the secondary. Tyrann Mathieu was brought in to take over the strong side, and everybody is raving about rookie Juan Thornhill, who should have been a first-rounder but somehow lasted till the second. Louis Riddick, the former NFL safety who is now an ESPN analyst, believes that Mathieu and Thornhill will be “as good a tandem that the league has in 2019.”
Still, we consider that in terms of yardage allowed, these were the two worst defenses in the league in 2018. And now you’re going to be seeing second, third and fourth people from the depth chart. The quarterbacks here are actually capable for this setting; there are backups with starting experience and promising rookies. And Mahomes is playing a quarter, unlike most QB’s who leave after on series or don’t play at all. For what it’s worth, Andy Reid has played more overs than unders in the pre-season (44-36)
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