Cincinnati Bengals fans, the long wait for preseason game No. 1 ends tonight with Marvin Lewis’ team hosting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Jay Morrison already laid out his six things to watch tonight and hit all the most important aspects of the game I can see, such as they are when the outcome doesn’t matter.
I am with Jay in wanting to see how Trey Hopkins performs on the offensive line.
Aside from the stars, he could be one of the most important Bengals of 2017. They have to play better up front than they did last season, and some young guys are going to have to do things they have never done to make that happen (especially if Andre Smith isn’t healthy).
Although Hopkins was a college free agent (three years ago), he comes from a Texas program that used to produce very talented players with regularity. He was a four-star recruit when he signed with the Longhorns and started for three seasons in Austin.
When you're looking for someone to make an impact, sometimes the best bets are the ones those scouts first noticed in high school even if they don’t quite look the part coming out of college. Especially if they are coming from a program like Mack Brown’s later Texas teams or Brady Hoke’s Michigan teams…
Other areas worth keeping a closer watch on: the young/unproven Bengals defensive backs (Darqueze Dennard, William Jackson, KeiVarae Russell), the potential Domata Peko replacements (Pat Sims, Andrew Billings) and a receiving group that might have more good players than roster spots at this point…
I missed interviews with Ohio State’s linebackers yesterday because I was chasing around a 1-year-old, but David Jablonski’s story about Dante Booker serves as a reminder Luke Fickell certainly did not leave the cupboard bare as far as that position goes.
Booker, a former Ohio Mr. Football, stepped into the lineup to much fanfare last season, but he went down with an injury in the opener. All the Buckeyes could do to replace him was call up another four-star recruit from northeast Ohio, Jerome Baker, who turned out to be one of the team’s biggest playmakers.
Baker is back along with fellow Cleveland native Chris Worley this season, and so the “new starter” is someone who already won a job once.
Not a bad place to be, especially for a position group that went through some lean years early in the Urban Meyer era…
Speaking of Cleveland, I caught a little bit of the Browns preseason opener last night, and what I saw from DeShone Kizer wasn’t too surprising.
While some of the questions about both Kizer and Deshaun Watson were valid (and could still prove to be their undoing) during the draft process, these were two guys that had experience and upside, both coming from great college programs and obviously having great physical ability.
There are almost never sure things in the draft, and sometimes we get carried away looking at the negatives in prospects — especially early.
I have a suspicion the Browns may have the best head coach/quarterback combo in the state in a year or two…
Lastly, how about those Cincinnati Reds?
They provided the business man’s schedule crowd with a power show Thursday afternoon, coming from behind to beat the Padres 10-3.
Scooter Gennett had the biggest blow, a go-ahead grand slam in the seventh inning that would have been one of those long-time memorably moments if the team weren’t such a disaster right now.
But let’s accentuate the positive here: Gennett has given them a great dilemma when it comes to planning for the future.
RELATED: Reds rotation still has moving parts
Especially with Jose Peraza having some ups and downs and this turning out to be a lost year for Dilson Herera, one would think Gennett should have a spot on this team next year and beyond.
His power numbers, if they are at least somewhat sustainable, also might come in handy if the Reds end up with Jesse Winker in right field long term and Nick Senzel at third base.
They both profile as very good (or better) all-around hitters but might not have quite the raw power you hope for at those positions (and there’s no power coming from center field, either), so some extra pop in the middle of the infield (suppose Eugenio Suarez ends up back at shortstop?) could really come in handy.