Preseason Primer: Three Cincinnati Bengals to Watch In Game 1


Sep 8, 2012; Winston Salem, NC, USA North Carolina Tar Heels center Russell Bodine (60) plays in the game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at BB&T field. Wake defeated the Heels 28-27. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals kickoff their 2014 preseason schedule tonight against the Kansas City Chiefs tonight at Arrowhead stadium, and there are plenty of compelling story lines to follow on both sides of the ball.  While many big name for Marvin Lewis’ squad will be in the sideline for one reason or another — Geno Atkins, A.J. McCarron, Clint Boling — other key players and combatants in position battles WILL be on the field for our enjoyment.  Here are three Bengals I’ll be watching in Game 1 of the preseason.

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Russell Bodine, Center

Center has been something of a revolving door over the past couple of seasons, thanks largely to injuries, but also due to age and inconsistent play.  The uncertainty figured to continue into 2014 when guare Mike Pollak was semi-anointed the new starter early this year, but that all changed on draft day when the Bengals selected Russell Bodine from North Carolina with their fourth-round pick in this year’s NFL Draft.   By all accounts, Bodine is the man to stop the slide up front and help solidify quarterback Andy Dalton’s line, but Coley Harvey reports on that Bodine is raising some concern in camp due some sloppiness with his snaps.   Bodine will be a key for the Bengals this season, and tonight’s game should give us an early barometer on his readiness.

Jeremy Hill, Running Back

Second-year back Gio Bernardi is seen by most as a budding superstar and seems to have a lock on the starting RB slot, but Jeremy Hill, the Bengals’ second-round pick out of LSU this spring has generated a lot of buzz, too.  He is big and strong, so he will be battling not only for the right to backup Bernardi as a featured runner but also to become Cincinnati’s go-to guy in power situations.  With new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson’s propensity for building a bruising running game, Hill figures to garner decent usage in his first year, and this game against the Chiefs will be a great avenue for starting to blow out the carbon and evaluating what this young player might bring to the team.

Margus Hunt, DE

When DE Michael Johnson left for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency, he opened up the starting role on the left side of the Bengals’ defensive line.  Contenders to fill that void include Wallace Gilberry and Will Clarke, but there is no doubt that Estonian Margus Hunt is getting the most media play as preseason games loom.  In late July, head coach Marvin Lewis raved about the second-year player’s development, which would seem to bode well for Hunt in the battle for a starting slot.   Hunt is huge (6’8″, 290 pounds) and raw — he played sparingly in his rookie season and came up with just three tackles — but he is a monstrous athletic talent and has room to grow, both in bodyweight and in skill.  It will be exciting to see how he looks in live action after an off-season of training.

There are several other Bengals who bear watching as Game 1 of the exhibition schedule kicks off another exciting NFL season, but these could be three of the keys to Cincinnati’s success this year and in years to come.  Enjoy the show as the Bengals begin their march toward another division title!