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I’m a day late thanks to work, but with our first pre-season game in the books, Hard Knocks airing in the States and a full set of games incoming it’s time to get into pre-season mode.

What I Saw

I watched the Hall of Fame game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Denver Broncos with interest rather than being enthralled. I got my first looks at Drew Lock who looked every bit a rookie who needed time to develop both missing throws and holding onto the ball and so giving up sacks. It can be hard for a lot of positions to catch the eye when watching the broadcast version of pre-season games. It tends to be offensive skill players, pass rushers or a flashy linebacker play that gets your attention and for the Broncos this was running back Khalfani Muhammad who picked up fifty yards on seven carries and got a touchdown whilst looking like he had an extra burst of pace. That said, I have seen plenty of running backs catch my eye in pre-season over the years and not have it translate to the regular season. I wouldn’t place too much emphasis on pre-season for predicting the coming year, in fact I don’t tend to place too much stock in predictions full stop but it is still an important time of year for the players involved.

Even at this early stage Matt Schaub struggled to move the ball effectively and it looked for all the world that Kurt Benkert was making a good start to win the backup quarterback job when a toe injury took him out the game and he has now been placed on injured reserve. On such fates entire careers can turn so fingers crossed he at least gets another shot at some point.

I’m currently catching up with last of Amazon’s All or Nothing series that followed the Carolina Panthers, but so far I’ve only seen the first episode where we get introduced to Cam Newton who is pretty peak Cam smoking a cigar in the barber’s chair. We’ve already seen Greg Olson re-injure his foot and it will be interesting to see the rest of the season play out and what we get to see of Cam’s shoulder problems later in the year.

What I Heard

The NFL media had something of a lull post the draft and OTAs but is now in full swing. The Eagles have a daily podcast following training camp and obviously the news starts to churn as we get the endless hopeful updates out of camp and the injuries start to mount.

There’s been quite a lot of talk about the various running back holdouts and whether Ezekiel Elliot is worth the money he’s asking for or not. The prices of a player is going to be set by the market, but the current CBA is not working for running backs, particularly those selected in the first round. If you have a first round running back like Elliott then you can pick up their option for a fifth season, franchise them for two more and by that time the player is likely coming to the end of their career given how hard it is to play the position. For a quarterback the money is so high and the career is so long that you can manipulate your way out of a bad situation eventually, but the running back has so little leverage thanks to the their shorter careers. You can speculate all you want about the fairness of this and putting in an exemption for the running back to take into account the wear on their bodies, but the owners are going to want to be given something to negotiate for that and I can’t see that it will be a priority come the CBA negotiations as what do the players have to give other than playing more games?

What I Think

I’m going to allow myself a little worry here as what I think is that the Bengals have overhauled a lot in the off-season having moved on from Marvin Lewis. I think a lot of fans forget just how bad the team was before Lewis was hired and improved things dramatically. This is all up in the air right now and losing your first round draft pick to injury, a second offensive lineman to a medical retirement, and AJ Green to torn ligaments on a college field the team were playing on as part of the centenary celebrations is not exactly a great start. I was worried already, and whilst I’m not sure that the Bengals are as non-competitive in the division as most seem to think (there is still a lot of talent on the roster) – I’m not at all confident of a good record, in fact I’m gearing up for a tough season of watching. I just hope the rest of games are good.

What I Know

This pre-season I will be watching the Bengals as usual, the Oakland Raiders as they are on Hard Knocks, which could be very interesting given the roster moves and Antonio Brown’s sore feet that was apparently caused by a Cryotherapy mishap, and the Green Bay Packers as I’m intrigued to see how they look under a new coach.

What I Hope

I’m hoping that the Bengals manage to put a season together than can be built upon even if it doesn’t result in wins, that we get good entertaining games, and that more teams play good football. The higher the quality the better for all.

 

And that’s it for my first weekly column of the 2019 season. I’m not going to count how many weeks to go as it will likely give me a certain degree of panic but in no time at all the picks competition will be in full swing, and Dan’s Dad will likely be stumping us again with more NFL trivia.

This is not a drill, football is coming!

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