Sports Today: It’s a Cincinnati Bengals game day

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. 

RELATED: 6 things to watch as the Bengals open the preseason

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. 

READ MORE: Booker eager to remind everyone what he can do

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. 

»RELATED: Check out nicknames Reds will wear on Players Weekend

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. 

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Sports

Dunbar grad Scott chasing national hurdles championships for CSU
Dunbar grad Scott chasing national hurdles championships for CSU

Central State University sophomore Juan Scott started his outdoor track and field season the same way he finished the last one – as the fastest 110-meter hurdler in Division II. Scott, the defending champion in the NCAA D-II 110 hurdles, posted the fastest D-II time this season at his outdoor season opener Saturday. And this coming off his D-II...
Sports Today: College basketball’s strange new world could benefit Dayton, Ohio State
Sports Today: College basketball’s strange new world could benefit Dayton, Ohio State

Dayton basketball made news yesterday with the entirely unsurprising report Matej Svoboda is leaving the program to return home to the Czech Republic.  That is nothing against him. He might yet turn out to be a quality basketball player for a long time.  However, he was not an Anthony Grant recruit to begin with, he’s older than the...
Willie Taggart updates status of Florida State QB Deondre Francois
Willie Taggart updates status of Florida State QB Deondre Francois

For Florida State to bounce back from the disappointment of last season, having strong quarterback play is going to be essential. New coach Willie Taggart revealed on Tuesday that he’ll be calling the plays on offense but who’s under center is still up for debate. Rising sophomore James Blackman replaced rising junior Deondre...
Nick Saban puts down retirement talks, Steve Spurrier sees him coaching into his 70s ‘easy’
Nick Saban puts down retirement talks, Steve Spurrier sees him coaching into his 70s ‘easy’

Nick Saban is 66 years old and a good bit older than some of his top competitors, such as Dabo Swinney(48), Kirby Smart(42) and Lincoln Riley(34). But that doesn’t mean that the legendary Alabama coach is any closer to retiring. Saban, who is coming off his fifth national championship in nine seasons at Alabama,  emphatically...
Jaguars releasing former UCLA TE Marcedes Lewis
Jaguars releasing former UCLA TE Marcedes Lewis

Tight end Marcedes Lewis is leaving the only NFL team he’s ever known. The Jacksonville Jaguars are releasing Lewis, per Mark Long of the Associated Press. Lewis has spent his entire career in Jacksonville. The Jaguars drafted him in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft. He went on to play 12-straight seasons with...
More Stories