In case you did not know, I am an avid fan of the Cincinnati Bengals. With football officially here (though preseason), I would like to make a post regarding the Bengals.
I tuned into their Thursday night game against the Atlanta Falcons only wanting to see no injuries to either team, but still get a mild football fix until the regular season. I didn’t expect much since star wide receiver A.J. Green was out, and starters don’t play more than the first few drives of a game. I was pleasantly surprised that there was something to watch beyond the first few drives.
2nd-string quarterback Josh Johnson impressed me with his ability to run, and surprised me with his ability to throw. Recently drafted running back Giovanni Bernard impressed me by showing off his speed on a 3rd and 20 that he almost converted nearly all by himself on a dump pass. James Harrison, who formerly played for division rival Pittsburgh Steelers, did great on the limited appearances.
All in and all I was impressed by the Bengals, but there was one player that impressed me the most.
Wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher had been sent back to return a punt. To my knowledge Sanzenbacher never returned a punt, or a kickoff, while at Ohio State or for the Chicago Bears, so I was pretty skeptical of him returning it. He shocked me, the crowd, and Jon Gruden when he returned that punt 71 yards for a touchdown. My friends tried to argue that it was the third string and practice squad guys out there for Atlanta, but returning a punt is hard regardless who is out there. Even the best punt returners would struggle against athletic coverage teams that are third-string players.
Sanzenbacher’s night wasn’t over yet.
At the beginning of the fourth quarter, third-string quarterback John Skelton was in and I figured the plays would be mostly hand-offs since the Bengals were up 27-10. But the fourth play in the fourth quarter Skelton threw a laser pass right to Sanzenbacher for a 36 yard touchdown reception. Again, you could argue it’s against third string and practice squad players, but this is the NFL. Those third-string guys and practice squad guys are there because a team thinks that those players may be able to play for them at the highest level. Still though, a two touchdown night for a wide receiver down in the depth chart even in the preseason is great.
But why should the Bengals keep him? He’s only 5’11” with moderate speed for a wide receiver, and likely would be pushed around by larger defensive backs. The Bengals should keep him because of their history of hurt wide receivers. Last year it was Mohammed Sanu. A.J. Green, though not badly, hurt his knee. Speedy slot receiver Andrew Hawkins hurt his ankle in training camp and he’s shorter than Sanzenbacher, but much quicker.
The Bengals should keep Sanzenbacher because he can play slot, he can play punt returner, he has reliable hands, and he doesn’t have a past history of injuries. He also is from Ohio (graduated from Toledo Central Catholic) and played for Ohio State, so he’s a popular name that the fans will know and love. Keep him, Cincinnati.