The final week of the preseason continues with the Cincinnati Bengals at the Indianapolis Colts. This is the last chance for many players to make their case to be on the opening season roster, whether it be as a role player, as part of a position rotation, or as a special teams player. Our team of PFF analysts have all the most important position battles and players to watch for each team:
Coverage by: Lorin Cox
Position Battle: Cody Core/Alex Erickson, WR
- The Bengals could keep seven wide receivers on their 53-man roster, but if they cut down to six, it’s going to come down to Core versus Erickson for the final spot. Erickson has played exactly twice as many snaps (62) this preseason as Core (31), and the former undrafted free agent has taken advantage of his opportunities. His 11 targets are second only to A.J. Green (13) on the team this preseason, and his 6.3 yards after catch per reception leads the team, among receivers with more than two catches.
- Core caught only one of his four targets and dropped another one, despite getting more of his opportunities with the starting offense than Erickson, who hasn’t played a snap in the first quarter this preseason. Erickson has been active on special teams as both a kickoff and punt returner, while Core has appeared on the third phase for 10 total snaps in the two games he’s played, mostly on kickoffs.
Players to Watch:
- KeiVarae Russell, CB – The former Kansas City Chiefs’ third-round pick hasn’t done a lot to earn a spot on the bottom of this 53-man roster and needs a big game in the preseason finale to have a shot. He’s been targeted a team-high nine times, allowing six catches for 50 yards, and he’s also missed two tackles over his 93 snaps this preseason.
- Vincent Rey, LB – With Vontaze Burfict facing a three-game suspension, Rey will need to step up into his spot and start to give the team some confidence in this last preseason game. He’s had a few struggles against run blockers at the second level, but he’s been one of the team’s more reliable linebackers in coverage, targeted twice in 16 snaps dropping back, allowing two catches for 13 yards.
- Jeff Driskel, QB – The Bengals might be forced to keep three quarterbacks on the final roster if Driskel continues to make plays. He’s run the option game very well, averaging 9.7 yards per carry when he keeps it and runs, and he’s taken care of the ball with the highest adjusted completion percentage (76.5 percent) among Bengals quarterbacks.
Coverage by: Mike Alessandrini
Position Battle: Scott Tolzien/Stephen Morris, QB
- It’s rare to have a Week 1 starting quarterback competition decided in the final week of the preseason, but that’s exactly what the Colts face if Andrew Luck is not cleared for the season opener. Tolzien is the odds-on favorite to be under center against the Rams, but has been far from impressive during the preseason. The veteran has a 73.1 adjusted completion percentage (40th among qualifying quarterbacks), and actually has a higher passer rating when facing pressure (99.1) than when throwing from a clean pocket (57.9).
- Morris’ strong summer has given him a shot to unseat Tolzien. He was Indianapolis’ highest-graded player last week against the Steelers (84.8 overall grade) while going six for seven on throws 10-plus yards downfield. Morris also has a higher adjusted completion percentage than Tolzien (82.0).
Players to Watch:
- Barkevious Mingo, ED- the former Browns first-round pick has enjoyed a strong preseason with his new team. Mingo’s 10.8 pass rush productivity is the highest among Indianapolis’ edge defenders. He has accumulated one sack and five total pressures in 37 pass rush snaps.
- Anthony Walker, LB- the fifth-round pick out of Northwestern has accumulated more snaps (139) than any other Colts defender this preseason. The rookie has earned a 5.8 run stop percentage (three stops on 52 run defense snaps) and has allowed just one catch for 13 yards on three targets in coverage.
- Phillip Dorsett, WR- Dorsett will look to cement himself as the Colts’ primary slot receiver this week. The 2015 first-round pick leads the team with 3.57 yards per route run (minimum three targets) in three preseason games.