The Cincinnati Bengals arrived at Allianz Park, home of Saracens Rugby Club, this afternoon for a walkthrough practice as they shook off jet lag and got ready for a crucial game against the Washington Redskins.
With the AFC North rivals the Pittsburgh Steelers having lost their last two games and not playing this weekend, it’s a chance for the Bengals to pull themselves back into the divisional race after a tricky start to the season.
While their trip to Wembley Stadium is technically a home game for the Bengals they aren’t fooling around with their preparation, especially since their last three games away from Paul Brown Stadium have ended in disappointing losses.
“Right now we just gotta play and keep winning,” running back Giovani Bernard told us. Head coach Marvin Lewis had the team busy today and into the evening to help combat jet lag. However the majority of the team looked fresh and ready to go in practice. Tyler Eifert, who managed 15 snaps in his first action of the season last week, moved well. While Lewis played down the importance of having Eifert back, it was clear from speaking with quarterback Andy Dalton that he was happy to have the big tight end back on the field. “Tyler [Eiftert] is such a big part of our offense […] any time you can get him involved is big for us.”
Also coming back is Andrew Whitworth, the two-time All Pro left tackle was extremely open about his first time through the NFL concussion protocol this week after he left the game against Cleveland when his helmet cracked, but he had his focus on this week and getting the win. “All their rushers are good,” Whitworth told us, “I’ve been very impressed by all the guys they have on the edge so that will be a great challenge for us.”
Men on a mission
Despite the bye next week and the allure of London this is very much a business trip for the Bengals this weekend, with all eyes on the prize of playoff football and a return to the top of the AFC North. “We know why we’re here. It’s cool we’re here in London but we’re here for the game. That’s our whole focus,” Andy Dalton told us.
It’s a sentiment that was echoed by AJ Green: “We know what we have to do. The biggest thing for us is to block out the noise and focus on what we have to do to get this season back on the road. We know we put ourselves in a hole and we gotta get ourselves out.”
While Giovani Bernard and others profess to be focusing on themselves and only worrying about what they can control, they know there is no room for slip-ups after their poor start. Losses to Pittsburgh, Dallas and New England on the road have highlighted some of the flaws in this team, a team who were perhaps the form AFC team last season before Andy Dalton got hurt.
They are getting healthy now after missing key stars like Eifert for the start of the season, but an injury to Jeremy Hill has put their ground game at risk and they are still struggling to replace Marvin Jones who is having such a big impact in Detroit this season.
Against the Redskins, whose defense is less than stellar, the Bengals have a great chance to pull level with Steelers heading into their bye, and maybe to win some new fans here in the UK.
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