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Cowboys vs. Bengals: ‘Expect La’el Collins to come out with a little extra fire this week’

Some intel form the enemy on the Cincinnati Bengals.

NFL: NFC Wild Card Playoff-San Francisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Week 1 is certainly one that Cowboys fans would like to forget. While we can’t forget it, we can move on. To Week 2. And the Cincinnati Bengals. In preparation for the game we asked the guys over at Cincy Jungle some questions, and got some answers. The Cowboys may be a big underdog according to DraftKings Sportsbook, but we need to know if they have a chance.

Blogging The Boys: What happened to Joe Burrow on Sunday? Why so many interceptions?

Cincy Jungle: Honestly, a lot of factors came into play on Sunday. For one, Burrow seemed uncharacteristically skittish, rushing and/or forcing some throws. On at least one occasion, a throw was late and behind, causing an interception. T.J. Watt also made a play wherein he had exceptional play recognition, didn’t even engage the tackle, lept and tipped the ball to himself for a pick near the line of scrimmage.

We’ll talk more about the offensive line in your next question, but it wasn’t a good debut for the new-look line. Still, I think this comes down to it being Week1 in general, and, though no one wants to admit it, a lack of any kind of playing time by the starting group. The offense did settle in a bit more during the second half and overtime, and through Burrow’s five turnovers, he also had them on the precipice of winning a thriller at the end of regulation.

BTB: Related to the above question, it seems like the offensive line had issues. Who were the problems and how well did La’el Collins play?

CJ: The offensive line also didn’t play very well with the left side of the line getting beat individually and netting three or four sacks alone on Sunday. Rookie left guard Cordell Volson accounted for seven pressures, but having seven sacks and 11 quarterback hits allowed (same stat line given up to the Rams in Super Bowl LVI) with a unit brandishing four new starters, it wasn’t a good start up front.

Collins had a rough one, though he was going up against Watt. His overall PFF score for the game was 58.6, so they’ll need steadier play from him. Still, this new group didn’t play much at all during the summer (zero preseason game snaps, while both Collins and new right guard Alex Cappa were nursing minor ailments during training camp), so more reps together should remedy things to a decent degree. I expect Collins to come out with a little extra fire this week and potentially pave the way for a solid Joe Mixon outing.

BTB: Were the special teams issues limited to the long-snapper injury? Is that all fixed?

CJ: To the first part of the question—yes. Clark Harris has been a special teams staple and he tore his biceps attempting a tackle on a second half punt return. You don’t know the value of the long snapping position until you don’t have one. Cincinnati was relegated to using their third-string tight end (Mitchell Wilcox) for snapping duties and then, his absence as a blocker outside on kick attempts allowed Minkah Fitzpatrick to get by Wilcox’s replacement for a dagger of a play.

I don’t know if I’ll say “it’s fixed” 100 percent, but rookie Cal Adomitis had a lot of preseason work without issues. It definitely shouldn’t be as big of an issue as last week.

BTB: What are the major injuries that we should know about heading into the game?

CJ: Wide receiver Tee Higgins is in concussion protocol this week and while it sounds like he’s making progress, it’s TBD. He was sorely missed after leaving the Week 1 game early.

Big defensive tackle Josh Tupou showed up on the report this week, and a possible absence by him has to be music to the ears of Zeke Elliott and Tony Pollard. Backup tight end Devin Asiasi is easing back into the lineup and punt returner Trent Taylor is battling a hamstring issue, though he played last week after being on the Week 1 report.

BTB: How are you personally feeling about the team, and do you think they will beat a depleted Cowboys team on Sunday?

A mixture of optimism with some concerned frustration. This was a game the Bengals should have had against the Steelers and their own mistakes (as well as a long snapper injury) cost them. I didn’t like the output by the offensive line that was similar to the 2021 unit, nor did I like Burrow turning the ball over an insane amount of times.

But, even with injuries and an epic amount of mistakes, Cincinnati had the game in hand at the end. I’m not into moral victories, but it does show that Burrow and Co. are never fully out of a game. I also believe the Week 1 loss will be viewed as an early turning point in their season.

The vibe around the Bengals’ locker room right now is “urgency” and they simply can’t lose this one to a team with a backup quarterback. In years past, Cincinnati has been burned by backup quarterbacks with limited film—even as recently as last year with Mike White and the Jets.

Regardless, I think Cincinnati has a “get right” game this week and handles business.

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