James Rapien

James Rapien

James Rapien came to talk sports and chew gum, and he's all out of gum.Full Bio


A Bengals training camp Q & A

We're just a few days away from the Bengals' first preseason game and there are plenty of questions that have yet to be answered. Here are some of the questions I've been asked on Twitter:

Nick asks, "If the o-line can be decent, could Andy potentially have an MVP like season, given all the weapons?" 

If the offensive line is decent, the Bengals will run the ball more than they did in 2015. They're going to have to get Joe Mixon carries and I fully expect Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard to be in the mix. Dalton's numbers may suffer a bit because of it. That said, I believe this offense has the talent to average 30 points-per-game. If they do that, then Dalton would garner votes. I don't see him winning MVP, but I could see him throwing for 4,500 yards (that would be a career high) and 30 touchdowns in 2017.

Jesse wonders if the Bengals could cut ties with Darqueze Dennard if he doesn't stay healthy?

The Bengals like Josh Shaw a lot. He's basically a starter in the nickel cornerback spot. They also liked Darqueze Dennard enough to exercise an $8 million fifth-year option for the 2018 season. Dennard has two seasons left on his contract, but less time to show the Bengals he can be a starter. He's battling with William Jackson III for the fourth cornerback position. I would say they like Shaw more than Dennard. That could change if Dennard impresses, but even Shaw's teammates acknowledge how good he is. 

Mark wants to know if Andrew Billings can be an upgrade at defensive tackle?

Andrew Billings is one of the most important young players on this roster. He is a very good athlete an more talented than Domata Peko is at this stage of his career. Billings is capable, but he is young. He's bound to make some mistakes. The good news is Peko struggled at times in recent seasons. They'll miss Peko's leadership, but Billings is an upgrade in virtually every other area. He's made plays during camp, but the preseason will be big for Billings since he missed all of last season due to injury.

Greg wonders if the Bengals would put Jake Elliott on the practice squad if he lost the kicking battle to Randy Bullock?

I'd be shocked if Randy Bullock beat out Jake Elliott. But, if it did happen, I doubt Elliott would clear waivers. He would need to clear waivers to end up on the practice squad. There would be a team or teams that could use his services. If Bullock won the job, maybe the Bengals would shop Elliott and try to get a draft pick for him. This is a HUGE hypothetical though because I believe Elliott will win the job. Usually, if a team invests a draft pick in their kicker, they'll give him every opportunity to make the team. I'm betting Elliott seizes the opportunity. 

Jeremy wants to know how long it will take for Joe Mixon to start and wonders how big of an impact John Ross will have?

Mixon is a star in the making. He is the most-talented running back the Bengals have. He is just as, if not more explosive than Giovani Bernard, but he runs with more power and size than Jeremy Hill. That said, I believe Hill will start in Week 1. Why? Because the Bengals believe in him and they trust him. Mixon is more talented. He should get plenty of touches early on. It feels like it's Hill's job to lose and while he hasn't stood out so far, he also hasn't done anything to lose his job. Regardless of who starts, Mixon should get plenty of carries and will get an opportunity to have an impact early on. Ross is a different story. He's shown the quickness and speed he's known for, but he hasn't been cleared by team doctors. I expect to see him play in Week 3 or Week 4 of the preseason. He will have an impact this year because NFL defenses have to respect someone as fast as Ross, but I don't think he will have huge numbers. I would imagine Ross ends up with 35 receptions and five touchdowns in 2017. I expect A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert, Tyler Boyd and Brandon LaFell to all finish with more receptions. That doesn't include Bernard and Mixon who will be active in the passing game. Ross will have an impact, but it may not show up in the box score. I elaborate on this here

Nate wants to know which Bengals would get their powers taken in a remake of Space Jam and why?  

A.J. Green, Geno Atkins and Vontaze Burfict would get their powers taken because they're the three best players on the team. Rookies like Joe Mixon and John Ross would get skipped because of their youth. Green and Atkins would be the silent stars of the team, while Burfict talks the trash and backs it up. Other NFL stars that would get their powers taken include Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Brown, Le'Veon Bell, Richard Sherman and J.J. Watt. 

Mario asks "which defensive back is having the biggest impact?"

Adam Jones is the clear leader in that room. Even at 34-years-old, Jones is a special athlete. Players like William Jackson III look for Jones to lead them on the field. He's eager to show he can still play at a high level. I wouldn't be shocked to see the Bengals use him as a punt returner more this season, which would give him a chance to have an even bigger impact on the game. 

Greg wonders if Carl Lawson's success has to do with him or the Bengals' bad offensive line?

Lawson has had an impressive camp and his explosiveness is something Rocky Boiman noticed within five minutes of watching him. He should bolster the Bengals' pass rush and give them a legitimate presence across from Carlos Dunlap. Lawson should be solid as a rookie, but the guys he is going up against now aren't as good as the players that will be lining up against him on Sunday's. The Bengals have also avoided tackling 99 percent of the time. Lawson is having a great camp and there's a lot to be excited about, but we won't fully know what he can do until he's facing off against other teams. He's one (of the many) reason fans should be excited to watch this team on Friday night.

Bengals fans will want to hear this.

I talked with Bengals wide receiver Alex Erickson.

Training camp fights can be beneficial. 

Tony Pike came up a tad bit short on Thursday.

Check out the Run On Your Own Gas Podcast.

Nick Vigil on Vontaze Burfict: "This is the best I've ever seen him."

KeiVarae Russell likes what he sees from Joe Mixon.

Andrew Billings talks about his health and replacing Domata Peko.

Joe Mixon gave John Ross some high praise.

Check out my Bengals training camp Q&A.

Here's what I expect to see from John Ross and Joe Mixon this season. 

I talked with Dave Lapham about the Bengals' offensive line. 

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You can subscribe to my daily Bengals podcast on iTunes, audioboom and the iHeartRadio app. 

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