Young WRs Get Nod Vs. Giants

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Damion Willis, left, and linebacker Germaine Pratt (57) run a drill at the team's NFL football practice, Thursday, June 13, 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Troy's Damion Willis got his first NFL start Thursday.

Bengals head coach Zac Taylor wasn’t fooling around when he said wanted to get a good long look at his young wide receivers. In Thursday’s final tune-up of the pre-season for the No. 1 offense and defense, Taylor started two of them against the New York Giants at Paul Brown Stadium when he lined up undrafted rookie Damion Willis in place of A.J. Green and second-year man Auden Tate in place John Ross III.

Ross (hamstring) is expected back to practice Sunday and Green (ankle) isn’t expected to play until at least the regular-season opener. After Willis was the leading receiver last week with five catches for 59 yards and Tate had a touchdown catch, Taylor leapfrogged them over veterans Cody Core and Josh Malone. It’s a huge roster chance for Troy’s Willis on a night his fellow undrafted rookie receiver Stanley Morgan of Nebraska didn’t play.

Another youngster getting an extra long look is rookie left guard Michael Jordan making his second straight start. That’s as many NFL starts Andre Smith now has at left tackle after getting the nod in place of Cordy Glenn (concussion).

The Jeff Driskel Experiment suffered a setback even before the game started when he was scratched with what is believed to be a hamstring issue. With rookie Ryan Finley lighting it up in the back-up quarterback derby, the Bengals wanted to see if they could put Driskel’s athleticism to use on the roster in a variety of spots. Last Thursday in Washington he took two snaps as an end on punt return and the hope was against the Giants he could take a couple of snaps at receiver. Now with one pre-season game left before the Sept. 8 opener in Seattle, his roster bid just took a hit.

All defensive starters expected to go in Seattle lined up except for cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, out with some tweaks not expected to keep him out of the opener. B.W. Webb got the start in his place against the Giants team he left in free agency as a starter. The game marked the season debut of two of their best pass rushers, perennial Pro Bowl tackle Geno Atkins and right end Carl Lawson coming off ACL surgery.

Guard Christian Westerman, who left the team for about a week with personal reasons and missed the Washington game, has returned but wasn’t scheduled to play.

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