UBIC - Offense
Tyler Eifert (TE, #85) - I can hear more of you fantasy owners from 2014 cursing this name as you scrolled down the article. (Once again, I was not one of them.) Like last week's offensive UBIC, Eifert was also a 1st round selection, but he was drafted in 2013. In an eerie similarity to Ebron, his rookie season was certainly disappointing. Starting in 15 games in 2013, he was limited to 2 TD's and 39 catches on 60 targets for 445 receiving yards.
His 2014 season was supposed to be a transition year, allowing him and Jermaine Gresham one more season to play together, while he fully developed into the Bengals ‘joker' or ‘move' TE. A shoulder injury in camp and then a gruesome elbow dislocation in the first game of 2014 put him on the shelf after the 3rd quarter of the first game in 2014.
One more time, the Bolts defense will be tasked with limiting the production of a tall (6'6") receiver with good bulk (260 pounds) and some speed (4.68 second 40 time) in a West Coast type of offense. Ebron did have his moments against the Chargers, but did nowhere near the damage that Eifert did to Oakland last week. Andy Dalton threw 12 passes his way; Eifert caught 9 of them for 104 receiving yards. Eifert scored twice. Te'o and Weddle will definitely need to pay attention to #85 on Sunday.
Russell Bodine (C, #61) - The Bengals offensive line is all around, one of the best in the league. They have two former 1st round picks on the left side, a veteran former 2nd rounder that consistently grades as one of the best left tackles in the NFL guarding Dalton's blind side and one of the steals of the 2011 draft, Clint Bolling at left guard. The new guy on the line is Bodine.
Bodine was drafted last year in the 4th round. He played his college ball in North Carolina (he was a teammate of Ebron). The 6'3" 310 pound Bodine was an immediate starter for the Bengals and had a decent rookie year by all accounts. The Bengals will be counting on him to open holes, anchor the top of the pocket, and execute snaps in shotgun formations properly on Sunday.
If the Bolts use a lot of the 2 D-lineman formations on defense again, Bodine will need to find to work. From what little can be found online about him, his work ethic in preparation and motor during games is superb, so that should not be an issue. In a 3 man front, Lissemore and Carrethers (if Stronk plays) will need occupy him and either Bolling or Andrew Zeitler for the Bolts to slow down Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard.
UBIC - Defense
Vincent Rey (Will LB, #57) - Once again, the Bolts are spared from facing one of the better defensive athletes in the game due to injury. The missing LB in this case is Vontaze Burfict who was the team's leading tackler in 2013 and a Pro-Bowl selection. His 2014 season was cut short by micro-fractures in his knee which required surgery. The Bengals thought long and hard about the decision to include him on the active roster or the IR (Return Designation) list before the season started and decided to let him get healthier before playing football. So, he is on the shelf through at least week 6.
Rey is his replacement on the weak (non-TE) side of the defense. He got used to that role last year after Burfict went out in game 5. In his 13 starts last year, he had 66 solo tackles. Not great, but not horrible either.
In NFL terms, Rey is a success story. He went undrafted out of Duke in 2010, made it onto the Bengals roster as an UNDFA and now starts his 6th season in the league. Prior to last year, he saw limited action (3 starts in his first 4 seasons) in the defense. The 6'0", 240 pound Rey has the reputation of being an intelligent player, but does lack the elite athletic tools that Burfict was blessed with.
As the Chargers tested Josh Bynes last week, expect them to test Rey on Sunday. Rey will make some plays, but probably not make others that a healthy Burfict probably would. Bengal fans are hoping that he does not remind everyone of why he has been a career back-up prior to the Burfict's injury.
Darqueze Dennard (CB, #21) - Here is some hard hitting reporting for you: The Chargers use a lot of 3 WR sets on offense. For a defense playing the Bolts, this means that the Slot Corner Back is more important than usual, although in today's NFL, a slot corner on any team is nearly a starter in his own right.
I could have tagged Leon Hall, a wily veteran entering his 10th year of service in the NFL. Looking at last week's performance against Oakland, Dennard looked like he got a little more action than Hall did.
Dennard was taken in the 1st round in 2014. His height (5'11") and weight (200) translates into a nearly perfect prototype for an NFL slot corner. He draws a pretty tough assignment this week against either Stevie Johnson or Keenan Allen. His ability to win against his matchups will go a long way to determining which teams wins and which one loses.