Sunday, August 24, 2014
Six Bengals to watch vs. the Cardinals
By Coley Harvey
CINCINNATI -- In no particular order, the following are six Cincinnati Bengals you'll want to pay attention to during Sunday night's preseason game at the Arizona Cardinals (8 p.m. ET).
QB Andy Dalton: Pay close attention to how much Dalton plays against the Cardinals in this "dress rehearsal" type of preseason game for him and other starters. Coach Marvin Lewis said this week that he wasn't going to cap the number of quarters Dalton would play. He instead wanted to see how quickly he hit a limit of snaps. It's likely we'll see Dalton late into the second quarter, and he might even sneak into the third quarter, too, if the snaps are within Lewis' range. More important to the Bengals than how much Dalton plays is how well he performs. The team is hopeful he can continue to showcase some of the impressive play that has defined his strong preseason start.
RB Jeremy Hill: Lewis and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson have both said they believe their rookie running back can play with the Bengals' first-team offense, and they mentioned that they would like to get him more reps with that unit Sunday. That doesn't mean Giovani Bernard won't be getting first-team reps, too. It just means the starting tailback might end up getting a little extra rest this week so that Hill can share a few more opportunities earlier in a preseason game. In the first two preseason games, Hill was the third back on the field, replacing Bernard's previous replacement, BenJarvus Green-Ellis. With Green-Ellis battling a stomach virus and fellow backup Rex Burkhead trying to recover from a knee injury, Hill should have several chances to augment his running backs-leading rushing average of 5.8 yards per preseason carry.
C Russell Bodine: With Dalton expected to be in the game a little longer, look for Bodine to have more reps with a less fluid offensive line. In the first two games, the rookie center remained on the field for a few series after Dalton exited, as he also snapped to backup quarterbacks Jason Campbell and Matt Scott. He also snapped with different rotations of linemen lined up next to him. In this game, he'll probably see more consistent action with the starting linemen dand Dalton as the group continues to fine-tune its timing and rhythm. He's been cleaner in recent weeks. The snap issues that bugged Bodine in training camp faded a bit last week.
DT Geno Atkins: The Bengals' Pro Bowl defensive tackle and heralded pass rusher will be making his 2014 debut against the Cardinals, trying to help put heat on Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer, a former Bengal. Atkins has gone through team drills all this week, according to coaches. He's also looked good in them. Lewis said Friday that the lineman has looked like his old self, exploding off the line and maneuvering his way into the backfield. Atkins will be playing for the first time since tearing his ACL last October at Miami. As the Bengals prepare for the regular season, it's important for Atkins to get steady reps in a preseason game in order to boost his confidence in the surgically repaired knee. Definitely keep an eye on how he looks, and how conditioned he appears to be.
LB Marquis Flowers: Sunday's game will be a homecoming for Flowers, who will be playing his first professional game miles from where he grew up. The Phoenix native was drafted by the Bengals in the sixth round in May after starring at the University of Arizona. Also see how he responds to the defensive situations he'll be part of late in the ballgame. Although listed as a linebacker, Flowers also played safety in college and has been noted for his coverage skills. As the Bengals continue harping on the need to find quality backup players, don't be surprised if Flowers continues getting respectable minutes. He played 30 snaps on defense and 13 on special teams last week against the Jets.
CB Chris Lewis-Harris: Lewis-Harris could play a sizable role this week as the Bengals fight through a few injuries in the defensive backfield. Rookie Darqueze Dennard doesn't seem likely to play after missing every practice this week with a hip injury. Had this been the regular season, he probably would end up gutting out the injury. With Dennard out and Dre Kirkpatrick an uncertainty after missing Friday's practice with a stomach virus, the Bengals might be giving a few reserve corners additional playing time. Lewis-Harris would be among those to benefit.