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Jets-Bengals: Players to watch

8/16/2014

CINCINNATI -- A few players not named Geno Smith and Michael Vick that we’ll be watching Saturday night in the New York Jets-Cincinnati Bengals game:

Jace Amaro, tight end: With starter Jeff Cumberland nursing a sore Achilles’ tendon, the rookie should see extensive action. This is the second-round pick’s chance to channel his inner Mike Ditka. Note to Amaro: Ditka’s athletic background extends beyond his coaching role in the movie “Kicking and Screaming.”

Chris Johnson, running back: This is another key step for Johnson, who admits his surgically repaired knee still isn’t 100 percent. Running backs coach Anthony Lynn on Johnson’s progress in camp: “I see him still working his way back. His vertical burst is there. I’ve seen that. His lateral movement is getting better. I think the knee injury has a lot to do with that. I see him getting better with every rep.”

Stephen Hill, wide receiver: The Bengals are deep at cornerback, so there won’t be any easy downs for the inconsistent Hill -- and also the other receivers battling for the No. 2 job. Hill had zero catches in the opener.

Saalim Hakim, kickoff returner: He's battling two other receivers, Jacoby Ford and Clyde Gates, for the job. Hakim could be the fastest of the three, with potential that excites the coaches. He makes plays on the practice field; let's see it in a game.

Calvin Pryor, safety: The Jets’ No. 1 pick, making his NFL debut, is slated to see some action with the starting defense. With the 18th pick, they selected him over former Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard, who was picked six spots later by the Bengals. Dennard has impressed. Coach Marvin Lewis said he’s “the best rookie cornerback I’ve ever been around.” And he’s been around some good ones. The Jets could use a good one.

Antonio Allen, cornerback: Right now, the move to corner looks like a desperation move, but Allen can make his coaches look smart by not getting embarrassed. The good news is that Marvin (Four Touchdowns) Jones is out with an injury. The bad news is that the Bengals still have A.J. Green.

Brandon Dixon, cornerback: He didn't play any defensive snaps in the opener, but he should get plenty of work, considering the rash of injuries at corner. The sixth-round pick from Northwest Missouri State has raw skills, but he needs refinement. He'll probably end up on the practice squad, but this could be his chance to alter the team's thinking.