Thursday, August 8, 2013
What to watch: Bengals-Falcons
By Jamison Hensley
A look at what to keep an eye on for Thursday night's preseason opener between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Atlanta Falcons, which will air on ESPN at 8 p.m.:
1. Backup quarterback job. The Bengals are set with Andy Dalton as their starter, and he is expected to go a couple of series. Then, it's time to get a look at who is going to be backing up Dalton. Josh Johnson has the edge over John Skelton so far in training camp, and that was to be expected. He has a better understanding of the offense, having played under Jay Gruden in Tampa in 2008. Skelton has never played in a West Coast offense, but has more game experience than Johnson. I'm interested to see if Skelton closes the gap tonight.
2. Strong safety competition. This looks like a three-player race now with George Iloka, Taylor Mays and rookie Shawn Williams. Iloka is currently atop the team's depth chart, and it's assumed that he will get the start. But Williams has looked very good at times in camp and seems to be a better fit at strong safety because of his physical style. I wouldn't be surprised if the third-round pick out of Georgia moves up the depth chart if he can make some plays in the preseason.
3. Wide receiver depth. There will be plenty of opportunity for the young receivers to impress. A.J. Green (knee) and Andrew Hawkins (ankle), two of the team's top three receivers, didn't make the trip to Atlanta. Another promising wideout, Marvin Jones (hamstring), is doubtful to play. Mohamed Sanu, who is expected to start opposite Green in the regular season, is the most experienced receiver who will be suiting up. For most of the game though, expect to see Dane Sanzenbacher, Cobi Hamilton and Ryan Whalen trying to state their case to make the team.