NFL Nation: 2013 NFL preseason Bengals-Falcons

What to watch: Bengals-Falcons

August, 8, 2013
8/08/13
1:08
PM ET
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.
Three things to watch in Thursday night’s preseason game between the Atlanta Falcons and Cincinnati Bengals:

1. Lamar Holmes. With starting right tackle Mike Johnson going down with a season-ending injury earlier this week, the Falcons will take a long look at Holmes. The second-year pro wasn’t ready to contribute as a rookie, and there are no guarantees he’s ready to start now. But the Falcons will use this game as a gauge to see if they think Holmes has a shot or if they need to go outside and find a new right tackle.

2. Dominique Davis. Starting quarterback Matt Ryan is expected to play only briefly because the Falcons already know what he can do. But Davis is going to get a bunch of playing time. The Falcons have held off on bringing in a veteran backup because they think Davis has great potential. A solid showing by Davis could cement his role as the backup.

3. Rookie cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford against Cincinnati receivers A.J. Green and Mohamed Sanu. Trufant and Alford have been taking their lumps from Roddy White and Julio Jones in practices, so it might be refreshing to go against some other receivers. Green and Sanu will provide a good test on how quickly Trufant and Alford are progressing.

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