With one preseason game behind the Bengals, it's time to look forward to a handful of position battles that will be worth monitoring for Game 2 of Preseason - as the Bengals travel to the Georgia Dome to face the Atlanta Falcons. Week 2 of preseason is especially important for a lot of players simply because "starters" typically will see at least two quarters of playing time in Week 3, followed by the teams facing a deadline of August 27th to cut down rosters from 90 to 75 players. While some position battles are carrying over from last week, others have surfaced as a result of several injuries to starters that are either out for the season or returning in the near future.
Here are a few notable position battles to watch for this Thursday:
Middle Linebacker: While Rey Maualuga will more than likely not be participating until Week 3 of preseason, it will be interesting to see who steps up as Maualuga’s true backup. Vontaze Burfict and Roddrick Muckelroy both will have the opportunity to see plenty of snaps this week in Atlanta. Burfict impressed in preseason last week, particularly on his athletic interception on a pass by Tim Tebow (he’s a quarterback for the Jets…in case you hadn’t heard). Muckelroy has also been a solid contributor in training camp. He will more than likely see plenty of playing time to prove his consistent play against Atlanta this week.
Running Back: BenJarvus Green-Ellis will be out this week with a sore foot, and Bernard Scott continues to heal after a wrist injury that will more than likely keep him out of preseason entirely. Between Brian Leonard, Cedric Peerman, Aaron Brown, and Dan Herron – there will be plenty of carries to be had. Peerman had an impressive game last week with 30 yards on seven carries and a touchdown. This isn’t the first time Peerman has impressed during the preseason, however. In 2010, Peerman had a 93 yard touchdown run against the Colts, yet he hasn’t carried the football more than 16 yards in the regular season during his three year career. Aaron Brown has been a pleasant surprise at camp, and there’s no telling if Dan Herron could catch on in week 2 or 3 of preseason as the rookie running back adapts to both an NFL backfield and special teams. Whatever the results, the battle of the backfield backups takes center stage this week.
Wide Receiver: Marvin Jones may have taken another step in the offseason to prove he’s worth keeping around after offering a big 45 yard reception, and Brandon Tate had virtually identical statistics when compared to competing wide receiver Armon Binns during last week’s preseason game. Andrew Hawkins’ overall performance in training camp is well documented as highly impressive, and he’s done little to prove otherwise. Jordan Shipley was buried deep in the depth chart last week while offering lackluster production but may still be getting some beneficial treatment from coaches, at least for now, until he’s playing at full speed. Throw Mohamed Sanu along with several others into the mix, and we’re not exactly getting much clarity at the wide receiver situation in Cincinnati just yet. Week 2 of preseason continues the saga. As always, the position battle of wide receiver will continue to be heavily monitored.
Cornerback: The battle at cornerback is beginning to look a little more like “Last Corner Standing” at this point. Adam Jones has been held out of practices sporadically and Jason Allen has a muscle pull that may keep him out of the game this Thursday. Between Leon Hall, Terence Newman, Nate Clements, and a handful of rookies and free agent acquisitions - cornerbacks will be tested by the Falcons receivers. Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones racked up 109 yards and a touchdown on 6 receptions in just the first quarter against the Ravens last week. Between Julio and Roddy White, the Bengals cornerbacks will certainly have their hands full. Falcons coach Mike Smith has already stated that their first team offense should see extensive playing time against the Bengals. Expect many opportunities for Leon Hall to solidify his recovery status, and Newman, Clements, and Jones (among others) to prove they’re able to keep up with wide receivers that are more explosive than any receiver the Bengals faced last Friday against the Jets.
Safety: With Taylor Mays questionable for Thursday’s preseason game, Robert Sands and George Iloka may see extended playing time at the strong safety position. Jeromy Miles and Tony Dye are also worth keeping an eye on. Depending on the depth chart outcome this week, any safety covering Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez will be an interesting test. Gonzalez will be a veteran presence that may lack the speed of his younger days, but his experience and chemistry with quarterback Matt Ryan is nothing to underestimate. With the cornerback depth seemingly depleted, odds are Nate Clements won’t be experimented with at safety – but anything is possible. Taylor Mays is fortunate to be in a position where strong safety is presumably his job to lose, but his potential absence is setting the stage for a battle royale at the safety position.
Left Guard: Now that Travelle Wharton is out for the season, the position of Left Guard is wide open for the likes of Clint Boling and Otis Hudson. There are many, including offensive line captain Andrew Whitworth, that consider Clint Boling the player with the greatest opportunity in front of him at the position. One could argue that Otis Hudson has a fighting chance. One could argue that the position is Boling’s to lose. Regardless of your stance on the position battle, Week 2 of preseason will begin offering answers to questions about both players that are very much at the forefront.
Tomorrow night will conclude half of the preseason games for Bengals players and fans, and Game 2 of Preseason is yet another step toward defining the Bengals final roster. Enjoy seeing which players will make the most of their opportunities. We here at CincyJungle will be sure to offer news and analysis of Game 2 throughout the next few days.