More than wanting to see the starters do well in limited action, coaches and fans want to gauge the team's overall depth in the preseason. There's no better way to evaluate the depth and what "diamonds in the rough" that you may have than in live game action. While the starters will get a bit more time than they did in the preseason opener, we still expect to see a lot of the reserves doing what they can to make their push for the final roster.
And, really, that's one of the things that Bengals fans should look at in tonight's game versus the Falcons. Who will assert themselves as a backup looking to play a significant role in the regular season? Who is a "bubble" player that is looking to push themselves onto the final roster? We could begin to see the answers to these questions and others tonight.
Here are a list of five players who aren't the starters that we should be watching tonight against the Falcons:
5.) Terence Newman: The 34-year old veteran has come into Cincinnati and impressed his old defensive coordinator, Mike Zimmer. He had a decent showing against the Jets with an early pass breakup and no notable big plays against him. He looks fit and and still seems to have most of the skills that made him a top pick by the Cowboys back in 2003. He's backing up Leon Hall and Nate Clements at the position, but is on the field frequently in nickel packages. With the cornerback group seeming to be one put together by bubble gum and duct tape at this point because of injuries, another good showing from Newman will help quell fans' fears for the regular season.
4.) Cedric Peerman: We're not expecting Peerman to have the type of game he had last Friday--after all, not many players get a rushing touchdown and a special teams touchdown in the span of a quarter of football. Still, with injuries to starter BenJarvus Green-Ellis and backup Bernard Scott, Peerman will likely be the workhorse tonight. Brian Leonard will get a lot of touches as well, but the team would be best-served to go light with him, as he is atop the depth chart right now. Peerman will be doing his usual duties on special teams as well, so it should be a busy night for the third-year back. If he's going to make the roster again this year, he'll need to flash in both duties.
3.) Armon Binns: He had a pretty solid night against the Jets with two catches and basically mirrored starter Brandon Tate's numbers. Tate seemed to overshadow Binns though because the catches that he made seemed to be difficult ones (including a great sideline grab that was out of bounds). But, Binns still is hanging tough in the competition for the No.2 wide receiver spot, and a couple of big plays in the next couple of games could push him over Tate. Plus, if anything, it's been an interesting week for wide receivers who wear No.85, so we'll be seeing Binns in action while saying "it's so weird seeing another Bengals wide receiver wear that number".
2.) Dontay Moch: Was last week's performance a fluke? He had 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble. For a guy that has done literally nothing since joining the team via the third round of the 2011 draft, Moch has flashed in the early portion of camp. He'll likely get more time on the field tonight, particularly in nickel situations, so it will be interesting to see if he can execute his specialty once again--getting to the passer. Though he'll be missing the first four games because of a suspension, Moch will want to prove that he's more than a project player and is trying to convince the staff to hang onto him through the suspension.
1.) Vontaze Burfict: It could be argued that this guy was the star for the Bengals last week. He was making tackles on defense and special teams, as well as made a great interception, stealing the spotlight from Tim Tebow, only if momentarily. He briefly lined up as the starting middle linebacker this week at practice, but is still behind Roddrick Muckelroy on the team's official depth chart. Even though he's talented, he's still on a "prove it" basis with the club, as he was an undrafted free agent. He's another player who will get a lot of time tonight and will need to make some plays on special teams as well.