Titans at Bengals: Things to look for

Grant Halverson

The Bengals are scheduled to kickoff their second preseason game of the year against the Tennessee Titans Saturday night.

HOW LONG WILL THE STARTERS PLAY

Starters traditionally play the first quarter during the second preseason game, maybe as much as a series into the second. Yet don't be surprised if the first-team offense clears out the first half against the Titans -- unlikely but how Cincinnati's offense performs will directly correlate with their playing time.

Last week against the Falcons, the Andy Dalton led offense generated three first downs, but punted both times thanks to penalties by Kyle Cook. The first-team offense needs to generate points this weekend. Dalton completed three of seven passes and scored a team-low 59.8 passer rating.

THE ADVANCEMENT OF ROOKIES

Tyler Eifert caught the only pass that was thrown to him. It was called back on a penalty. Though he was impressive as a blocker, Eifert needs to be more involved in the passing game.

Giovani Bernard wasn't happy about his performance last week, generating an unimpressive 2.8 yard/rush average. Overall he accumulated 44 yards of total offense on 13 touches (three receptions) with a last-second touchdown to conclude the first half.

Shawn Williams only recorded one tackle in 24 snaps. Margus Hunt forced a terrible decision on quarterback Dominique Davis last week that led to a Brandon Ghee interception. Tanner Hawkinson looked strong, but suffered an injury that will keep him out for a while. I'd also like to see something out of Cobi Hamilton, who caught one pass last weekend.

DEFENSIVE CHALLENGES

Last week it was against the Atlanta Falcons passing game. Ryan completed six passes for 89 yards for a quarterback rating of 98.8. Yet, he wasn't sacked and completed a 42-yard pass to Henry Douglas on a bubble screen that the defense weren't prepared for.

This week the defense will face a team with a pool of running backs.

Chris Johnson will be his usual homerun threat and will carry the bulk of Tennessee's load -- as least when the one's are on the field. Shonn Greene will give Johnson a spell, mostly as a short-yard option.

BUBBLE PLAYERS RISING

Linebackers J.K. Schaffer and Jayson DiManche had productive performances against the Atlanta Falcons last week, looking to claim a spot on a very crowded linebacker roster. Will Schaffer get more playing time against the Titans starters and what impact will that have with Vinnie Rey still out with an injury?

Dane Sanzenbacher (135 total yards on offense and special teams last week) is doing the same at receiver, who clearly benefits with Andrew Hawkins rehabilitating an ankle. Sanzenbacher is working through a crowded wide receiver roster to make the 53-man roster.

John Conner has been making an impression as a blocker since the moment he wiped out Margus Hunt during training camp. Now we're questioning if Conner isn't the better solution at fullback -- which also increases the belief that the Bengals will go two-by-two at fullback and tight end respectively because they really want to keep Orson Charles. We want to see something more out of Charles though.

There is a belief that backups will rotate among the starters to get a better look this weekend.

BATTLE OF BACKUP QUARTERBACKS

Josh Johnson completed nine passes for 100 yards against the Falcons last week, led the Bengals to 20 points and generated a team-high 64 yards rushing.

At the time we thought, the job is his to lose.

Then John Skelton, who has struggled adapting to the team's west coast offense, completed four of five passes last week including a beautifully thrown 36-yard touchdown pass to Sanzenbacher down the seem. Though the competition is hot, Johnson still figures as the favorite. But the Bengals need to give Skelton work earlier during the game.

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