Bengals at Falcons 2013: Top-five position battles

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Taking one final look at the top position battles heading into the Bengals preseason opener against the Atlanta Falcons.

Starting Strong Safety: Unless you were living under a rock and have actively avoided all Bengals talk like the plague, the Bengals have three players vying for the starting strong safety position. George Iloka is currently listed with the first-team defense with Taylor Mays and rookie Shawn Williams hot on his trail. All three have rotated throughout training camp, and we expect that trend to continue against Atlanta during the team's preseason opener on Thursday.

Backup Quarterback: Every indication suggests that Josh Johnson is the leading candidate as the backup quarterback to starter Andy Dalton. Johnson has been actively involved in Gruden's version of the west coast offense since he was drafted by Jon Gruden during the 2008 NFL draft. Along with his athleticism, knowledge of the offense, and a strong arm, this is Johnson's job to lose. John Skelton, on the other hand, is having trouble adapting to the west coast offense and has yet to challenge Johnson for the second-team role.

Fifth-Sixth Cornerback: With Leon Hall, Terence Newman, Adam Jones, and Dre Kirkpatrick locked into position as the first four cornerbacks, there could be a battle for the fifth spot. Based on his training camp and status on the team's depth chart, this is Brandon Ghee's job to lose. If the Bengals keep a sixth cornerback, then Ghee is locked in and war is thus waged between Shaun Prater, Chris Lewis-Harris, Onterio McCalebb, Terrence Brown, and Troy Stoudermire. If there's a sixth, it's Prater's to lose.

Fifth-Sixth Safety: Cornerback and safety will be graded collectively. So if the Bengals keep six cornerbacks, then that likely means they're holding onto four safeties. As of this posting, those four will be Reggie Nelson, Iloka, Mays, and Williams. If they only keep five corners, then the team will add a fifth safety and that will be a battle between Jeromy Miles and Tony Dye. Based on his special teams work, Miles has a clear advantage.

Fourth Running Back: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Giovani Bernard, and Cedric Peerman will be the team's top-three running backs. That leaves rookie Rex Burkhead, second-year back Daniel Herron, and Bernard Scott. However it's really a battle between two former sixth-round picks with Scott on PUP and no known timeline for his eventual return.

Starting Center: We're adding a sixth, but it's not really a battle. Only an update and probably the final reference to this. During the offseason, Kyle Cook and Trevor Robinson were projected as combatants for the job of starting center. However, Robinson spent the offseason training program with an injury and didn't really participate until training camp. All the while Cook was completely healthy and took part in every OTA and the team's mandatory minicamp. Along with his prolonged absence that prevented him from working out, Robinson was a little stiff early during training camp, essentially placing him out of Cook's reach and being a viable candidate for a backup center and guard.

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