On Wednesday we began taking a quick look at five items of interest for Cincinnati's upcoming preseason opener against the Detroit Lions. We've already pointed out three issues particular interest, mostly related to the lengthy wait for this to take place; which includes the revival of Andre Smith, the new face of the team's defense in Rey Maualuga and Jay Gruden's implementation of the west coast offense.
There's also an interest with the team's recently signed veteran free agents. Guys like linebackers Thomas Howard, Manny Lawson and cornerback Nate Clements, all of whom are expected to play a significant role for the defense, were signed as result of losing someone else. Lawson, the team's starting strong-side linebacker, was signed in response to losing Roddrick Muckelroy for the season. Clement, starting cornerback opposite of Leon Hall, signed after the team unexpectedly (to them) lost Johnathan Joseph in free agent. Howard, who figures to receive a good amount of snaps this weekend, signed after Keith Rivers was unexpectedly lost for an indefinite amount of time with a wrist injury.
Even so it'll be interesting to see how they perform with the Bengals defense. Cincinnati also signed guard Max Jean-Gilles to backup Nate Livings at left guard; though we have to wonder how secure Livings is secure. The Bengals hired veteran quarterback Bruce Gradkowski to backup starting rookie quarterback Andy Dalton. How he manages the offense will be a point of interest, especially depending on how well Dalton performs.
While they're not the sexy free agent signings of 2011, the Bengals did address positions of need and nearly did the same thing at safety (a position they're becoming comfortable with their personnel). Those players the team acquired will have a significant presence with the team this year. And it all starts Friday night.