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Five Things To Watch Between The Bengals And Panthers

Representation On Offensive Philosophy

We can assume that since Thursday night's game will be the "dress rehearsal", Cincinnati will present an idealist philosophy on how the team plans to conduct the offense early this season. We doubt it will be the total aerial assault like against the New York Jets, or a stretch of five-consecutive runs like against the Detroit Lions. However it wouldn't be surprising if the Bengals decided to impact the game offensively with their core rushing offense, forcing quarterback Andy Dalton into a more expected management role as a rookie quarterback.

Head coach Marvin Lewis and offensive coordinator have presented an offensive philosophy with a core rushing offense throughout the offseason. Through two preseason games this year, Cedric Benson and Brian Leonard have combined for 22 rush attempts -- that's 12 less than Dalton's 34 passing attempts. There's no reason to believe that the coaching staff will continue the trend of Dalton throwing during 57.6% of the team's total offensive plays during situations he's at quarterback.

Bengals Safeties

It's unknown how much playing time, if any, the team's newest safety Taylor Mays will receive Thursday night. If he does he could get playing time with the second unit so the coaching staff can gauge him at this point. Otherwise we'd be willing to say that Mays will show up at some point in the third quarter.

Gibril Wilson, who only recently recovered from a serious injury last year, will make his preseason debut against the Panthers. How much will Mays and Wilson change the dynamics of the team's depth chart at safety?

Backup Running Back

Bernard Scott's preseason debut was expected to happen last Sunday against the New York Jets. Though considering the game was in the middle of a rainstorm, the team held Scott out to prevent any reoccurrence with a groin injury. Brian Leonard has taken the bulk of the carries as the primary backup, posting a 2.9 yard/rush average on nine attempts and scoring the team's only touchdown through two preseasons.

Beyond that, the team's backup position is wide open right now.

“It’s a very good competitive situation,” said running backs coach Jim Anderson. “The next two weeks will be interesting to see how it unfolds. It’s going to be fun.”

Defensive Line Changes

Carlos Dunlap hasn't practiced this week and isn't expected to suit up against the Panthers. Jonathan Fanene, who recently re-signed with the Bengals, wasn't ready against the New York Jets marking this as his preseason debut. Fanene was one of the team's best pass rushers during his most recent season where he played more than two games. Fanene will most likely backup Michael Johnson at left defensive end.

I'm also interested in is the combination of Jason Shirley and Clinton McDonald, who is arguably having one of the better preseasons on the defensive line. Shirley is just a man-handling monster and when he gains leverage, he literally has the strength to move blockers aside.

Position Battles

Third-string quarterback. The battle for the fifth and sixth wide receiver positions. Chase Coffman vs. Colin Cochart vs. Bo Scaife. Clint Boling vs. Nate Livings. Will Korey Lindsey be able to outplay and improve his position on the depth chart against Rico Murray, Jonathan Wade or Fred Bennett? Will Fred Bennett play himself off the roster?