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Five Things To Watch For: Bengals at Cowboys

Taking a look at five things to look for between the Bengals and Cowboys this weekend.

Jamie Sabau

SAFETY COMPETITION HEADS UP... AGAIN: George Iloka is likely out with a broken hand this weekend... for the dumbest of dumb reasons. At least the outlook is optimistic. He's already sporting a soft cast and the general feeling is that he'll be ready for Chicago in Sept. More importantly, he realizes the stupidity of his action and calls it "probably the most regretful thing I've ever done and I've done some dumb things. But this is the most regretful in terms of consequences."

Regardless, the battle between Taylor Mays and Shawn Williams intensifies. Realistically Williams is a lock as a third-round pick while Mays is fighting for a spot on the 53-man roster. In my opinion, both make the team with Iloka working his way back in the starting lineup. Mays will probably start on Saturday, but Williams and his ten tackles against the Titans looks to project as the primary backup, if not starting safety by year's end. Williams will have that opportunity again this weekend and based on his improvement since the start of camp, it won't be long before Iloka realizes the weight that his punch will carry for his immediate future.

FOURTH RUNNING BACK. There is a feeling from fans that it's Cedric Peerman fighting for his life on the 53-man roster, not Rex Burkhead and Daniel Herron. Based completely on the preseason, it's understandable. Burkhead has averaged over five yards rushing in each of his first two games and Herron is currently tied for the league lead with 111 yards rushing.

But let's not forget that Peerman's NFL production has validity in the regular season with multiple momentum-shifting runs on special teams, and as the primary protector on punt team. Excluding his 44-yard and 32-yard runs on fake punts, Peerman still averaged 5.2 yards/rush last season. And that was against the opposing team's best defensive players; not second half cannon fodder in the preseason.

That being said, we can understand the source of that argument of keeping Burkhead and Herron instead of Peerman. We'll go with it. Two spots for three backs. Go.

A.J GREEN'S RETURN: It's not 100 percent confirmed that Green will play on Saturday, but every hint Marvin Lewis offered on Thursday suggested that we should expect him to play. Even if he does, don't expect him to generate the same number of first-team snaps with the One's. Green missed three weeks worth of practices and two preseason games with a bruised knee.

It'll just be nice to see the impossible become possible again.

BACKUP QUARTERBACK AND SKELTON'S ODDS. Last week John Skelton produced only one field goal in three possessions while Josh Johnson lost a fumble and botched a snap (which he apologizes for during Hard Knocks). Still, when Skelton was good against the Falcons, Johnson was better. And it was much of the same against the Titans where the Bengals scored 14 points with Johnson at quarterback.

If Skelton is going to surpass Johnson, it has to start now. Otherwise, I can't see Skelton surpassing Johnson -- and Jay Gruden's preference of him.

THE CRITICAL SNAP OF THE BUBBLES. Some players really need to make an impression now. There will be limited snaps for third-team players with the starters and some second-team players getting the bulk of the team's snaps deep into the third quarter. The darlings of week one like Jayson DiManche, J.K. Schaffer, and Dane Sanzenbacher may not have as many opportunities this weekend like they did against Atlanta and Tennessee.

This is also about the time that Ryan Whalen strung together an argument last year to make the 53-man roster and force Cincinnati to carry seven receivers.

Every snap for players not assured a spot on the 53-man roster is feeling the greatest weight. With limited playing time this weekend and one final impression against the Colts next week, there's only so many snaps remaining before the team will be forced to reduce their number to 75 after this weekend and then the final 53-man roster four days after that.