Saturday's 7:00 EST games features a match-up between the host Cincinnati Bengals and visiting New York Jets. The last time they faced off was in the 2013 regular season, which saw Andy Dalton and Marvin Jones tear through the Jets defense on their way to a 49-9 win.
This time around, both teams will meet in the preseason with their own agendas in preparation for the regular season. Locker Room Update editor Robert Melofchik and Alex Peterman of Cincy Jungle talk about what both Cincinnati and New York want to accomplishment in Week 2 of the preseason and what to expect from both teams on Saturday.
As far as the Jets, the first thing that stands out to me is the most recent injuries to the secondary. Dee Milliner suffered what was called a high-ankle sprain, while Dexter McDougle tore his ACL. Furthermore, Dimitri Patterson missed time, and I know you're already well aware that the team parted ways with Antonio Cromartie this offseason.
What are your thoughts about the secondary's situation, and are there any specific players you'd like to see step up at the cornerback position in this game against Cincinnati?
I love the fact that we are facing the Bengals; I'm a fan of A.J. Green's game. Green is a great test for any cornerback.
On the Jets CB position, we will start Antonio Allen. He's listed as a safety, but he's more of an all-around football player. Rex decided to start him at cornerback. He's great at press coverage and had success against both Gronk and Graham last season, including a pick-6 against Tom Brady. He has played in the slot CB position before. Another thing is that he played Sam linebacker in college. Allen has been an impact player, and Rex wants to test the kid against Green.
I have numbers question for you about the Bengals defense. I know both ESPN and Pro Football Focus did not have the Bengals in the top 10 of the NFL, but I think you do have good defense. Can you tell where you think your defense is going be rank at end season?
While the Bengals may or may not be a top 10 NFL team, I think the defense is clearly the more consistent side of the ball right now in Cincinnati. Between top players like Leon Hall, Geno Atkins and Vontaze Burfict, and solid depth at both cornerback and the defensive line, the entire unit is a force to be reckoned with.
The first two of those top talents I just listed missed half of the 2013 season and the team still finished as the best overall defense in the AFC. In fact, listed by yards allowed, they were the only AFC team in the top six NFL defenses. This year, if the major role players can stay healthy, there's no reason to believe that Cincinnati can't repeat those statistics, even despite the loss of one or two key players in the offseason.
I fully expect the Bengals to compete for the best defense in the AFC this year and 2014 could just as easily see the team in the top three of four teams around the league. The proven talent is there.
We have quite a few progressing players that I'm going to be watching for in this matchup against New York. Two players are Darqueze Dennard at cornerback and Margus Hunt on the defensive line. Dennard has impressed the coaches and I'd love for him to continue to showcase first round talent in real-time contact.
That's what the preseason's all about. As for Hunt, he's drawn raving comparisons to ex-Bengals Michael Johnson, but I'd like to see if he can demonstrate that consistently, now that he has the chance to prove it.
As far as the Jets defense, New York has a ton of talent on the defensive line, or what I know you like to call the "teeth of the defense." Are there any goals that you'd like to see the defensive line - whether starters or backups - achieve against the Bengals? Feel free to talk about forcing the pass, stopping the run, or even just creating a certain amount of pressure.
In last year's game, the Bengals' offensive line was impressive. I's like to see the Jets defensive line create a pass rush without necessarily blitzing.
I would also say that the Bengals are a top ten defense, regarding your last assessment. My question for you: What's the status with Geno Atkins after his injured season? Will he be back to dominating form? Furthermore, last week's preseason game, the Jets offensive line struggled in run blocking. The Bengals' defensive line is another great test. What are you expecting from the teeth of your defense?
Recoveries from an ACL injury are hard to judge sometimes, but the Bengals are easing him back into action on the field for this season. He's been on a pace to be ready for the regular season matchup against the Ravens in Week 1, but it's no lock at this point.As far as whether or not he will be able to maintain his dominant form post-injury, it's all up to speculation how he'll look right away.
Sometimes it's just up to the healing process and the rehab. However, I believe that once he gets the first one or two games out of the way, we'll be back to seeing the monster defensive lineman that he's shown to us over his NFL career thus far. As far as the overall defensive line in this game, I'll be watching for those players that haven't fully proven themselves yet, like Margus Hunt. I'd also like to see a bit more pressure on the quarterback than we achieved against the Chiefs last week.
Let's turn the tables over to the offense for my last question for you. Both Geno Smith and Michael Vick have looked good at different times in training camp, though neither really got a major chance to shine with the offense against the Colts in Week 1 of the preseason. What are your hopes and expectations for the quarterback performances this time around?
On Geno smith: he's been taking most of the first team reps in training camp. Geno, on his own, studied defenses around the NFL. The coaching staff was very impressed and says he's always in the film room studying. Rex has said Geno will play a half with the first team and Vick will play a series. I'm looking see Geno show command of the offense and move the ball around to his wide receivers.
As far as Vick, it's mostly the media talking. Vick is the Jets' back up. Last week, the media talked about Vick's performance. He played against second team starters, throwing short passes to running backs. He held the ball too long and ran the ball. He had 17 yards passing and 19 yards running, which was very high school-like to me. I would like to see Vick play against the Bengals' starters to really judge where he stands.
Well, again, I really appreciate you sitting down with me today and talking some football with me, Robert. Hoping for a good game and good luck to your team on Saturday.