After the starting lineups on both sides of the ball had good showings Saturday night in a 21-10 win over the Chicago Bears, it looks like the Bengals' coaches have seen everything they need to from their best players heading into the regular season. As Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson writes, don't expect Andy Dalton or many starters to play Thursday as the Bengals look to give their backups and fringe roster guys more chances to showcase themselves.
Dalton and most of the starters aren’t expected to play Thursday (7 p.m.-Cincinnati’s Channel 12) in Indianapolis during head coach Marvin Lewis’ 13th pre-season finale. Last year Dalton became the first starting Bengals quarterback not to take a snap in the pre-season finale during the Lewis Era and the only one of the 22 starters to play was rookie center Russell Bodine.
Also, appearing on NFL Live today, head coach Marvin Lewis said that the Bengals were determining who would start and rest Thursday on a player-by-player basis.
Translation: Expect to see starters like Russell Bodine who've struggled in the preseason play Thursday night and try and show some sort of improvement. Bodine was the primary culprit behind the offensive line's horrendous performance vs the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He needs as many snaps as possible to get his issues ironed out if they can be.
Also, by Dalton not playing, this means AJ McCarron and Keith Wenning will be getting a lot of reps Thursday night. We hopefully won't see Jeremy Hill or Giovani Bernard either as Terrell Watson and James Wilder Jr. look to steal the final running back spot from Cedric Peerman. If neither can do so, they'll be fighting for a spot on the practice squad or someone else's 53-man roster.
We'll also hopefully see Geno Atkins and Domata Peko sit as several defensive lineman fight for roster spots. DeShawn Williams has had a great training camp and preseason, but can he overtake veterans Devon Still and Pat Sims for one of those final defensive tackle spots?
As you can see, this is the rare instance where you should actually be rooting for the starters not to play. This simply isn't a game they need to play as the Bengals try and figure out who makes up those final 8-10 spots on their 53-man roster, which will be set Saturday afternoon.