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Preseason Week 3 Bengals vs Redskins: 5 player matchups to watch

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The Bengals travel to the nation’s capital for the most important game of the preseason on Sunday. Which individual matchups are the most important to keep an eye on as the regular season looms?

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

In the two games the Cincinnati Bengals have played in the preseason this year, certain ups and downs have been prevalent. Cincinnati has an opportunity to right the ship this Sunday after a poor showing against the Kansas City Chiefs, and it just so happens that it’s in the most important game of the preseason.

Marvin Lewis faces off against his former protege in Jay Gruden, as the Redskins host the Bengals in Week 3 of the preseason. The final two weeks of the preseason also provide a big stage for fringe players to prove themselves worthy of securing a final roster spot.

In that regard, here are some of the individual player matchups to watch this Sunday as the Bengals take on the Redskins.

Bengals defensive back Josh Shaw versus Redskins tight end Jordan Reed:

Last week, the Bengals saw one of their defensive starters go down with a dislocated elbow. Safety Shawn Williams appears to be out for the foreseeable future, so Shaw, Clayton Fejedelem and Derron Smith are slated to step in for the interim. Shaw and Smith let up a touchdown pass apiece last week to Chiefs tight end, Demetrius Harris.

Shaw is a guy the Bengals’ coaches like a lot, and he might have a look at Reed this week, who has been a star tight end in the NFL. While George Iloka has seemingly mended the knee injury he suffered in camp, he’ll need to be flanked by an able counterpart. Will the versatile Shaw show he has what it takes to cover quality NFL tight ends?

Bengals linebacker P.J. Dawson versus Redskins running back Samaje Perine:

Cincinnati’s embattled linebacker finally returned to practice this week and he needs to make a splash to stick on the roster. Dawson was waived last year, only to return to the practice squad and then suit up for just two games. These next two games might be the final chances for Dawson to stick with the Bengals for good.

The Bengals drafted the dynamic Joe Mixon in the second round this year, but Oklahoma had another solid running back on their roster. Perine had 1,060 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns as he split time with Mixon last year, and is looking to make a splash with the Redskins this year. While he’s currently No. 3 on the team’s depth chart at the position, a quality showing against Dawson and Cincinnati’s reserve defense could lead to a leapfrogging of Chris Thompson.

Bengals wide receiver John Ross versus Redskins cornerback Kendall Fuller:

We hoped the Bengals’ rookie receiver would suit up last week against the Chiefs, but it looks like his debut will actually be this Sunday against the Redskins. Cincinnati’s first string offense has yet to get into the end zone and Ross, who will likely appear with the first and second string groups, should help that issue.

Fuller was a player who was tabbed as a possibility for the Bengals in the 2016 NFL Draft, but the Redskins nabbed him in the third round after Cincinnati grabbed William Jackson in the first. He is currently the third corner on their depth chart, and while he kicks inside and out, it might be two athletic youngsters battling it out on Sunday.

Bengals running back Tra Carson versus Redskins linebacker Zach Vigil:

Some are wondering if Carson might usurp the fourth running back spot from Cedric Peerman this year. Aside from needing to show outstanding special teams prowess, the undrafted rookie will need to continue to impress on offense. In the first two preseason games, Carson has amassed two catches for 24 yards to go with 16 carries for 56 yards.

If the last name of Washington’s linebacker sounds familiar, it should. Zach is the older brother of Nick Vigil, who is vying for a starting spot on the Bengals’ defense. Zach is a current backup middle linebacker for the Redskins after playing for the Dolphins for the last two years. Carson and Vigil will likely be going head-to-head on Sunday and the young running back’s performance could determine his roster fate.

Bengals offensive lineman Andre Smith versus Redskins defensive lineman Jonathan Allen:

As Allen began to fall further than most expected in this year’s draft, many began to wonder if the Bengals would spring for the former Crimson Tide standout. Cincinnati went with Ross instead and Allen is currently slated behind Stacy McGee as a backup defensive end. Because of his abilities, Allen could very well man the starting spot before the regular season ends.

Meanwhile, it’s been a tumultuous offseason for Smith. After signing a deal which seemed to place him as the starting right guard to replace Kevin Zeitler, he has taken a back seat to Trey Hopkins there, while Jake Fisher mans his old right tackle spot. Smith will likely be in with the second team offense this week and might be seeing a lot of Allen on Sunday.