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5 Bengals to watch vs. the Bills

Jessie Bates is finally the starter, who’s going to be the first one to relieve him at safety though?

Cincinnati Bengals v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The unofficial dress rehearsal for the regular season also happens to coincide with the unofficial BFFs Bowl between the Bengals and Bills this Sunday.

The offseason relations and interactions this year between Cincinnati and Buffalo are well documented at this point, and a handful of players will be playing their respective former teams this weekend.

Left tackle Cordy Glenn and linebacker Preston Brown for the Bengals are the guys to watch going up against the team that drafted them, but there are other names that have more to prove in the team’s third preseason matchup.

Andy Dalton

The Bengals franchise quarterback only has four incompletions to his name on 17 dropbacks in preseason play thus far. Though two incompletions have come from each game, the offense was much more anemic under Dalton last week against the Cowboys compared to their Week 1 performance against the Bears.

Pass protection issues were more prevalent, and a couple of missed opportunities downfield to A.J. Green lead to Dalton averaging a mere 5.9 yards per attempt and converting just two first downs.

He may reach 17 dropbacks alone against the Bills when he’s out on the field for presumably the entirety of the first half. This will be the last time we see the first-team offense before the regular season, and Dalton has just an 81.26 passer rating in his last three games against the Bills.

Ending the preseason on a high note is crucial for this new-look first-team offense, and Dalton is the critical variable as long as he isn’t getting pressured from the right side of his offensive line every snap.

Mark Walton

The Bengals fourth-round pick from this year has seen just 10 carries this preseason. His longest rush has gone for four yards, and he has exactly that many total yards to show for. Whenever Walton’s been on the field, his offensive line gets demolished and he’s been left out to dry in the backfield, hopelessly trying to create for himself.

We’ve seen a lot of positives from both Tra Carson and Brian Hill coming into the games after Walton. But only one of those guys are making the roster, while Walton’s draft status and special team ability will keep him on. We’ll for sure see plenty of Walton next Thursday against the Colts, but any signs of positive yards against the Bills would be nice to see.

Andrew Billings

Billings was one of the bright spots from the starters on either side of the ball against Dallas, as he went up against a Cowboys interior offensive line that was without Travis Frederick and dealt with an in-game Zack Martin injury. Nevertheless, Billings showed up to play and continues to look like an impact player at nose tackle.

Now he gets to go up against Russell Bodine and the Bills interior offensive line. Enough said.

Jessie Bates

The newest member of the starting lineup on defense, Bate is obviously in the spotlight amidst the release of now Minnesota Viking George Iloka. In the previous two weeks, Bates had been replacing Iloka as the field side safety starting on the second series of the game, and has looked comfortable and instinctual in the reps he’s earned. Now he’ll be thrown out there from the beginning to the end of the first half.

He’ll be going up against a passing offense being lead by a first-time starter in quarterback Josh Allen as well. Allen’s cannon of an arm is sure to take some shots down the field, and Bates will be responsible for patrolling deep zones in quarters and single-high looks. Considering Allen’s reckless decision-making and erratic accuracy from his college days, Bates may even get a legitimate chance at his first interception.

Josh Shaw

The release of Iloka doesn’t just impact Bates. The trickle-down effect of the move nearly solidifies which members of the secondary are locks for the roster, and Shaw may’ve secured his spot in the process.

The fourth-year player was listed as the backup to Bates on the team’s second official depth chart released this Tuesday, and has also lined up just as much from the slot as he has from a split-safety alignment.

Shaw’s distinction on the depth chart may not be entirely accurate considering where he lines up most of the time, he’s been both a slot defender and safety for the entire length of his career here. But we’ll get a good idea of Shaw’s role and who’s ahead of whom when the first-team leaves the field in the second half.